Trading piety: the ritual economy of sutra chanting in southeast China

Jiazhi Fengjiang

This project examines the political economic processes that give rise to the trade of chanted sutra in southeast China in relation to a growing rural aging population. In recent decade, the growing commodification of sutra chanting give rise to new forms of work for illiterate older people in rural villages in China’s southeast coast. The driving force is a growing demand for chanted sutras to be used for Daoist ‘doing-good rite’ (zuo haoshi) – a popular kind of Daoist ritual performed in private households or local temples. The work of chanting with piety are believed to add additional value to sutras that are otherwise products of mass printing. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the project seeks to unpack the creation, circulation, transformation, and contestations of value among varied spheres including the secular and the religious through the labour of piety.

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