ancestral halls/lineage temples


ancestral halls/lineage temples
Ancestral halls are often the largest and most elaborate buildings in a Chinese village. With the initiation of economic liberalization in the early 1980s, ancestral halls began reclaiming their prerevolutionary significance as community centres, ritual sites and focal points of lineage authority. Although most ancestral halls were either destroyed or secularized to function as village schools or granaries during the land reform of the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, norms and networks of lineage unity have remained resilient. In most reconstruction projects the majority of households make voluntary donations. The rebuilding of community ancestral halls is especially prevalent in southeastern China, where lineage organizations were historically more developed and where more communities enjoy donations from relations overseas.
The revival of lineage activities and ancestral halls has occurred despite the opposition of local officials in some areas and with their implicit or active support and participation in others. In the more liberalized areas, the committees formed to oversee ancestral hall reconstruction projects often evolve into permanent lineage councils that organize religious, social and philanthropic activities, though none preside over collective land as in the past. The local governments in these areas reason that such non-official (minjian (popular space)) social institutions help finance public services such as road building and village education as well as promote social stability by keeping the behaviour of its members within prescribed bounds. In other areas, lineages may promote norms of unity through organized activities and rituals but lack a formal association.
Lineage halls serve as sites for collective rituals and festivals in which people make obeisance to their ancestors with offerings of food and other material items. Weddings, betrothals, funerals, lineage feasts and meetings of lineage elders may also take place at lineage halls, which are now also used as polling booths for village elections (see democracy and elections) and recreational centres for children and the elderly.
Lineage halls vary immensely in their level of grandeur, necessarily depending on the wealth and ritual needs of lineage members. But they all have certain elements in common, such as furniture and ritual objects and their placement. Smaller halls consist of a main room flanked by two smaller rooms. Larger lineage halls are recessed more deeply behind one or more rectangular courtyards that may also be lined with side halls. Inside the lineage hall, altars take the form of either a shelf accessible by a short ladder or a high narrow table placed against the back wall and facing the entryway. Ancestral tablets embodying the ancestral spirits are organized by seniority, and ritual items such as incense censers, divination blocks, statues and souvenirs from visits to related-lineage halls typically clutter one or more square tables placed in front of the altar and various rectangular tables to the sides. Brightly painted lineage halls may have ornate carvings, paintings and hangings which adorn the pillars and walls. As community centres, contemporary lineage halls may also display group photographs of lineage members at festivals or on sightseeing trips, awards and banners won by village sports teams or performance groups, and government plaques bestowed on the village for model behaviour.
Faure, David (1986). The Structure of Chinese Rural Society. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.
Knapp, Ronald G. (1989). Chinese Vernacular Architecture: House Form and Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
——(1999). China’s Living Houses: Folk Beliefs, Symbols, and Household Ornamentation. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Tsai, Lily (2002). ‘Cadres, Temple and Lineage Organizations, and Governance in Rural China’. The China Journal 48:1–33.
L.L.TSAI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • New Year Festival — (guonian, chunjie) The ‘Spring Festival’ (chunjie), as the ‘Chinese New Year’ is properly known, includes throughout China two separate focal points, namely guonian (crossing into the new year) and yuanxiao jie (the festival of the primal… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • villages (social organization) — The social organizations in villages range from official, state mandated organizations to non registered, villager organized minjian (popular, non official) institutions. Both state and minjian organizations oversee such varied activities as… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • Catholic villages — While rural Catholicism has provided a source of continuity for the Chinese Catholic Church through difficult times of persecution, it has also been a source of change: villagers have adapted many Catholic practices to better fit Chinese culture …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • Qingming Festival — (Qingmingjie) Qingming is usually described as a festival of the dead, which takes place fifteen days after the spring equinox. Among the Hakka, however, this festival can last as long as a month, because tombs are scattered across the… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • funerals — With the cultural importance of the ancestors and geomancy (fengshui) perhaps the defining characteristic of Chinese culture funerals are a key component of Chinese rituals. Funerals are highly charged emotional events that delineate kinship and… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • tombs and cremation — Since ancient times, tombs in China have most commonly consisted of a simple mound over the coffin, sometimes with a rectangular stone tablet identifying the deceased at the head or foot end. Mounds are found in different shapes, and are often… …   Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture

  • arts, East Asian — Introduction       music and visual and performing arts of China, Korea, and Japan. The literatures of these countries are covered in the articles Chinese literature, Korean literature, and Japanese literature.       Some studies of East Asia… …   Universalium

  • Kutch Gurjar Kashtriya — Kutch Gurjar Kshatriya a.k.a. Mistris of Kutch Total population 51,000[1][2] Regions with significant populations • …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese folk religion — Statue of a Taizu deity (deified important ancestor) inside a temple in Maoming, Guangdong …   Wikipedia

  • Anthropology and Archaeology — ▪ 2009 Introduction Anthropology       Among the key developments in 2008 in the field of physical anthropology was the discovery by a large interdisciplinary team of Spanish and American scientists in northern Spain of a partial mandible (lower… …   Universalium


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.