From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

La Pensée Cyclique—Rural Religion in China (4)

[a] Renewal 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        Rural 16        Rural 17        Rural 18        Rural 19        Rural 20        Rural 21        Rural 22         Rural 23        Rural 24
Rural 25        Rural 26        Rural 27        Rural 28        Rural 29        Rural 30         Rural 31        Rural 32        Rural 33
The Need for Renewal
After describing in detail the architectural and seasonal solidity of the family grouping, and then proceeding to describe the deep integration of the village unit (stretching credulity with fathers and uncles, mothers and aunts, as one), Granet reaches the key point in his early analysis. A social unit of such simplicity cannot survive, because it is incapable of renewing itself. The renewal thus called for goes far beyond the very common forms that one might perceive if one’s only focus is of a practical nature. Granet argues here for more than fresh conversation and the avoidance of inbreeding. Society must renew and regenerate, just as the soil and the seasons must do the same.

          The large undivided family, which, as the days went by, was self-sufficient and lived 
          in isolation, was, however, neither completely independent nor always closed. The 
          alternating distribution of work went with a strong opposition between the sexes 
          expressed also by the prohibition on marriage within the group of kinsmen.[1]

          Cette large famille indivise, qui, dans le courant des jours, se suffit à elle-même et vit 
          dans l'isolement, n'est, cependant, ni complètement indépendante ni toujours fermée. 
          La distribution alternée du travail accompagnait une forte opposition entre les sexes 
          qui se traduisait encore par l'interdiction de contracter mariage à l'intérieur de 
          la parenté.[2]
[b] Exchange RF
The relatively closed system that gives the power of integrity—integral connections that can be found in many forms of group solidarity—cannot survive without regeneration and reintegration. Closed groups will wither and die, with a kind of communal enervation that saps the strength of even the most closely united kin group.

The only way to create real integration and a continuing social regeneration is through exchange, and this is precisely why marriage lies at the very heart of the social order. It was a focus in all of Granet’s sociological analyses. It is not merely a useful social practice. It is absolutely necessary at all levels of the social order. As Durkheim and many of his students maintained, economic regeneration is created through the exchange of goods—whether in complex markets, the Trobriand Islands kula rings, or the potlatches of the northwest coast of North America. Exchange of women (for that is what it became in most societies, even those, as in China, that seem to have exchanged men in early times) creates social integration.    

The practices that lead to integration are not without conflict by any means, but there is in the case of marriage a biological price to pay for keeping systems closed. The social cost is almost as great. Granet clearly seeks to show in these passages the Durkheimian imperative for solidarity. His knowledge of the Chinese sources (not to mention Weberian and Marxian social analysis) prevents him from arguing that social generation is a seamless process. The communal gatherings that he will describe are hardly without conflict. In fact, it is present at every stage. Renewal is often competitive, but required nevertheless.

[c] Transport RF
How did Chinese peasant villages, in Granet’s idealized re-creation of the Shijing’s world, create social exchange and renewal? The brief answer lies in trading half of the village’s children in each generation to other villages, and integrating their children into the domestic unit. Granet notes that there seems to have been a time when boys were traded, but by the time of the Shijing’s poems, only girls were exchanged. The social structural necessity of this arrangement should not mask its pain for individuals and families. Many sources, including the Shijing itself, speak to the misery of young women leaving their families and villages to become daughters-in-law.  Even twentieth-century accounts show similar themes. Necessity does not equal ease, and exchange was accompanied in many cases by great pain. 

          In each generation one half of the children, all those of one sex, had to leave the familial  
          village to go to marry into a neighboring village, being exchanged against a group of 
          young people of the same sex and of another name. It is possible that the exchange 
          was in the first place of boys…But from the time that the texts inform us directly, the 
          exchange was of girls: the most pathetic plaint in the old songs is that of the bride forced 
          to go to live in a strange village.[3]  

          À chaque génération, la moitié des enfants, tous ceux d'un même sexe, devaient 
          abandonner le village fami­lial pour aller se marier dans un village voisin, échangés 
          contre un lot de jeunes gens de même sexe et d'un autre nom. Il est possible que le 
          troc ait d'abord porté sur les garçons, puisque le nom se transmit anciennement par 
          les femmes et puisque la maison est toujours restée chose féminine : le mari, venu 
          primitivement comme gendre, n'en ayant jamais occupé en maître l'intérieur. Mais, 
          dès l'époque que les textes nous font connaître directement, c'étaient les filles qui 
          étaient échangées : la plainte la plus pathétique des vieilles chansons est celle des 
          épousées contraintes d'aller vivre dans un village étranger.[4]

[d] Mixing RF
Note the importance of the exchange “against a group of young people of the same sex and of another name” in Granet’s account. The “same sex, different name” equation is overwhelmingly important. Regeneration comes from a mixing of names even more than (in the popular imagination, at least) it comes from a mixing of blood. The most idealistic picture has the young women of one village bringing new life, on numerous levels, to what was a closed system of gender-divided labor and a single surname. Of course, it is not quite that clean, since every generation a full exchange takes place, and the actual movements occur on a smaller scale every year or so, even in the tiniest of villages. 

Regeneration, even at its most orderly, is as painful as it is necessary.

We now come to one of Granet’s key points, in which he equates agricultural necessity with marriage connections between villages. The phrasing is memorable, for it links the “crossing” of families (with blood ties and differing surnames) with the crossing of furrows for agricultural work—an important theme in the poems of the Shijing. Regeneration, in short, requires crossing, whether that be on the plane of fields of crops or marriage exchange. 

          The essential point was that marriage was made by a crossing of families, just as the field 
          were made by a crossing of furrows. By this practice each hamlet received a group of 
          hostages from a neighbor and in turn furnished it with one. These periodic exchanges, 
          by which a family group obtained pledges giving it a hold upon another group, also 
          caused a foreign influence permanently to penetrate its inner life. They made evident the 
          dependence of the domestic communities and the supremacy of the local community, a 
          wider grouping of another kind.[5]

          L'essentiel était que le mariage se fît par croisement de familles, comme les cultures par 
          le croisement des sillons. Par cette pratique, chaque hameau recevait du voisinage un 
          lot d'otages et en fournissait à son tour. Ces échanges périodiques, par lesquels un 
          groupe familial obtenait des gages qui lui donnaient prise sur un autre groupe, faisaient 
          aussi pénétrer de façon perma­nente dans sa vie intérieure une influence étrangère. Ils 
          rendaient sensibles la dépendance des communautés domestiques et la suprématie 
          d'un groupement plus vaste et d'autre nature qui est la communauté locale.[6]

[e] Alley RF
Exchanges also demand pledges, which in turn give “a hold upon another group.” Above all, such exchanges (and Granet describes them as a “hostage” situation, which brings out the full power of the “hold” on the other group) permanently alter the closed interactions that would have been the ultimate death of the domestic order.

“Caus[ing] a foreign influence permanently to penetrate its inner life,” the closed domestic order grudgingly (and of necessity) welcomes “foreign influence.” It is not done happily on either end. One village gives up its young women and receives another group whose members were influenced by “foreign” ways. Neither village is as inviting as it might imagine itself, and precisely because each is dominated by an “in-group” mentality

Ultimately, the domestic group is dependent upon these exchanges because they create something larger through the alliances that are formed. Without going so far as to create a genuinely “segmentary” system of political organization, profound ties develop between formerly (or “ideally”) closed groups that create linkages which in turn create the foundation for other forms of Chinese social and political life. 
[f] Rural religion 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        Rural 16        Rural 17        Rural 18        Rural 19        Rural 20        Rural 21        Rural 22         Rural 23        Rural 24
Rural 25        Rural 26        Rural 27        Rural 28        Rural 29        Rural 30         Rural 31        Rural 32        Rural 33
[1] Marcel Granet, The Religion of the Chinese People [Translated by Maurice Freedman] (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), xx.
[2] Marcel Granet, La religion des chinois (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1922), xx.
[3] Granet, Religion, xxx.
[4] Granet, La religion, xxx.
[5] Granet, Religion, xxx.
[6] Granet, La religion, xxx.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment