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Journal Article

From vegetarian hall to revolutionary relic: Overseas Chinese and the reshaping of a Buddhist temple in a Chinese qiaoxiang


Liu,  Jifeng
Religious Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Liu, J. (2020). From vegetarian hall to revolutionary relic: Overseas Chinese and the reshaping of a Buddhist temple in a Chinese qiaoxiang. History and Anthropology. doi:10.1080/02757206.2020.1726906.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-D5CD-3
This article investigates the role of overseas Chinese in attempts to reclaim temple property in Fujian Province, southeastern China. Miaofalin Temple, in downtown Xiamen, started out as a vegetarian hall, but it became the site of an underground Communist Party organization during the War of Anti-Japanese Resistance and Civil War periods. Critically, the temple is located in a qiaoxiang, a district where a large proportion of residents have emigrated abroad. This has been critical in attempts to reclaim temple property, which was appropriated by the state during the Mao and reform eras. These attempts at reclamation are a collaborative effort of overseas Chinese, temple representatives and ‘old revolutionaries’ who were once based there in its underground days. Yet negotiations with government departments have been challenging due to the ambiguous status of the temple as both a revolutionary relic and a religious site founded by overseas Chinese. They are further complicated by the unresolved contradictions between the bureaucratizing process and the legacy of Maoist state planning. While previous research highlights the strong influence of overseas Chinese in qiaoxiang religious affairs, this case study shows the limits of their influence, drawing attention to socio-economic differences among emigrants. The influence of overseas Chinese and their success in negotiating with officials may, it seems, depend on their status and their ability (or inability) to contribute to the Chinese economy.