Grasping the Revolution

Fieldwork on Religion in China


  • Graeme Lang City University of Hong Kong
  • Lars Ragvald Lund University



religion in China, fieldwork methods


Field research on religion in China cannot easily test sociological theories because of the constraints on investigation and the sensitivity of some topics. But the rapid resurgence of religions in China over the past 20 years provides many settings for fieldwork, and theoretical revolutions in the discipline in recent decades create analytical challenges. We have been most impressed by the usefulness of the religious economy model. We have found good empirical and theoretical reasons to use it in the study of the resurgence of religious activity in China over the past 20 years. But fieldwork in China also brings surprises, and it is difficult to study some phenomena without also influencing them in unexpected ways. We illustrate the relation between fieldwork, theory, and surprises, with example.


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Author Biographies

Graeme Lang, City University of Hong Kong

Graeme Lang is Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Asian and International Studies (a new department launched in mid-2006) at City University of Hong Kong. His publications on religion include The Rise of a Refugee God(Oxford University Press, 1993, with Lars Ragvald), and articles and book chapters on popular religion, temples, religious syncretism, and fundamentalism in East and Southeast Asia, with field research in Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Dept. of Asian and International Studies City University of Hong Kong Tat Chee Ave, Kowloon Hong Kong S.A.R.

Lars Ragvald, Lund University

Dept. of East Asian Languages Lund University Lund Sweden


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How to Cite

Lang, G., & Ragvald, L. (2005). Grasping the Revolution: Fieldwork on Religion in China. Fieldwork in Religion, 1(3), 219–233.