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Cantonese Society in Hong Kong and Singapore

Gender, Religion, Medicine and Money

Marjorie Topley, Edited by Jean DeBernardi

Publication Year: 2011

The volume collects the published articles of Dr. Marjorie Topley, who was a pioneer in the field of social anthropology in the postwar period and also the first president of the revived Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Her ethnographic research in Singapore and Hong Kong set a high standard for urban anthropology, and helped creating the fields of religious studies, migration studies, gender studies, and medical anthropology, focusing on topics that remain current and important in the disciplines. The essays in this collection showcase Dr. Topley’s groundbreaking contributions in several areas of scholarship. These include “Chinese Women’s Vegetarian Houses in Singapore” (1954) and “The Great Way of Former Heaven: A Group of Chinese Secret Religious Sects” (1963), both important research on the study of subcultural groups in a complex urban society; “Marriage Resistance in Rural Kwangtung” (1978), now a classic in Chinese anthropology and women’s studies; her widely known and cited article, “Cosmic Antagonisms: A Mother-Child Syndrome” (1974), which investigates widely shared everyday practices and cosmological explanations that Cantonese mothers invoked when they encountered difficulties in child-rearing; and “Capital, Saving and Credit among Indigenous Rice Farmers and Immigrant Vegetable Farmers in Hong Kong's New Territories” (2004 [1964]).

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-x

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xii

Many anthologies of academic and intellectual study can appear quite dry to the uninitiated. Sometimes the very title prompts the casual reader to reach for his or her dictionary in order to get an idea of what the book or article is about, or to select another book altogether. Not so in the case of this large and informative collection of essays. The topics of gender, ...

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Introduction: Cantonese Society in Hong Kong and Singapore:

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pp. 1-24

This book collects the published articles of Dr. Marjorie Topley, who was a pioneer in the field of social anthropology in the postwar period. Her ethnographic research in Singapore and Hong Kong sets a high standard for urban anthropology, focusing on topics that remain current and Dr. Topley's publications reflect her training in British social ...

Part I: Chinese Ritual Practice in Singapore

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Chapter 1: Some Occasional Rites Performed by the Singapore Cantonese

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pp. 27-56

This paper deals with some of the rites performed by the Cantonese in Singapore with the object of overcoming illness and misfortune. The rites selected for description are in all cases specific to the sufferer, and are enacted only when help is required. The term occasional is used here in this sense, to distinguish them from festival rites and the type of ...

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Chapter 2: Chinese Rites for the Repose of the Soul,with Special Reference to Cantonese Custom

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pp. 57-72

To the Chinese, the adaptation of the soul to its new and complex environment in hell is a matter of the primest importance. This hell is, in its administrative aspects, rather like another China “ploughed under”,1 with a similarly complicated system of rewards, punishments and financial obligations on the part of the soul. Ransom payments must be made to the ruler of Hades to procure rebirth under circumstances most favourable for a successful and prosperous...

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Chapter 3: Paper Charms, and Prayer Sheets as Adjuncts to Chinese Worship

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pp. 73-96

There are few Chinese rites for which some kind of paper charm or prayer sheet is not necessary. Some of these papers are specific to a particular rite but many may be used in a general way to cover most of the misfortunes which man may encounter wherever he lives. Ill-health, bad luck and poverty, barrenness, quarrels with mothers-in law or husbands, ...

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Chapter 4: Ghost Marriages among the Singapore Chinese

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pp. 97-100

There is a form of ghost marriage which exists among the Singapore Chinese and is known as Yin Ch’u (Ts’u)[Yinqu].1 This takes place at a ceremony or group of ceremonies at which two deceased persons, or more rarely, one living and one deceased person are married. Such forms of marriage appear to be more common among the Cantonese...

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Chapter 5: Ghost Marriages among the Singapore Chinese: A Further Note

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pp. 101-103

Since writing on Chinese ghost marriages last year (Man, 1955: 35), I have had a further opportunity to be present at such a marriage and this time to obtain a photograph of effigies of the bridal pair seated together at a table round which the ceremonies on their behalf took place. I was unfortunately not able to be present for the actual...

Part II: Religious Associations in Singapore and China

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Chapter 6: Chinese Women’s Vegetarian Houses in Singapore

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pp. 107-124

This article describes the Chinese woman’s vegetarian house ([zhaitang], lit., vegetarian hall) as it is in Singapore at the present time, and attempts to analyse the reasons for its existence. These organizations of vegetarians are formed with the object of providing board and lodging for unattached women who worship Buddha. Many of these women are without immediate family connections...

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Chapter 7: Chinese Religion and Religious Institutions in Singapore

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pp. 125-174

The word temple is used somewhat vaguely in Singapore and Malaya to refer to a wide variety of places of Chinese worship, all with differing functions and organization and ranging from the small attap hut erected for the worship of some specific deity...

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Chapter 8: The Emergence and Social Function of Chinese Religious Associations in Singapore

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pp. 175-202

The majority of Singapore Chinese originate from the rural areas of Kwangtung [Guangdong] and Fukien [Fujian] Provinces. They had already started to immigrate in relatively large numbers by the late...

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Chapter 9: The Great Way of Former Heaven: A Group of Chinese Secret Religious Sects

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pp. 203-240

This paper discusses certain aspects of an esoteric, secretly organized, religion in China called Hsien-t’ien Ta-tao [Xiantian Dadao] (or Hsient’ien Tao [Xiantian Dao])1 “The Great Way of Former Heaven” (or “The Way of Former Heaven”). It is based mainly on material discovered in Singapore during 1954–55.

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Chapter 10: Chinese Religion and Rural Cohesion in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 241-271

In China in the nineteenth century some of the most important ideas which were religious, or had religious implications, linked the destiny of individuals to their ancestors; to numerous gods and sanctified worthies; and to certain cosmic “ethers” and “elements” and their process. Such ideas were associated with organized groups of different kinds.

Part III: Economy and Society: Hong Kong and Guangdong

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Chapter 11: The Role of Savings and Wealth among Hong Kong Chinese

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pp. 275-329

The sociologist or anthropologist working in Hong Kong is first confronted with the problem of how to define and limit his field of inquiry. Hong Kong society is highly heterogeneous. There are a number of other small-sized ethnic groups besides the Chinese.1 The latter, who are in the majority,2 are then divided into groups speaking different dialects and ...

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Chapter 12: Capital, Saving and Credit among Indigenous Rice Farmers and Immigrant Vegetable Farmers in Hong Kong’s New Territories

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pp. 331-361

This essay discusses master farmers growing rice or vegetables as principal crops. Specialization in vegetable-growing is largely the concern of immigrants, while indigenous farmers, that is people whose ancestors settled in the area generations (sometimes centuries) ago, still specialize mainly in rice production. Rice was formerly the traditional crop of the ...

Part IV: Religion and Society: Hong Kong and Guangdong

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Chapter 13: Some Basic Conceptions and Their Traditional Relationship to Society

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pp. 365-379

In the two afternoons of this symposium you will hear different readers referring to similar terms and concepts. You will hear about some rather sophisticated Chinese notions, scarcely meant for the ordinary folk, and involving the concepts...

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Chapter 14: Chinese Occasional Rites in Hong Kong

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pp. 381-403

Some of you have visited Chinese temples in Hong Kong, and you may have noticed that many rites are performed by people acting on their own — not, that is to say, as members of religious congregations. A good deal of “popular” religious activity — performances of the kind I would call “Little Tradition” [see Chapter 13 above] — is in fact individual.

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Chapter 15: Notes on Some Vegetarian Halls in Hong Kong Belonging to the Sect of Hsien-T’ien Tao (The Way of Former Heaven)

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pp. 405-421

Some of you have visited Chinese temples in Hong Kong, and you may have noticed that many rites are performed by people acting on their own — not, that is to say, as members of religious congregations. A good deal of “popular” religious activity — performances of the kind I would call “Little Tradition” [see Chapter 13 above] — is in fact individual.

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Chapter 16: Marriage Resistance in Rural Kwangtung

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pp. 423-446

For approximately one hundred years, from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth century, numbers of women in a rural area of the Canton Delta either refused to marry or, having married, refused to live with their husbands. Their resistance to marriage took regular forms. Typically they organized themselves into sisterhoods. The women remaining spinsters ...

Part V: Chinese and Western Medicine in Hong Kong

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Chapter 17: Chinese Traditional Ideas and the Treatment of Disease: Two Examples from Hong Kong

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pp. 449-470

A number of anthropologists working in Hong Kong in the last two decades have tackled problems concerning traditional China. The main interest has been in social structure but a few studies dealing with problems of cognition have been carried out since the early ’60s. The published results, which are just beginning to appear, already indicate the value of Hong Kong for research in this field.1

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Chapter 18: Cosmic Antagonisms: A Mother-Child Syndrome

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pp. 471-487

The period immediately following the birth of a baby is a time of biological and emotional adjustment for mother and child, when, in the Chinese view, a variety of difficulties can be anticipated. The child, for example, may refuse to nurse and gain little weight; it may have skin, bowel, or digestive disorders. It may be easily agitated and may respond ...

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Chapter 19: Chinese and Western Medicine in Hong Kong: Some Social and Cultural Determinants of Variation, Interaction and Change

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pp. 489-521

Hong Kong is a British Crown Colony lying just inside the tropics, to the south-east of China adjoining the province of Kwangtung [Guangdong]. Its 400 square miles includes the island of “Hongkong”, and the peninsular Kowloon, ceded to Great Britain in 1841 and 1860 respectively; and the New Territories, a settled rural area, added by a 99-year lease in 1898.

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Chapter 20: Chinese Traditional Aetiology and Methods of Cure in Hong Kong

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pp. 522-547

The position of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong and the problems of official recognition are complex. When in 1841 a certain Captain Elliott negotiated the preliminaries for a Sino-British treaty for the cession of Hong Kong island, one of his proclamations stated that the Chinese were “secured in the free exercise of their religious rites, ceremonies, and social interests….”

Appendix: Glossary of Chinese Terms

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pp. 549-572

Index

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pp. 573-609


E-ISBN-13: 9789888053650
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888028146

Page Count: 624
Illustrations: 90 b/w images, tables
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Studies Series