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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Popular sectarianism in the Ming : Lo Chʻing and his "religion of non-action" Nadeau, Randall Laird


"Popular Sectarianism in the Minq: Lo Ch'ing and his 'Religion of Non-Action'" is a study of Lo Ch'ing (1442-1527), a lay religious reformer of Ming Dynasty China, the scriptures he composed and the Lo chiao tradition. Chapter I utilizes historical materials (official records, accounts of observors, and memorials to the throne) and sectarian documents (sectarian hagiographies and Lo's own autobiography) to formulate a biography of Lo Ch'ing. Chapter II analyzes Lo's religious thought, based on translated passages from his scriptures, entitled Wu-pu liu-ts 'e (Five Books in Six Volumes) , in the context of the history of Chinese religions and the canonical scriptures of Buddhism, Taoism and the Literati (Confucian) tradition. Chapter III traces the history of Lo sects from the Ming Dynasty to the present, from historical documents, sectarian accounts, and interviews with contemporary Lo sectarians conducted in Taiwan. Chapter IV examines Lo's sources and his use of Chinese written and oral traditions, with comparisons to popular religious literature of early modern Europe. Chapter V evaluates Lo Ch'ing's social role as a "cultural mediator" of conceptions and values between elite and popular levels of Chinese society, incorporating recent studies of similar figures in both Chinese and European history. The Appendices include summaries of the one hundred three chapters constituting the Wu- pu liu-ts'e, an annotated catalogue of Lo's sources, and a bibliography of reference works, primary sources, and secondary studies in Chinese, Japanese, and Western languages. The thesis is presented as a contribution to the fields of Chinese popular religion, sectarianism, and social history. It addresses methodological issues concerning the interaction of elite and popular culture, the study and interpretation of popular religious texts, the analysis of charismatic religious personalities, and the transmission of religious conceptions and values. The principle methodological conclusion of the thesis is that religious figures at a lower and middle level of society can be both creative thinkers and active agents of the transmission of values and conceptions throughout society and history. Much of the translated material in the dissertationis made available to Western-language readers for the first time, and the analysis of the material is based upon secondary studies in Chinese, Japanese, and English. It is hoped that this study will inspire further scholarship on Chinese popular religion as well as Lo Ch'ing and his Religion of Non-Action.

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