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Dr Adam Yuet Chau

Social and cultural transformations in contemporary China; Chinese religions, especially their social aspects; the Indonesian Chinese returnees
Dr Adam Yuet Chau

University Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Modern China

Fellow and Director of Studies (AMES), St John's College

Coordinator for MPhil programmes, Department of East Asian Studies

Office Phone: 01223 335146


I was born in Beijing and grew up in Beijing (1968-80) and Hong Kong (1980-89) (hence the Anglicised Cantonese romanisation of my Chinese name). I first began my undergraduate studies in 1988 in business administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (United College 聯合書院), though I quickly realised I was not cut out for it (I was particularly bad in accounting). Fortunately an exchange scholarship allowed me to spend a year at Williams College in Massachusetts, the top-ranking liberal arts college in the United States, to take whatever classes I liked. I discovered the pleasures of socio-cultural anthropology and decided to transfer to Williams to pursue a degree in anthropology, graduating in the summer of 1993 (after having also spent one semester at Stockholm University in Sweden in the autumn of 1991). Then graduate training in anthropology at Stanford University (California) followed (PhD 2001).

After having lived in the US for more than a dozen years (the last part of which I was an An Wang Post-doctoral Fellow at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard University), I came to the UK in 2005 and taught at Oxford (Chinese Studies) and SOAS (anthropology) respectively before coming to Cambridge in 2008.

Subject groups/Research projects

Chinese Studies:

Research Interests

Social and cultural transformations in contemporary China; Chinese religions, especially their social aspects; hosting as an idiom of social practice in Chinese religion and politics; forms of powerful writing; the Indonesian Chinese returnees (yin’ni guiqiao 印尼归侨) in China and Hong Kong.

As an anthropologist of Chinese religion, my scholarship is aimed at three different audiences: those scholars and students in socio-cultural anthropology, Chinese Studies and religious studies. The confluence of these three scholarly areas (i.e. socio-cultural anthropology, Chinese Studies and religious studies) is particularly productive, allowing me to synergise topical foci and theoretical approaches from diverse sources and disciplinary traditions. One of my scholarly and out-reach ambitions is to stop people from asking the question: How many religions are there in China? I would like them to ask instead: How do people 'do religion' in China?

In the mid- and late 1990s I conducted long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Shaanbei (northern Shaanxi Province, in the Yulin and Yan’an prefectures) on the cultural, social and political aspects of the revival of popular religion in rural China during the reform period. The results of that research have been published in a monograph (Miraculous Response: Doing Popular Religion in Contemporary China; 2006, Stanford University Press) and a series of journal articles and book chapters. In the past few years I have done some sporadic short-term fieldwork research in Taiwan on temple festivals. A number of research questions interest me, from the more traditional question on the social organisation of temple festivals (e.g. the idiom of rotational hosting of festivals amongst a cluster of communities) to questions on the relationship between ritual and technology, the ways in which these festivals exemplify a particular kind of sociality, the inter-meshing and articulation of multiple socio-cultural forms, etc.

Whatever else religion might be, I have found it useful to conceive religion as a social technology. It produces particular kinds of subjectivity (and sometimes not) and mobilise communal energy. One’s relationship to God (or deities, spirits, etc.) is but one idiom amongst many through which people ‘do religion’. I have also found it fruitful to compare and contrast ways of doing religion in different religious cultures. For example, I am examining the intriguing question of why it is the case that while in Chinese religious culture people host spirits (deities, ancestors and ghosts) in Christianity people are hosted by God.

In the summer of 2016 (Sept) I participated in a workshop co-organised by my colleague Dr Joe McDermott dedicated to training young scholars in reading primary sources to understand late-imperial local society. Here is the link to the website for the workshop.

Supervision of MPhil and PhD Students

I’d be happy to supervise research students in the areas of Chinese religious and ritual life; social and cultural change in contemporary China; Chinese environmentalisms; the local state; urban renewal; China and the overseas Chinese, etc.

I am currently supervising five doctoral students, respectively working on Buddhist liturgical reform in contemporary Taiwan; traditional craftsmanship and popular religion in rural Shandong Province; the construction of qiaoxiang (侨乡) in Shandong Province; the attempt of the state to manage householder Daoist priests in contemporary China; and the rise of commemoration rituals in today's China dedicated to KMT fallen soldiers.

Current and past MPhil students have worked on a wide variety of topics: the financing of the local state through land sales; the PRC’s bilingual policies for minority nationalities; political factors in the pricing of traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy in contemporary China; economic development and religion in a Shanxi Catholic village; overseas Chinese students' luxury consumption; urban re-development and city branding; the rise of vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan; court practices in contemporary urban China; Chinese-language schools and the re-sinicisation of the Sino-Thai; self-portraits in contemporary Chinese avant-garde art; neighbourhood dance groups and contested urban spaces; Haier in India; migrant workers' protests; the development of heritage culture in a local town in Shandong; the registration of householder Daoist priests; the late Qing government's policies towards the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia; mainland Chinese immigrants in a new town in the New Territories of Hong Kong; the culture of wine drinking and connoisseurship in contemporary urban China; Hui transnationalism in contemporary China; civil society and popular bloggers; etc.

Prospective MPhil and PhD applicants are strongly advised to contact me to discuss their proposed projects. {Please do write again in case of non-response within two or three days.}

*Please note that I will be on sabbatical/research leave for the 2017-18 academic year and will resume taking on new graduate students for October 2018 entry. Please contact me if you plan to apply for Oct 2018 entry.

Details of my various current research projects and overall research profile (Link to PDF)


Special Honours

Delivered the 2013 Wilde Lectures in Natural and Comparative Religion, University of Oxford, on the theme of “The Sovereign Host: China, Ritual, Theory” (a series of four lectures presented in Hilary Term of 2013 in the Examination Schools): 

12 February             Hosting Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors: Hosting as a Cultural Idiom

19 February             Household Sovereignty and Religious Subjectification: China and the Christian West Compared

26 February             Actants Amassing (AA): Hosting Hungry Ghosts with Giant Pigs and Dancing Girls

5 March                   Household Sovereignty Usurped: The Kangxi Emperor Hosts an Offering Ritual

Some Media Resources

Listen to BBC Radio Four's programme on Mao's Golden Mangoes (first aired on Feb 12, 2016)

Why study Chinese religion? (Youtube clip, recorded in Hong Kong in 2007)

Five modalities of doing religion (in China, for example) (Youtube clip, recorded in HK in 2007)

The dragon in Chinese culture and religion (Youtube clip, recorded in HK in 2007)

The discursive/scriptural modality of doing religion (Youtube clip, recorded in HK in 2007)

Modalities of doing religion in non-Chinese contexts (Youtube clip, recorded in HK in 2007)

Path to the anthropological study of Chinese religion (Youtube clip, recorded in HK in 2007)

A Short Lecture on Forms of Powerful Writing in Chinese Religious Culture [Link to clip on Cambridge site] [Youtube clip]

Other Professional Activities

External examiner of PhD theses (in anthropology unless otherwise indicated) for the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS); University of Lancaster (religious studies); Australian National University (ANU); the University of Griffith; University of Oxford; University of Paris (Nanterre); École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE; Chinese Religion); Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB); University of Leiden.

Grant applications reviewer for the French National Agency for Research (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) (2010), the National Research Fund (Luxembourg) (2012) and the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (2016)

Book manuscript reviewer for University of California Press, Harvard University Press, University of Hawaii Press, University of Washington Press, Oxford University Press, Peter Lang, Routledge, Duke University Press.

Article manuscript reviewer for Ethnos; Minsu quyi (Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theatre, and Folklore); Modern China; Journal of Asian Studies; Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies; Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; The China Journal; Daoism: Religion, History and Society; The Asia-Pacific Journal of Anthropology, etc.

Key Publications


Miraculous Response: Doing Popular Religion in Contemporary China (Stanford University Press, 2006) 

Miraculous Response book cover even smaller

Edited Volume

Religion in Contemporary China: Revitalization and Innovation (Routledge, 2011)

Journal Articles

2017  "Human Organs in Oil Tank Trucks: An Extractology." Anthropological Forum (special issue on "Cosmopolitics of the Invisible: Spirit Worlds and the State of Environment on China's Ethnic Frontiers." edited by Giovanni da Col) [Link to online version]

2014  "Culinary Subjectification: The Translated World of Menus and Orders." HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4 (2) (special issue on "Translating Worlds," edited by William F. Hanks and Carlo Severi): 141-160.

