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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Event date: 
Tuesday, 16 May, 2023 - 14:00
Event organiser: 

Launched in September, 2121, the Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series (印證佛學傑出學術系列講座) is a collaborative, multi-university partnership between Peking University, Columbia University, Princeton University, Harvard University, University of British Columbia, University of Oxford and University of Cambridge.

The Lecture Series is established in honour of Venerable Cheng-yen 證嚴, founder of Tzu Chi, and her mentor Yinshun 印順 (1906–2005), with the goal of promoting topics in Buddhist studies. The series is organised at Cambridge by Dr Noga Ganany with the generous support of the Tzu Chi Foundation.

This lecture in the series is given by Prof. Elena Valussi, Loyola University. With discussant Dr Noga Ganany, University of Cambridge.

In investigating the religious traditions of Sichuan (and beyond), the diversity and hybridity of religious practices expressed in texts and rituals have emerged. This talk will address parallel questions of hybridity and religious identity through the historical analysis of two religious spaces. The first is the Chunyang guan 純陽觀 in Xinjin 新津. First imagined and built in the late Qing dynasty as a space devoted to the three religions, in fact it functioned as a fully religious space only for a short time. In the early to mid-twentieth century it was variously used as an orphanage and school, and is now a museum and tea house, while still holding a liminal religious significance. The second example comes from a preliminary investigation of several different guildhalls (huiguan 會館) in Sichuan.  Originally multivalent spaces representing the business interests and religious beliefs of migrant communities entering Sichuan in the mid Qing dynasty, after losing their supporting communities and undergoing various historical vicissitudes, many are now in disrepair, shifting from religious to secular spaces, or being re-assigned to a different religious tradition, often Buddhist. The case of the Yuwang gong 禹王宮 in Lizhuang 李莊, now the Huiguang si 慧光寺 Buddhist monastery, is emblematic. Because of their shifting and fragile identities, their movement from sacralized to secularized or viceversa, the spaces under investigation are undercategorized, thus overlooked, understudied and marginalized. These examples might help in the historical investigation of other shifting religious sites in different parts of China.


Elena Valussi is a senior Lecturer in the History Department at Loyola University Chicago. Her research and publications revolve around the intersection of gender, religion and body practices, Republican discourses on gender and religion, the intellectual history of Daoism, and spirit writing in Chinese history. She is also co-editor, with Matthias Schumann, of a soon to be published book: Communicating with the Gods: Spirit-writing in Chinese History and Society, Brill, where she wrote an article on gender and spirit writing. With prof. Stefania Travagnin, she is the co-director of a research project on religious diversity in Sichuan province funded by the CCK foundation. She has been visiting professor at the University of Venice, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. She is the vice President of the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions. Her most recent articles include “Daoist Sexual Practices for Health and Immortality for Women” in Handbook of Chinese Medicine, ed. by Michael Stanley Baker and Vivienne Lo, London, Routledge, 2022;“Men Built Religion, Women Made it Superstitious: Gender and Superstition in Republican China”, Journal of Chinese Religions 48.1, 2020; “Gender as a Useful Category of Analysis in Chinese religions: with two Case Studies from the Republican Period”, in Critical Concepts and Methods for the Study of Chinese Religions III: Key Concepts in Practice, edited by Stefania Travagnin and Paul Katz, Leiden, De Gruyters, 2019.


Noga Ganany is an Assistant Professor in the Study of Late Imperial China at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her main research interests are Chinese cultural history, religious practice in China, Chinese literature and book culture, travel and pilgrimage, and popular culture. She is currently writing a book titled Origin Narratives: Hagiographic Literature and Religious Practice in Late Ming China, which examines the role of commercial publishing in propagating cultic reverence of saints, gods, and immortals among lay readers. Dr Ganany is a board member of the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions (SSCR) and a board member of the Society for Ming Studies.

高諾佳是劍橋大學亞洲與中東研究系的助理教授,從事明清研究;也是劍橋悉尼·蘇塞克斯學院的研究員。她主要的研究興趣包括中國文化史、中國宗教實踐、中國古代文學與書籍文化、旅行與朝覲、以及流行文化。她目前正在撰寫《出身傳:晚明中國聖人傳記文學與宗教實踐》一書,其中探討了商業出版對於在世俗讀者之間傳播聖、神、仙崇拜所發揮的作用。高博士目前也擔任中國宗教研究會(SSCR)的理事與明史研究會(Society for Ming Studies)的理事。

Dr Noga Ganany: