The spread of cults from their original homelands in the Song dynasty (960–1279) created crisscrossing ties between local communities and fostered social and cultural integration in Chinese society that transcended class and geographic boundaries. Scholars have produced numerous case studies on these translocal cults and their implications, but the pattern of connections across space created by these cults is yet to be explored. Using the data collected from local gazetteers that have survived from the Southern Song and Yuan dynasties, this article takes a bird’s‑eye view of the spatial distribution of popular cults in China’s Lower Yangzi region between 1150 and 1350 and employs the method of network analysis to study the pattern of connections formed through these religious ties. It reveals seven statistically significant subregional clusters of popular cults and three complementary mechanisms that tied these clusters together. It argues that integration across space was achieved not only through the spread of a cult and the attendant formation of a unified religious culture, but also through a multitude of less prominent cults which were each confined in their geographical scope of influence but collectively created a crisscrossing web of ties linking one subregional cluster to another. Host to a diversity of popular deities that were each associated with a different subregional cluster, the prefectural seats and the Southern Song capital Lin’an played a critical role in the social and cultural integration by providing a welcoming meeting ground for divergent communities of devotees.
East Asian Studies
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Chen, Song. 2023. Patterns of Integration: A Network Perspective on Popular Religious Connections in China’s Lower Yangzi, 1150–1350. Religions 14: 577. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14050577