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Hosting in Chinese Political and Religious Culture. Dr Adam Yuet Chau

Hosting (rendered as a theoretical concept in Chinese as zuozhu 做主) is one of the most important idioms through which Chinese people ‘do’ religion (note: hosting is not the same as hospitality). They host deities, ancestors as well as ghosts at fixed times during the annual ritual calendar. The spirits are invited to enjoy a feast of ritual offerings as an expression of gratitude to their blessings and then are sent back. Such ritual practices belong to what Dr Chau has called ‘relational modality of doing religion’. [In telling contrast, in Christianity God hosts humans while humans cannot host God.] The idiom of hosting is also used extensively in Chinese political life, as it is a crucial expression of sovereignty. Dr Chau is in the process of completing a monograph, tentative entitled The Sovereign Host: The Idiom of Hosting in Chinese Political and Religious Culture, exploring hosting practices and their implications. Hosting was also the theme of his Wilde Lectures in Natural and Comparative Religion, delivered at the University of Oxford in the spring of 2013.

Dr Chau has published the following articles relating to hosting:

2004. ‘Hosting Funerals and Temple Festivals: Folk Event Productions in Rural China’, Asian Anthropology 3: 39-70. [See also Chapter 7 of Miraculous Response: Doing Popular Religion in Contemporary China. Stanford University Press]

2014. ‘Household Sovereignty and Religious Subjectification: China and the Christian West Compared’, in Studies in Church History 50 (2014) special issue on ‘Religion and the Household’, edited by John Doran, Charlotte Methuen and Alexandra Walsham, pp. 494-506. [Download article here]

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.