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The Multiple Meanings of "Rituals": The Crisis, Pudu, and Local Elites in Quanzhou during the Late Qing Period

Yejia GUO
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After 1895, Quanzhou and its surrounding areas suffered from two major crises. One was the spread of infectious diseases caused by bubonic plague, while the other was a national crisis that resulted from China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War. Local elites in Quanzhou appeared to feel humiliated by the cession of Taiwan to Japan. The incompetence to eradicate the plague along with the country's defeat in the war generated anxiety, which led to the birth of a grand religious ritual-" Chengtian Wanyuan Pudu. " In the late Qing dynasty, rituals of small scale were common in Quanzhou, and they were often performed by religious organizations, local governments, and local communities. However, in the twenty-second year of the Guangxu reign (1896), the grand ceremony Wanyuan Pudu was organized by local elites. Religious organizations, the government, and the masses all took part in that ritual. Under the dual crisis, the elites sought to achieve the regional union by calling for a high-level religious organization and in the name of traditional ritual. The organizers intended to convey their beliefs and ideas to the public through the " ritual performance " and the " text construction." Behind this ritual were the local elites' patriotic sentiments and their desire for personal development.

Journal of History and Anthropology