2013  "Activistas Budistas Transnacionales en la Era de los Imperios" Spanish translation of "Transnational Buddhist Activists in the Age of Empires" (translated by Montserrat Crespín Perales) Entremons: The Universitat Pompeu Fabra Journal of World History (open access journal), Fourth issue. [PDF of article]

2012  « La channeling zone : religion populaire, État local et rites de légitimation en Chine rurale à l'ère de la réforme » (The Channeling Zone : Popular Religion, the Local State, and Rites of Legitimation in Rural China during the Reform Era). In Gradhiva: Revue d'anthropologie et d'histoire des arts, special issue on "Chines, l'État au musée," edited by Brigitte Baptandier and Anne-Christine Trémon; published by Musée du Quai Branly, No. 16: 156-177. [PDF of article]

2011  "Modalities of Doing Religion and Ritual Polytropy: Evaluating the Religious Market Model from the Perspective of Chinese Religious History." Religion (41, 4; special issue on “Beyond the Religious Market Model” edited by Christian Meyer and Thoralf Klein): 547-568. [PDF of article]

2011  "做'善事'还是构建'善世'?―宗教入世与宗教主体化在中国." (Providing Public Goods or Constructing a Good Public?: Social Engagement and Religious Subjectification inChina). In <宗教人类学> [The Journal of the Anthropology of Religion], Vol. 3: 153-171. [PDF of article]

2010  "Mao’s Travelling Mangoes: Food as Relic in Revolutionary China." Past and Present supplement 5 “Relics and Remains”, edited by Alexandra Walsham; pp. 256-75. [PDF of article]  Listen to BBC Radio Four's programme on Mao's Golden Mangoes (first aired on Feb 12, 2016)

2010  "中国民间宗教服务的家户制度" (Chinese version of "Superstition Specialist Households?: The Household Idiom in Chinese Religious Practices"). In  <学海> 2010年03期 (Xuehai 2010, 3: 43-56)) [PDF of article]

2009  "做宗教”的模式" (Modalities of Doing Religion). 温 州 大 学 学 报·社 会 科 学 版第22 卷第5 期 2009 年9 月 (Journal of Wenzhou University Social Sciences Vol 22, No 5 Sep, 2009: 18-27. [PDF of article]

2008  "The Sensorial Production of the Social." Ethnos 73(4): 485-504 (special issue "The Senses And the Social," edited by Elisabeth Hsu). [PDF of article]

2008  "An Awful Mark: Symbolic Violence and Urban Renewal in Reform-Era China." Visual Studies 23 (3): 195-210. [PDF of article]

2007  "Drinking Games, Karaoke Songs, and Yangge Dances: Youth Cultural Production in Rural China." Ethnology 45 (2): 161-72). [PDF of article]

2006  "Superstition Specialist Households?: The Household Idiom in Chinese Religious Practices." Minsu quyi, the Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theatre, and Folklore 153: 157-202 (special issue on religious specialists) [PDF of article]

2005  "The Politics of Legitimation and the Revival of Popular Religion in Shaanbei, North-Central China." Modern China 31 (2): 236-78. [PDF of article] Article anthologised in Contemporary Chinese Society and Politics, edited by Andrew Kipnis, Luigi Tomba and Jonathan Unger, Routledge, 2009 (Volume 4, chapter 66; pp. 236-278).

2004  "Hosting Funerals and Temple Festivals: Folk Event Productions in Rural China." Asian Anthropology 3: 39-70. [PDF of article]

2003  "Popular Religion in Shaanbei, North-Central China." The Journal of Chinese Religions 31: 39-79. [PDF of article]


Book Chapters

Forthcoming (2017). "The Nation in Religion and Religion in the Nation: How the Modern Chinese Nation Made Religion and Was at the Same Time Made by Religion." In Religion and Nationalism in Chinese Societies, edited by Cheng-tian Kuo. Amsterdam University Press.

