Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Rural Religion in Early China."
Click here for the introduction to "La Pensée Cyclique" the "umbrella topic for this series.
|[a] Social RF|
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
We begin with Marcel Granet’s shortest and most unusual book, The Religion of the Chinese People (La religion des chinois). Published in 1922, it represents the beginning of a very productive time in Granet’s scholarly career. He had returned to France after his travels in China and military service, during which he prepared his theses and began work on his first publications, many of which now make up Etudes sociologiques sur la Chine. He published another thesis in 1919, and Religion can fairly be interpreted as the end of one phase of his work and beginning of another—a work for a general audience that concentrates and clarifies many of the scholarly messages in his doctoral research and foreshadows the complex analysis that would follow in the next dozen years.
|[b] Countryside RF|
The opposition between urban and rural life is an essential feature of Chinese society.
That ancient opposition—the simultaneous existence of towns and villages is attested by
the oldest documents—was doubtless more marked in antiquity than it was later to be. In the
L'opposition de la vie urbaine et de la vie rurale est un trait essentiel de la société chinoise.
|[d] Communion RF|
We should not know those customs were it not that there has been preserved for us in an
anthology of poems a whole collection of songs that came to be esteemed in the eyes of the
courtiers in the towns of the domains by the symbolic use they made of them. These songs,
more or less reworked by and deformed at their hands, are made up of themes, poetic
sayings, in which the rustic inspiration makes itself felt.
Ces mœurs du vulgaire, nous ne les connaîtrions pas, s'il ne nous avait été conservé, dans
une Anthologie poétique, tout un lot de chansons, devenues respectables aux gens de cour
des villes seigneuriales par l'utilisation symbolique qu'ils en faisaient. Ces chansons, plus ou
moins remaniées par eux et déformées, sont constituées par des thèmes, des dictons
poétiques, où se sent l'inspiration rustique.
|[e] Clarity RF|
When these themes are grouped together, sociological analysis can succeed in
reconstructing a picture of rural life in its broadest outlines. But however methodical the
work of reconstruction may be, and even when it is subsequently confirmed by the traces
left by popular usages in the learned literature, the picture obtained can be only a general
Les thèmes une fois groupés, l'analyse sociologique peut réussir à restituer, dans ses
qu'une genre unique.
|[f] Eurasian RF|
only by historical fanatics enamored of individual facts and chronological precision. There
is less risk that the reconstruction incorporates oddities: the defect would then have been
more serious and it needs to be pointed out.
Elle vaut pour l'ensemble des pays chinois et pour une vaste période de temps mal
Marcel Granet thus sets the foundation for his analysis of Chinese religion by dividing urban and rural, aristocratic and common, and general and particular. His is a macro-sociological analysis that uses literature as its source. His is a kind of “imaginative sociology,” to use Maurice Freedman’s memorable phrase, that sought to find lessons that were much more lasting than stray historical facts. These fireworks (beware straightforward historians) are only the beginning for Monsieur Granet.
|[g] Particular RF|
 Marcel Granet, The Religion of the Chinese People [Translated by Maurice Freedman] (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 37.
 Marcel Granet, La Religion des Chinois (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1922), 10.
 Granet, Religion, 37.
 Granet, La religion, 1.
 Granet, Religion, 37-38.
 Granet, La religion, 11.
 Granet, Religion, 38.
 Granet, La religion, 11.
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.