De Jiao: A Religious Movement in Contemporary China and Overseas: Purple Qi from the East

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By Bernard Formoso

De Jiao ("Teaching of Virtue") is a China-born religious movement, based on spirit-writing and rooted in the tradition of the "halls for good deeds," which emerged in Chaozhou during the Sino-Japanese war. The book relates the fascinating process of its spread throughout Southeast Asia in the 1950s, and, more recently, from Thailand and Malaysia to post-Maoist China and the global world.

Through a richly-documented multi-site ethnography of De Jiao congregations in the PRC, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, Bernard Formoso offers valuable insights into the adaptation of Overseas Chinese to sharply contrasted national polities, and the projective identity they build with relation to China. De Jiao is of special interest with regard to its organization and strategies which strongly reflect the managerial habits and entrepreneurial ethos of the Overseas Chinese businessmen. It has also built original bonding with symbols of the Chinese civilization whose greatness it claims to champion from the periphery. Accordingly, a central theme of the study is the role that such a religious movement may play to promote new forms of identification with the motherland as substitutes for loosened genealogical links. The book also offers a comprehensive interpretation of the contemporary practice of fu ji spirit-writing, and reconsiders the relation between unity and diversity in Chinese religion.


"[A] remarkable book...[that] offers us precious insights into another important aspect of Chinese popular religion that has tended to be overlooked...One of the most impressive aspects of the book is its multi-site ethnography...This fascinating book is recommended for both specialists and advanced students of Chinese religions, and for those who wish to understand religious globalization and the processes through which a particular religion is transformed and localized in response to specific national contexts." - Francis Khek Gee Lim

"The diversity of arguments large and small provides great food for thought..." - Thomas Dubois

Bernard FORMOSO is Professor of Anthropology at Paris-Quest-La Defense University. He has devoted more than 20 years to studying the Chinese communities of mainland Southeast Asia.


Publication Year: 2010
280 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-492-0, Paperback

NUS Press