Forthcoming. "The Rise of the 'Religion Sphere' (宗教界) in Modern China." In Critical Concepts and Methods for the Study of Chinese Religions II: Intellectual History of Key Concepts, edited by Stefania Travagnin and Gregory Scott. De Gruyter.

Forthcoming "Of Temples and Trees: The Black Dragon King and the Arbortourists." In Religion and Tourism in China and India, edited by Michael Stausberg. Berghahn.

Forthcoming "Religion and Social Change in Reform-Era China." In Routledge Handbook of Chinese Culture and Society, edited by Kevin Latham. Routledge.

2016 "The Commodification of Religion in Chinese Societies." In Modern Chinese Religion II: 1850-2015, edited by Vincent Goossaert, Jan Kiely and John Lagerwey. Brill, pp. 949-976.

2015 "Culinary Subjectification: The Translated World of Menus and Orders." In Translating Worlds: The Epistemological Space of Translation, edited by Carlo Severi and William F. Hanks. HAU Books, University of Chicago Press.

2015  "Chinese Socialism and the Household Idiom of Religious Engagement." In Tam T. T. Ngo and Justine B. Quijada, eds., Atheist Secularism and its Discontents: A Comparative Study of Religion and Communism in Eurasia. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 225-243.

2014  "Household Sovereignty and Religious Subjectification: Comparing the Idiom of Hosting in Chinese and Christian Religious Cultures." In Studies in Church History (special issue on "The Church and the Household"), pp. 492-504. [PDF of article]

2014  "關係/來往的'做宗教'模式: 以臺灣'媽祖遶境進香'為例" (Relational Modality of Doing Religion: The Case of the Mazu Pilgrimage in Taiwan). In 〈研究新視界: 媽祖與華人民間信仰國際研討會論文集〉王見川, 李世偉, 洪瑩發主編 (Mazu and Popular Religion, edited by Wang Chien-Chuan, Li Shi-Wei and Hung Ying-fa), Boyang Publishers 博揚文化, pp. 57-77.

2014  "'做宗教'的模式" (Modalities of Doing Religion). In David A. Palmer, Glenn Shive & Philip Wickeri, eds., 中國人的宗教生活 (Chinese Religious Life), Hong Kong University Press. [Visit website related to this book with free chapter downloads and interviews with chapter contributors]

2013  "A Different Kind of Religious Diversity: Ritual Service Providers and Consumers in China." In Religious Diversity in Chinese Thought, edited by Joachim Gentz and Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 141-154.

2013  "Religious Subjectification: The Practice of Cherishing Written Characters and Being a Ciji (Tzu Chi) Person." In Chang Hsun, ed. Chinese Popular Religion: Linking Fieldwork and Theory, Academia Sinica. [PDF of article]

2013  "Actants Amassing (AA): Beyond Collective Effervescence and the Social." In Durkheim in Dialogue: A Centenary Celebration of The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, edited by Sondra L. Hausner. Berghahn Books, pp. 206-230. [PDF of article]

2013  "Script Fundamentalism: The Practice of Cherishing Written Characters (Lettered Paper) (惜字紙) in the Age of Literati Decline and Commercial Revolution." In New Approaches to Studying Chinese Popular Religion and Sectarianism 中國民間宗教民間信仰研究之中歐視角, edited by Philip Clart; Boyang Publishers 博揚文化, pp. 129-167. [PDF of article]

2013  "(The Film) The Song of the Mango (芒果之歌): Political Awakening and the Magical Fruit." In Mao’s Golden Mangoes and the Cultural Revolution, edited by Alfreda Murck, pp. 78-95. (catalogue for exhibition of artefacts of the mango cult held at Museum Rietberg, Zürich, Feb-Jun, 2013; Scheidegger & Spiess). German version of article in exhibition catalogue published concurrently: Maos Mango. Massenkult der Kulturrevolution. [A short documentary on the mango fever show at the China Institute in New York City] [PDF of article]  Listen to BBC Radio Four's programme on Mao's Golden Mangoes (first aired on Feb 12, 2016)

2012  "Actants Amassing (AA)." In Sociality: New Directions, edited by Nick Long and Henrietta Moore. Berghahn Books, pp. 133-155. [PDF of article]

2012  "Transnational Buddhist Activists in the Age of Empires." In Religious Internationals in the Modern World: Globalization and Faith Communities since 1750, edited by Abigail Green and Vincent Viaene; Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 206-229. [PDF of article]

2011  "Modalities of Doing Religion." In Chinese Religious Lifeedited by David A. Palmer, Glenn Shive and Philip Wickeri; Oxford University Press, pp. 67-84. Article anthologised in Critical Readings on Religions of China (four volumes), edited by Vincent Goossaert (Brill, 2012). [Visit website related to this book with free chapter downloads and interviews with chapter contributors]

2011  "Introduction: Revitalizing and Innovating Religious Traditions in Contemporary China." In Religion in Contemporary China: Revitalization and Innovation, edited by Adam Yuet Chau. Routledge, pp. 1-31.

2009  "Expanding the Space of Popular Religion: Local Temple Activism and the Politics of Legitimation in Contemporary Rural China." In Making Religion, Making the State: The Politics of Religion in Contemporary China, edited by Yoshiko Ashiwa and David Wank. Stanford University Press, pp. 211-240.


Commentaries and Shorter Pieces

2013  "Discussant Notes on Wu Keping's 'Buddhist and Protestant Provision of Social Services: Rebuilding Religions in Post-Mao China'." In Religion and Development in China: Innovations and Implications (Inter-Asia Roundtable 2013). Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, pp. 130-137.

2013  "对话民间信仰与弥散性宗教" (Dialogue and Critique on C. K. Yang's Concept of 'Diffused Religion' in Relation to Popular Religion) (范丽珠 Fan Lizhu |李向平 Li Xiangping | 周越 Adam Yuet Chau | 陈进国 Chen Jin'guo | 郑筱筠 Zheng Xiaoyun) 《世界宗教文化》(World Religious Culture) 2013年第6期"学术空间", pp. 31-39. [PDF of article]

2005  “Hotels,” “Department Stores,” “Domestic Space,” “Home Furbishing” (four commissioned entries in The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture edited by Edward Davis; Routledge)


Book Reviews

2014  Review of Ritual Alliances of the Putian Plain Volume One: Historical Introduction to the Return of the Gods and Ritual Alliances of the Putian Plain Volume Two: A Survey of Village Temples and Ritual Activities, by Kenneth Dean and Zheng Zhenman (Brill, 2010). Journal of Chinese Religions 42 (1): 106-112.

2012  Review of Rebuilding the Ancestral Village: Singaporeans in China (Second Edition), by Khun Eng Kuah-Pearce (National University of Singapore Press and Hong Kong University Press, 2011). Asian Journal of Social Science 40 (3): 351-352.

2012  Review of Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China by Eugenio Menegon (Harvard University Asia Center, 2010). Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 81 (2): 508-510.

2011  Review of Spectacle and Sacrifice: The Ritual Foundation of Village Life in North China by David Johnson (Harvard University Asia Center, 2010). Journal of Asian Studies 70 (3): 812-814. [available on JSTOR]

2010  Review of Divine Justice: Religion and the Development of Chinese Legal Culture by Paul R. Katz (Routledge, 2009).  Journal of Chinese Religions 38 (1): 95-100.

2009  Review of The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts by Meir Shahar (University of Hawaii Press, 2008). The China Journal 62: 151-153. [available on JSTOR]

2008  Review of The Violence of Liberation: Gender and Tibetan Buddhist Revival in Post-Mao China by Charlene E. Makley (University of California Press, 2007). Chinese Cross Currents 6 (1).

2008  Review of Asian Ritual Systems: Syncretism and Ruptures edited by Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern (Carolina Academic Press, 2007). Anthropos 103 (2): 626-627.

2007  Review of Discovering Nature: Globalization and Environmental Culture in China and Taiwan by Robert P. Weller (Cambridge University Press, 2006). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13 (3): 760-761.

2007  Review of The Sacred Village: Social Change and Religious Life in Rural North China by Thomas D. DuBois (University of Hawaii Press, 2005). Journal of Rural Studies 23: 122-123.

2007  Review of La Vie entre Soi: Les Moines Taoïstes Aujourd’hui en Chine (Life among Themselves: Daoist Monastics in Today’s China) by Adeline Herrou (Société d’Ethnologie, Nanterre, 2005). Anthropos 102 (1): 265-266.

2007  Review of Southern Fujian: Reproduction of Traditions in Post-Mao China edited by Tan Chee-Beng (The Chinese University Press, 2006). The China Journal 58: 142-144.

2006  Review of Chinese Death Rituals in Singapore by Tong Chee-Kiong (RoutledgeCurzon, 2004) and Chinese American Death Rituals: Respecting the Ancestors edited by Sue Fawn Chung and Priscilla Wegars (AltaMira Press, 2005). Journal of Chinese Religions 34 (1): 87-92.


A list of my articles and book reviews with downloadable files 


Some Recent Scholarly Presentations (in reverse chronology)


Conferences and Workshops

July 6-8, 2017. "Spirit Mediumism in Shaanbei (northern Shaanxi Province) in Northcentral China," at international conference "Spirit Possession: Multidisciplinary and Global Perspectives," University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

June 28-30, 2017. "When the Host is the Emperor or God: The Figure of the Absolute Host," at international workshop "Cumulus: Hoarding, Hosting and Hospitality," Centre for Ethnographic Theory, SOAS, London and St John's College, University of Cambridge, UK.

June 9-11, 2017. "Modalities of 'Believing' in Contemporary Chinese Religious Practices," at international conference "From Trustworthiness to Secular Beliefs – Changing Concepts of xin 信 from Traditional to Modern Chinese," Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.

May 6-7, 2017. “Modalities of Doing Religion as Model of Religious Diversity and Religious Pluralism,” at symposium "Models of Religious Pluralism and Chinese Constructions of Religious Identity" (宗教多元化模式及中国建构成的宗教定位), International Center for Studies of Chinese Civilization, Fudan University, Shanghai, PRC.

March 15-18, 2017. "Efficacy: The Immediate-Practical Modality of Doing Religion," at conference "Sacrality and Power" (Sakralität und Macht), Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Erlangen, Germany.

June 18-19, 2016. "Ritual Terroir: The Generation of Site-Specific Vitality," at international workshop "Vitalism, Sacrifice and Utopia," Ginostra, Stromboli, Italy.

June 10-11, 2016. "Ritual Terroir: Spatial Practices in Chinese Popular Religion," at international workshop "Religion in a plural society: comparing the Chinese and Indian Worlds," the Confucius Institute, Geneva, Switzerland.

June 2-4, 2016. "Hosting the Periphery: The Alternating Audience System (年班) during the Qing Dynasty," at international conference "Transformations of Intercultural Diplomacies: Comparative Views on Asia and Europe (1700 to 1850)," Universität Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

May 27, 2016. "Events: The Mutual Rendering of Life and Epoch," at workshop "History and Temporality," St. Catharine's College, University of Cambridge, UK.

May 18-20, 2016. Panel chair and discussant. International conference "La religion des Chinois de France: Implantations, croyances et pratiques," Paris.

May 11-13, 2016. "Guiyi (皈依). Being affiliated or Becoming a Spiritual Dependent: The formation of a Lay Religious Identity in Contemporary China," at international conference "Les mots de la Chine. Ruptures, persistances, émergences," l'Université libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.

April 21-22, 2016. "The Nation in Religion and Religion in the Nation: How the Modern Chinese Nation Made Religion and Was at the Same Time Made by Religion," at the IIAS Seminar "New Religious Nationalism in Chinese Societies," Leiden, the Netherlands.

March 23-25, 2016. "Spirit Mediums and Their Attendants in Shaanbei" (co-authored with Dr. LIU Jianshu), International colloquium « Vieux maîtres et nouvelles générations de spécialistes religieux aujourd’hui en Chine: Ethnographie du quotidien et anthropologie du changement social », ANR Shifu International Collaboration Project, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre la Défense, Paris, France.

