An important new book on the revival of Confucianism in China has now appeared in English: The Sage and the People, by Sebastien Billioud and Joel Thoraval.
Based on almost a decade of fieldwork and a cross-disciplinary approach (anthropology, sociology, history), this book explores the popular revival of Confucianism that has taken place in China since the beginning of the twenty-first century. It does not primarily focus on intellectual or normative discourses but on the reappropriation and reinvention of popular practices in society. Analyzing empirically cases and narratives of activists involved in this “revival,” it attempts to understand their motivations, aspirations, difficulties, and achievements, as well as their ambiguous relation to Chinese politics. The Confucian revival is studied within the broader context of emerging challenges to Western categories (religion, philosophy, science etc) and great modernization narratives that prevailed throughout the twentieth century. Finally, by means of a comparison between state cults carried out in both Mainland China and Taiwan the book discusses the articulation of the political and the religious and, beyond that, the contemporary fate of the Chinese cosmological tradition.