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Rural Urbanization and Religious Transformation

A Case Study of Zhangdian Town

Liu Zhijun

March 2005, English

The purpose of this paper is to engage the impact of rural urbanization on the transformation of rural religions based on description of the urbanization situation and religious transformation of a specific community. Zhangdian Town of Pinglu County, Shanxi Province, is selected as the target community to do the case study. Documentation method, questionnaire method, participant observation and intensive interview are methods applied in this research. In general, the author attempts to find out how the economic structure, population structure, lifestyle, social interaction, mass media, and value concept of the target community have been affected by rural urbanization, and thus its impact on local religions. Then, the author analyzes the relationship between rural urbanization and transformation of local religions, the dialogue between traditional Chinese diffused religions and western institutional religions along with the process of rural urbanization, and attempts to predict the fate of religions in a climate of increasing rural urbanization.

Research findings and highlights:

    1. “Rural urbanization” ought to be defined as the process of the integration of rural & urban productive means, rural & urban life styles, and the integration of rural & urban civilizations.
    1. Impact of rural urbanization upon the religious transformation of Zhangdian Town: religious aspiration inspired by rural urbanization; modernization of values; smaller family scale and the wane of formal organizations; problems caused by rural urbanization and its settlement; influence from globalization.
    1. In Zhangdian Town, the conflict between Chinese traditional religions and western institutional religions, Christianity and Catholicism, is mainly concentrated on idealistic domains. Even in idealistic domains, the conflict is relatively mild because of the localization of Christianity and Catholicism. For most of the Christians and Catholics, what makes them feel a bit of nervous is the problem of whether or not to worship ancestors and how to consecrate them.
    1. Urbanization and industrialization will advance the need for religions. But what particular religions will be selected by the majority of the people will depend on their particular history and reality. If we consider that many shrine buildings of Chinese traditional religions were destroyed before and after liberation, and all religions were once regarded as harmful to society for several decades, we can get some idea that why it is Chinese traditional religions such as folk religion, Buddhism, Taoism that are declining even after Reformation and Opening to the World.