Dec 9-12, 2015. “The Emergence of the ‘Religion Sector’ in Modern China,” at international conference "Framing the Study of Religion in Modern China and Taiwan: Concepts, Methods and New Research Paths," at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

July 8-9, 2015. “The Emergence of the ‘Religion Sector’ in Modern China,” at international conference “Multifaceted Study of Chinese Politics and Society,” at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, PRC (co-hosted with the University of Michigan).

June 20, 2015, “Enacting Spatialised Time and Temporalised Space: Pilgrimage Chronotopia in Taiwan’s Mazu Cults,” at “Workshop on Temporal Dimensions of Space in Imperial China,” Institute of East Asian Studies, University of Leipzig, Germany.

Nov 24, 2014. Discussant at “The Fine Art of Lying,” Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

Nov 13-14, 2014. “Visiting Sites: The Mutual Construction of Tourism and Religion in Contemporary China,” at “Religion and Tourism in China and India: An International Workshop,” Frankfurt, Germany.

Oct 24-26, 2014. “Events and Event Productions in the Making of Relatedness,” at “Towards an Eventology of Kinship: Rupture, Virtue and the Making of Mutuality in China’s Precarious Times,” at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Isola di S. Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy.

Oct 16-18, 2014. Discussant at international conference “Buddhism after Mao: Exploring Chinese Models of Religious Production,” Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales (Inalco), Paris, France.

Sept 3-6, 2014. “Forget the Gift!: De-Maussifying Anthropology,” at workshop “The Anti-Gift: Musings on Unrequited Reciprocity, Social Parasitism and Gratuity,” Villa Malinowski, Oberbozen/Soprabolzano, Italy.

June 29-30, 2014. Discussant of two papers on Buddhism during the Republican period, Shengyen International Conference on Chinese Buddhism, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.

June 19-22, 2014. "The Denominationalisation and Conglomeratisation of Chinese Buddhism," in panel "The Anthropologies of Buddhism and Hinduism," at the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

June 11-13, 2014. "Spirit Mediums and Their Assistants in Shaanbei," the Second Shifu Workshop, Abbaye de Royaumont, Asnières-sur-Oise, France.

April 23-26, 2014. "The Rise of the Religion Sector in Modern China," the European Social Science History Conference, Vienna, Austria.

April 15-16, 2014. "Hosting (zuozhu 做主) in Chinese Religious and Political Culture," "Food in Asia," annual Focus Asia conference, Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, University of Lund, Sweden.

Mar 20-21, 2014. "The Menu as a Social and Trans-locutional/Trans-inscriptional Technology," HAU-Fyssen Workshop "Translating Worlds," Fyssen Foundation, Paris, France.

Feb 20-22, 2014. "Travelling with Gods," the 9th International Sinology Forum, Leiria, Portugal.

Oct 17-18, 2013. Discussant of Keping Wu’s paper "Rebuilding Religions in China: Social Service Provision of Buddhist and Protestant Groups," at international conference "Religion and Development in China: Innovations and Implications," Inter-Asia Roundtable, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.

July 10-14, 2013. "Chinese Socialism and the Household Idiom of Religious Engagement," at international conference "Religion, Spiritual Capital and Civil Society in China," Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

June 14-16, 2013. "Dead Bodies Between Local Moral Worlds and the State," at international conference "Social Lives of Dead Bodies in Modern China," Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

May 10-11, 2013. "Popular Religion and the Agrarian Public Sphere," at international workshop "Religious Issues in China’s Rural Development," the Chinese Agriculture University, Beijing, PRC.


Invited Lectures and Other Presentations

July 20, 2017. "The Construction of the 'Religion Sphere' (zongjiaojie 宗教界) in Modern and Contemporary China," ANU China Seminar Series, the Australia National University, Canberra, Australia.

June 20, 2017. "From the Household to the Individual?: Towards Religious Subjectification in Contemporary China," the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany.

September 19-24, 2016. Course instructor in 'Workshop on Local Primary Sources on Late Imperial China (900-1900)' (co-organised by Paris Sciences et Lettres and the University of Cambridge), Cambridge, UK.

August 28 - September 3, 2016. Course instructor at the University Centre Saint-Ignatius Antwerp 2016 Summer School "Public Religion, Spirituality, and Lifestyle" (gave three lectures and chaired paper sessions), Antwerp, Belgium.

