2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 220

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Spatial Studies of Chinese Religions and Society

Organizer: Shuming Bao, University of Michigan, USA

Chair: George Zhaohui Hong, Purdue University Calumet, USA

Discussants: Juan Wang, McGill University, Canada; Peter K. Bol, Harvard University, USA

In the long history of human development in China, religion has significant impacts on its cultural and social development. The dramatic development of religions in China in the past 33 years has attracted academic and public attention. However, few scholars, if any, have provided macro-level quantitative descriptions of the studies of Chinese religions as well as its interactions with other aspects of the society. Most data on the subject are not available to scholars in the public domain, including religious sites with spatial locations, scholars’ collections from their research projects, and other invaluable information. To promote spatial studies of Chinese religions and society, some efforts have been made by scholars at Harvard, Berkeley, Purdue, Michigan and some other institutions on the establishment of spatial databases of Chinese history and religions. Those projects will allow scholars to do spatial analysis on collected data, which may provide new insights into religions and society in China through integrating social, economic, demographic, religious, and geographical information. This panel will focus on the spatial studies of Chinese religions and society with several reports from some projects funded by the Henry Luce Foundation at Harvard University, Purdue University, University of Michigan, University of Arizona, UC Berkeley, Fudan University and some other institutions.

Spatial Explorer of Chinese Religions and Society
Shuming Bao, University of Michigan, USA

Scholars, policy makers, and journalists are requesting comprehensive information about the geographic locations, religious services, and socio-economic environments of Chinese religions. As an effort to promote international collaborations on spatial studies of Chinese religions and society, a spatial information network for the studies of Christianity in China has been established by a group of scholars from several institutions in the U.S. and China. The objectives of the project include: (1) to establish a centralized information infrastructure; (2) to provide effective tools and technical support for interested users through spatial intelligence information technology; (3) to create an online research forum designed to promote information sharing and improve understanding of Christianity in China; and (4) to render comprehensive information about teaching, learning, and training on the studies of Chinese Christianity. This paper will present some preliminary results from the project, including an online spatial information platform, which will allows easy access to comprehensive demographic, economic, and religious information in China as well as some online tools for spatial data analysis. This paper will discuss the information structure, methodology, and technology applied in this system. It will demonstrate how space-time data of different formats and sources can be integrated, visualized, and reported in a web based system for religious studies. Some case studies for Chinese religions and future directions will be discussed.

The Spatial Religion and the Christian Church Shortage Area Identification in China
George Zhaohui Hong, Purdue University Calumet, USA

Abstract removed by request of Author.

Locating Religious Sites at the Local Level
Peter K. Bol, Harvard University, USA

Local gazetteers provide extensive data on the location of religious sites in a locale. Typically entries include a name, a date of founding, and a location given in terms of direction and distance from the administrative seat. Because distances are travel distances and directions are limited to the eight compass headings, these data have rarely been used in spatial analysis at the local level. This paper shows that a GIS approach that takes many approximate data points into account can in fact establish important changes over time, changes that tell us something about the changing relationship between religious foundations and the state.

Spatial Analysis and GIS Modeling of Regional Religious Systems in China
Jiang Wu, University of Arizona, USA

This study aims to determine if the distribution of religious sites forms different functional levels of regional systems and how they exist either dependently or independently in relation to social, economic, and cultural factors that are hierarchically structured in space. Informed by Regional Systems Analysis (RSA) and the study of Hierarchical Regional Space (HRC) developed by G. W. Skinner, our study will examine the distribution of religious sites at the township-level in China and identify their spatial dependence with local geographical factors (such as drainage basins and topography and transportation networks), economic factors (such as agricultural and industrial output, and per capita income), and cultural factors (such as population and ethnicity densities, media saturation rates, density of cultural facilities like museums and libraries, and education indexes). This methodology will reveal hot spots and clustering as well as outliers which do not conform to a pattern. Based on these results, we shall be able to identify regional religious systems according to different levels in China’s cultural landscape from rural township locales and urbanized areas to larger macro-regions encompassing multiple provinces.