How a Superstition Became Intangible Heritage in China:
The Case of Dragon Tablet Fair and Beyond
Bingzhong Gao, Peking University and Harvard-Yenching Institute
In the past 100 years in China, folk religion experienced constant changes. When “the folk” became “people,” “religion” became the worst superstition. When “the people” became citizens, superstition became “intangible heritage.” The case of the Dragon Tablet Fair, which has been observed by multidisciplinary scholars over the last 15 years, represents the whole story of Chinese folk religion. When local believers revived their temple fair, accusations of superstition were a deadly problem for them. As temple fairs revived across China, both sides have found intangible heritage as a practical solution for how to revive ritual without being condemned as superstition.
Bingzhong Gao received a PhD in folklore from Normal University. He is professor of anthropology in the department of sociology, and director of Center for Civil Society Studies, at Peking University. He is also vice president of the China Folklore Society and a member of the Expert Committee of Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Culture, China. Currently, Professor Gao is a visiting scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute. He is the author, among other things, of Folk Culture and Civil Society: Cultural Studies of Modern Process in China (2008).
Location: CGIS South, Room S153
1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA