Vincent Goossaert: Living in the Society of the Gods: A Critical Comparative Approach to Gods as seen from the Chinese Case


Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Living in the Society of the Gods: A Critical Comparative Approach to Gods as seen from the Chinese Case by Vincent Goossaert

[Upcoming] June 11, 2024. Hybrid @ 12:00 – 13:30.

This paper is based on my ongoing work on Chinese gods and processes of subjectification whereby such gods affirm unique personas and engage humans in person-to-person interactions. It is based on a critical approach to much of the scholarship on gods who merely treat them as projection of human collective values and needs. I propose that the vast array of ritual techniques developed over the very longue durée in China to allow the gods to “talk back” to humans have allowed these gods to affirm themselves as persons and subjects – even though there was also resistance against such developments. I developed the case of spirit-writing as a particularly effective mean of divine subjectivization. I then wish to open a comparison with other religious cultures and explore the reasons why the presence of gods as subjects varies considerably between different cultural contexts: in some places, gods can engage humans as persons in ways comparable to the Chinese case, and in others they do not. My working hypothesis is that the availability and social acceptance of ritual techniques to allow the gods to talk is a crucial factor in such differences. 

Vincent Goossaert
(PhD, EPHE, Paris, 1997) is Professor of Daoism and Chinese religions at EPHE, PSL. He is co-editor of T’oung Pao, a leading journal in sinology established in 1890. His research deals with the social history of Chinese religion in late imperial and modern times, especially Daoism, religious professions, socio-religious regulations, productions of moral norms, and human-divine sociability. He has published about twenty books, including Making the Gods Speak. The Ritual Production of Revelation in Chinese History (Harvard University Asia Center, 2022), Heavenly Masters. Two Thousand Years of the Daoist State (University of Hawai’i Press & Chinese University Press, 2021), Vies des saints exorcistes. Hagiographies taoïstes, 11e-16e siècles (Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2021), and Bureaucratie et salut. Devenir un dieu en Chine (Geneva, Labor et fides, 2017). 

高萬桑(Vincent Goossaert),1969年生于法國。1997年,在法國高等研究實踐學院(EPHE)獲得宗教學博士學位,論文題為《近代道教的建立—全真道》;次年成為法國國家科研中心專職研究員; 2012年,升EPHE宗教學系道教史教授。2017年當《通報》編輯. 

Professor Mark Meulenbeld (School of Chinese, HKU),  
Professor David Palmer (HKIHSS/ Dept. of Sociology, HKU) 

Date: June 11, 2024 (Tuesday)
Time: 12:00-13:30 (HK time)
Language: English
Venue: Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus & Via ZOOM

Registration link (for in-person participation):

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Meeting ID: 917 0767 2557
Password: 598714

School of Chinese, HKU 
Asian Religious Connections Research Cluster [ASIAR], Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, HKU 

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