Individual Studies

Inter-Religious spaces and networks and the production of female alchemy texts in Qing and Republican Sichuan

Elena Valussi

The importance of place in religious studies is discussed in the larger research proposal, which makes a case for studying Sichuan as a unique place for religious spaces and communities, as well as a crossroads of religious networks.

This project will focus on religious hybrid spaces, looking at the interaction between and co-existence of Daoist and Confucian practices, communities, teachings and images in late Qing and early Republican period Sichuan.

I will look at the inter-religion networks by uncovering connections between Daoist and Confucian practices and communities in 19th and 20th century Sichuan and I will also investigate the role of gender in these spaces and practices. The research wants to point at the importance of moving beyond strict distinctions between traditions and schools, towards an investigation of networks, shared practices and textual traditions, and shared religious spaces, for men and for women.

I will look at a larger network of socio-religious spaces, like guildhalls, which exist as gathering spaces for communities of migrant merchants from a common geographic location; many are dedicated to Daoist divinities, especially Lü Dongbin. At the same time, these spaces were also used for philanthropic and relief activities for the local population, and connected with Confucian practices like the Xizi (honoring written paper).

In the second part of my research, I will focus on one specific textual tradition, Daoist self cultivation for women. Through the study of several different collections and texts produced in different sites in Sichuan, sometime connected to the cult of Lü Dongbin, and in combination with archival work and site visits, I plan to find evidence of a network of production and dissemination.

I will use a combination of textual sources, such as scriptures and temple records, historical gazetteers, commemorative steles, site visits where possible, and interviews.

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