April 12, 13, 2016. "Divination and the Discursive Modality of Doing Religion"; "The Black Dragon King Divination-Slips Set," International Consortium for Research in the Humanities “Fate, Freedom and Prognostication: Strategies for Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe,” Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.

April 6, 2016. "试论中国'宗教界'的形成" (The Emergence and Development of the Religion Sector (zongjiaojie) in Modern and Contemporary China), 华东师范大学社会学系宗教与社会研究中心 (Centre for the Study of Religion and Society, Department of Sociology, East China Normal University), Shanghai.

June 22, 2015. “Household Sovereignty Usurped: The Kangxi Emperor Hosts an Offering Ritual for the Deceased Mother of His Favourite Minister,” at the Confucius Institute, University of Leipzig, Germany.

May 8, 2014. "Giant Pigs at Temple Festivals: The Relational Modality of Doing Religion in Chinese Societies," Department of East Asian Studies, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany.

Feb 4, 2014. "Human Organs in Oil Tank Trucks: An Extractology," Seminar, Mongolian and Inner Asian Studies Unit [MIASU], University of Cambridge.

Jan 31, 2014. "'Accomplishing' the Ancestral Tablet (成主)," Text Reading Seminar, Needham Institute, University of Cambridge.

Jan 15, 2014. "A Diversity of Religious Diversities," Graduation Special Lecture, Divinity School, Free University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Nov 29, 2013. "Religious Diversity in China from the Perspectives of Ritual Service Providers and Consumers," Scottish Inter-Faith Week, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

May 24, 2013. "Real Religious Pluralism: Beyond Inter-Faith Dialogues," Religious Studies Senior Seminar Series, the Divinity School, University of Cambridge. 

May 2, 2013. "Transnationalising Japan: Pathways, Processes and Methods," Japan in World History Colloquium, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona, Spain.

March 5, 2013. "Household Sovereignty Usurped: The Kangxi Emperor Hosts an Offering Ritual" (Fourth of 2013 Wilde Lectures in Natural and Comparative Religion, University of Oxford)

February 26, 2013. "Actants Amassing (AA): Hosting Hungry Ghosts with Giant Pigs and Dancing Girls" (Third of 2013 Wilde Lectures in Natural and Comparative Religion, University of Oxford)

February 19, 2013. "Household Sovereignty and Religious Subjectification: China and the Christian West Compared" (Second of 2013 Wilde Lectures in Natural and Comparative Religion, University of Oxford)

February 12, 2013. "Hosting Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors: Hosting as a Cultural Idiom" (First of 2013 Wilde Lectures in Natural and Comparative Religion, University of Oxford)


See more here (link to list of PDF files of publications)


Some Useful Links

Undergraduate Programme in Chinese Studies at Cambridge [Link]

Short Video Presentation on the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge (for Prospective Undergraduate Applicants) [Link]

MPhil and PhD Programmes in Chinese Studies at Cambridge [Link]

Funding Opportunities for Postgraduate Studies at Cambridge [Link]

Doing Undergraduate Chinese Studies and Other AMES Subjects at St John's College [Link]

Reviews of Doctoral Theses Relating to China [Link]

Bibliography of Western-Language Works on Chinese Popular Religion (maintained by Prof. Philip Clart of Leipzig University) [Link]

British Association for Chinese Studies [Link]

European Association for Chinese Studies [Link]

Association for Asian Studies [Link]

Association for Social Anthropologists of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth [Link]

American Anthropological Association [Link]

HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory []

Fitzwilliam Museum's Exhibition on Tomb Treasures of the Han Dynasty [Link]

The British Museum's China-Related Resources [Link]

London-based ethnomusicologist Stephen Jones's blog (including entries on doing fieldwork in rural China) [Link]

Religious Life in the Chinese World [Project website with downloadable chapters and interviews with chapter contributors]


Below are the covers of some of the volumes to which I have contributed chapters:





       Chines, l’État au musée   

    Atheist Secularism and its Discontents   

Religious Diversity in Chinese Thought    Religious Internationals in the Modern World   

Cover of Making Religion, Making the State by Edited by Yoshiko Ashiwa and David L. Wank