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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

La Pensée Cyclique—Rural Religion in China (10)

[a] Reflected RF
Click here for other posts in Round and Square's "Rural Religion in China" series:
Rural 1          Rural 2          Rural 3          Rural 4          Rural 5          Rural 6          Rural 7          Rural 8
Rural 9          Rural 10        Rural 11        Rural 12        Rural 13        Rural 14        Rural 15

Youth, Sexuality, and Regeneration
Now youth comes to the fore of the social order. No longer is the domestic order undifferentiated. We begin to see how it is broken down and the manner in which regeneration can come, not only from the enthusiasm of the younger members of the community, but also through their looser connection to the order itself. They are the tool by which the order will be rebuilt, renewed, and strengthened in the future. It is their very lack (and a relative lack it is) of commitment to the order that allows them to chant, cry, and compete in ways that are virtually impossible for those who are older. Again, we speak here not merely of “age” in the narrow and clichéd sense that we might think of it today. “Youth” here connotes social energy and connection with lively natural powers.

          The contests produced this rejuvenation of the social pact because they 
          brought into confrontation the youngest forces in the community and 
          could be ended in the most intimate of communions. The ancient Festivals 
          were above all festivals of initiation, which brought into social intercourse 
          young people hitherto shut up in the hamlets of their families: betrothals 
          and marriages were there contracted to the benefit of the community and 
          under its control: they reduced the exclusiveness of local groups.[1]

          Ce rajeunissement du pacte social, les joutes l'obtenaient parce qu'elles 
          mettaient aux prises les forces les plus jeunes de la communauté et 
          qu'elles pouvaient se terminer par la plus intime des communions. Les 
          Fêtes anciennes étaient avant tout des fêtes d'initiation qui faisaient 
          entrer dans le commerce social des jeunes gens jusque-là confinés 
          dans le hameau de leurs familles : les fiançailles, les mariages qui 
          atténuaient l'occlusion des groupes locaux, y étaient conclus au profit 
          de la communauté et sous son contrôle.[2] 
[b]Vital RF
The initiation of which Granet writes is as much an initiation into society and nature as it is a “coming of age.”  Youths are the pawns in an elaborate social and natural competition. They need to be “used” to create competitions of sexuality. They are biologically, if not socially or psychologically, prepared to do this. It is not just “good” to interact, as we have seen. It is absolutely vital. There can be no mistake: if the youth do not engage in exogamous sexual activity, the domestic order will wither. “Reducing the exclusiveness of local groups” is not positive or negative: it is a necessary fact, without which there can be no society, and certainly no domestic order, to protect with all of the narrow ferocity that can be found in huddled peasants in mid-winter. 

The competitions were highly sexual, and the rules that went along with them followed the structural lines of marriage. Energized youth forms the core, but it goes far beyond that core. They must be from different villages and must be potential sexual partners who have never seen one another. One imagines the energy and confusion wrapped into such competitions, and the manner in which such raucous chanting to the opposite sex might contribute to unions of a more permanent nature in the (very near) future. 

          The bands opposed in the contests were made up of young people who must 
          not be either from the same village or of the same sex and who (at least in the 
          spring) for the first time attended the gatherings at the Holy places and who 
          before that had never met.[3]  

          Les bandes que les tournois opposaient étaient faites de jeunes gens qui 
          ne devaient être ni du même village ni du même sexe, qui (du moins au 
          printemps) assistaient pour la première fois aux réunions du Lieu Saint et 
          qui jamais ne s'étaient vus.[4]
[c] Rhythm RF

Granet speaks of the potency of such situations for individuals and groups. It is very interesting that he connects bursting into song with a recovery of primary forms of expression. That is one of the key ideas embedded in Granet’s analysis of spring festivals: they help human beings and human groups to regain their connection to the “natural” rhythms of the universe. One of those rhythms can be found in speech, and the creative merging of words (and sounds) into something profound.

          We might not be able to imagine what their emotions were; they had such 
          potency that on each occasion the young people burst into poetry, recovering 
          the primary forms for the expression of feelings.[5]  

          Nous ne pourrions imaginer ce qu'étaient leurs émotions ; elles avaient 
          une telle puissance qu'à chaque fois ils inventaient la poésie et 
          retrouvaient les formes premières de l'expression des sentiments.[6]

[d] Regulated RF
Granet builds the poetic picture. This was not disorderly shouting. Nothing of the sort. It was “regulated by rhythm.”  The kind of flow that one sees in the highest level of human banter—from comedic give-and-take to improvisational music—lies at the heart of this image. It is a skill that comes to life with engagement—and competition.

          When they faced one another in the contests in opposed lines their 
          rivalrous action was always regulated by rhythm; whatever the contest, 
          it had the appearance of a duel of dance and song. The challenges, brief 
          vocal images accompanied by mime, flew alternately from one band to 
          another, forming poetic couplets.[7] 

          Lorsque, dans les tournois, ils s'affrontaient en lignes opposées, leur 
          action rivale était toujours rythmée ; quel que fût le concours, il avait 
          l'allure d'une joute de danses et de chants. D'une bande à l'autre, les défis 
          échangés alternaient et, brèves images vocales accompagnées d'une 
          mimique, s'appariaient en couples de vers.[8]

Click here for other posts in Round and Square's "Rural Religion in China" series:
Rural 1          Rural 2          Rural 3          Rural 4          Rural 5          Rural 6          Rural 7          Rural 8
Rural 9          Rural 10        Rural 11        Rural 12        Rural 13        Rural 14        Rural 15 
[1] Marcel Granet, The Religion of the Chinese People [Translated by Maurice Freedman] (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 42.
[2] Marcel Granet, La religion des chinois (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1922), 15.
[3] Granet, Religion, 42.
[4] Granet, La religion, 15.
[5] Granet, Religion, 2-43.
[6] Granet, La religion, 15.
[7] Granet, Religion, 2-43.
[8] Granet, La religion, 15.

Granet, Marcel. The Religion of the Chinese People [Translated by Maurice Freedman]. New York: 
     Harper & Row, 1975.
Granet, Marcel. La religion des chinois. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1922.
[e] Allure RF

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