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Bridging the Gaps: Methodological Challenges in the Study of Taiwanese Popular Religion

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This paper critically assesses leading research on Taiwanese popular religion published during the past two decades, including by historians of religion and social scientists. It pays special attention to the challenges (and opportunities) provided by the study of Taiwan’s vibrant religious traditions, which have produced a wealth of textual materials yet can also be researched by using ethnographic methods and collecting survey data. Another conundrum that Taiwanese scholars face involves how to effectively utilise the ever-increasing body of data about religious life in modern Chinese history and among Chinese communities throughout the world. The review’s scope centres on research results from the past 20 years that examine temple cults and festivals; it will not discuss Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, and other foreign religions, as well as the religions practiced by Taiwan’s indigenous peoples. However, it will occasionally mention scholarship on voluntary religious movements, especially those that perform spirit-writing rituals.

Affiliations: 1: Distinguished Research Fellow, Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan,


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