This short essay draws up the principal ideas from a book chapter concerning the historical field of Chinese religions in comparative context in order to identify its distinctive problems and possible pathways. In order to distinguish religions in the Sinosphere from other state-religion relationships in the longue durée, we need to identify how the state and religions have managed the question of transcendence. Scholars working with the Axial Age theories of religion have often expressed confusion or hesitation with regard to Chinese notions of transcendence. I argue that Chinese religions have a transcendent dimensions often missed by analysts because they operate with an Abrahamic notion of radical transcendence and dualism rather than what I call “dialogical transcendence.”Read the rest of Chinese religions in comparative historical perspective.
Prasenjit Duara is the Raffles Professor of Humanities and Director, Asia Research Institute as well as Director of Research in Humanities and Social Sciences at National University of Singapore. He was previously Professor and Chair of the Dept of History and of the Committee on Chinese Studies at the University of Chicago. In 1988, he published Culture, Power and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942 (Stanford Univ Press), which won the Fairbank Prize of the AHA and the Levenson Prize of the AAS, USA.