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How Does Superstition Become Intangible Cultural Heritage in Postsocialist China?


This article narrates how a temple fair worshipping a dragon god, the object of superstition for about sixty years, became an official piece of intangible cultural heritage. This story takes place in three chapters: First, the temple fair as a local tradition was revived after China adopted its Reform and Opening policy in 1978. Second, the temporary tent set up annually for worship was replaced by a building, dubbed both “museum” and “temple” by way of creative use of a “double-naming method.” And third, the temple fair was formally identified as a piece of intangible cultural heritage. This course of events epitomizes the once-unimaginable changes that have taken place in Chinese society in the past one hundred years, and it offers a case for scholars to understand the logics of Chinese reform from within its own culture.