Religiosity Spent: Culture, Microeconomics, and Sacrality on China's Southern Sacred Mountain

Prof. Dr. Robert LaFleur

In my research project, I hope to show the manner in which today's travelers to China's sacred mountains perform a serious and ongoing kind of "divinatory calculation" on their journeys (something that few of the written sources over the centuries have deigned to explain, even though most hint at this issue). For example, on the southern mountain, also known as "Longevity Mountain,” hikers must be mindful of how many incense sticks from their total load they wish to use at each temple. It is this kind of "divinatory economics" that I wish to study alongside the broader cosmological framework, on the one hand, and the smaller, but no less important, question of "locational values" (the perceived power of various temples), on the other.

In a larger sense, I wish to investigate how the mountain journey itself alters the divinatory equation when compared with visiting an urban temple complex (the most common religious engagement in today's China). It is as though the mountain traveler must take the general divinatory goals of the "ordinary" urban temple visitor and calculate them according to the time, distance, energy, and, to a significant extent, financial resources. I will examine the complex dynamics of these matters, and hope to provide scholars of China (and beyond) with perspectives on religiosity, pilgrimage, and microeconomic calculation.

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