Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Rural Religion in Early China."
|[a] Regeneration RF|
The Harvest and Social Solidarity
Granet’s careful descriptions of the architectural and social order of the domestic unit, followed by the necessity of exchange, has a purpose—the description of the great peasant festivals that both reflected the natural order of the seasons and, seemingly, provided momentum to them in the form of enlivened social existence. We are not quite there yet. Beyond the renewal that we find in the small but constant influx (and discharge) of female members, a much more profound kind of renewal is also necessary to regenerate human society and break families from their inward-looking ways.
The complex unity of this higher grouping did not rest upon sentiments
as simple as those lying at the base of domestic solidarity: these other
sentiments did not arise from constant contact, from identity of interests,
from common work, and daily commensality.
L'unité complexe de ce groupement supérieur ne repose point sur des
sentiments aussi simples que ceux qui sont au fond de la solidarité
domestique : ces sentiments ne sortent pas d'un contact de tous les instants,
de l'identité des intérêts, du travail en commun et d'une commensalité
It is important to see here another Granetian theme. He underlines the reasons for unity in the domestic order very clearly. The sentiments that form domestic solidarity arise from constant contact, from identity of interests, and from daily commensality.
|[b] Sharing RF|
Social solidarity is profoundly important in any Durkheimian understanding of the family group, but it is almost never expressed in isolation. Granet makes the point that the individual belonged completely to his family, and that such feelings of belonging contributed directly toward “a habitual feeling of opposition towards neighbors.” In ordinary times, such feelings of opposition would not necessarily be a problem, and could even be healthy. Nevertheless, an inward-looking distrust can easily grow to the point that creates a kind of stagnation that is intellectual as much as it is biological.
Marcel Granet pinpoints a much more powerful form of renewal—one that comes at the very height of the closed unit’s “self-confidence.” This is far more than a psychological concept, however. It is essentially a social and agricultural one. Harvest and joint labor point to the integration of larger (and usually distrustful) social groupings. It is not an act of will, but rather a manner of relenting to (and reshaping) the forces of nature. It is as though the very forces of nature brought people together in a kind of productive and reproductive communion mandated by the very pattering of the seasons—and concerted human action.
|[c] Rhythm RF|
From day to day the individual belonged completely to his family, and the awareness of this belonging entailed
a habitual feeling of opposition towards neighbors. It was only on
exceptional occasions that family egoism could feel itself mastered by the
vision, then sudden and dazzling, of higher interests never clearly seen in
ordinary circumstances. Their rhythmic life provided the Chinese peasants
with these occasions at two points in the year: when they finished and when
they began domestic work and labor in the fields, when men and women,
their activity alternating, changed their mode of life, at the beginning of spring
and at the end of autumn.
L'individu, au jour le jour, appartient tout entier à sa famille et la conscience
de cette appartenance implique à l'égard du voisin un sentiment habituel
d'opposition. Ce n'est qu'en des occasions exceptionnelles que l'égoïsme
familial peut se sentir dominé par la vision, qui est alors soudaine et éclatante,
des intérêts supérieurs qu'il n'aperçoit point clairement d'ordinaire. Ces
occasions, la vie rythmée qu'ils menaient les fournissait aux paysans chinois
à deux moments de l'année : c'était aux temps où finissaient et où
où hommes et femmes, dont l'activité se relayait, changeaient de genre de
vie, au début du printemps et à la fin de l'automne.
|[d] Harvest RF|
put in possession of an abundance of riches: these were moments of joy,
moments when the harshness of practical concerns was relaxed, moments
favorable to large gestures, propitious to generous exchanges, welcome
periods of large-scale social intercourse.
en possession d'une abondance de richesses : moments de joie, moments
où l'âpreté des intérêts se relâche, moments favorables aux gestes larges,
propices aux échanges généreux, époques bienvenues d'un vaste
|[e] Imbued RF|
 Marcel Granet, La religion des chinois (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1922), xx.
 Harold Bells Wright, Shepherd of the Hills (New York: Pelican Books), 1907 provides an example of this dynamic. Set in the early twentieth century Ozarks, Shepherd of the Hills shows the very foundation of domestic solidarity and the enormous risks of a group remaining “untainted” by the outside. In that novel, renewal comes from the outside, but hardly willingly. What we see, instead, is an inbred group of rebels, along with decent “folk” who are rightly afraid of outside forces (which they see in terms of tax collection and other governmental connections). There is not a great deal of “movement” in the world of that novel, and there are almost no forms of interaction that make possible the regeneration of the social body. There are dances, to be sure, and a few comings and goings of city folk. There is nothing to create a sustained growth of the domestic order, however, aside from the strange minister from the city who chose to live among the people of the hills. Harold Bells Wright, Shepherd of the Hills (New York: Pelican Books), 1907.
 Granet, Religion, xxx.
 Granet, La religion, xxx.
 Granet, Religion, xxx.
 Granet, La religion, xxx.
Harper & Row, 1975.
Wright, Harold Bell. Shepherd of the Hills. New York: Pelican Books, 1907.