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Title: Secularization as sacralization : religion and the formation of modern Chinese nationalism and nation-state, 1840-1939
Author: Tay, Wei Leong
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 9303
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis investigates the nexus between religion and the formation of modern Chinese nationalism and nation-state. Recent scholarship has pointed out that the category "religion" is a crucial component of the secular project of modernization of the state and the enlightened elites outside the West. Being modern requires the state to separate itself from "religion," defines as personal belief and freedom, and the society to eradicate the irrational aspect of religion that is "superstition." The main focus in Chinese scholarship has been documenting the state-led secularization and forceful repression of Chinese religious life according to the alien hegemonic discourse of "religion," "superstition," "nation," and "science." Instead of uncovering the modern fate of Chinese religion, this study looks at the history of Chinese secularization from another angle, the perspective of the state. This thesis covers the period from 1858 to 1939 and seeks to address three questions: why is the modern concept of "religion" an issue for the Chinese state (imperial and post-imperial)? What is the role of "religion" in the formation of modern Chinese nationalism? What is the character of modern Chinese secularism and the nation-state? The study argues that the secularizing impulse of the Chinese state (imperial and early republican) was as much to do with the practical concerns of meeting the challenges posed by Christian missionary movements to state authority and the religious nationalisms of ethnic minorities in the borderlands as emanating from a coherent modernist project. It also discusses how the model of "religious citizenship" transmitted by Protestant missionaries and the State Shinto of Meiji Japan influenced the formation of modern Chinese nationalism and nation-state. Finally, the study argues that state secularization was at the same time a process of sacralization. Secularization is not simply a process of the triumph of science over religion but a creative as well as controversial boundary drawing exercise that involves defining certain ideology and practices as civil, hence public and mandatory, for the creation of the nation-state, and others as religious to be tolerated and protected by the state or superstitious to be criminalized and eradicated in the name of public order and progress.
Supervisor: Haar, Barend Ter Sponsor: Wai Seng Research Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available