Shantang: charitable temples in China, Singapore, and Malaysia

Submitted by James Miller on Sat, 02/09/2013 - 13:17
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TitleShantang: charitable temples in China, Singapore, and Malaysia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsChee-Beng, T.
JournalAsian Ethnology
ISBN Number1882-6865
KeywordsChurch charities, SOCIAL aspects, TEMPLES

This article is based on ethnographic and documentary research that concerns shantangs, Chinese charitable temples, in Southeast Asia and in the Chao-Shan region of Guangdong in China. Unlike the shantangs as benevolent societies in late Ming and Qing China, the shantangs described in this article not only emphasize charitable activities, they are also temples that honor Song Dafeng as a deity. I show that the religious nature of these shantangs account for their resilience, while the tradition of charity helps to promote their secular and benevolent image, especially when there is a need to emphasize their existence as non-superstitious organizations. I also describe the agency of the local elite–and especially merchants–in the development of shantangs in Southeast Asia and China.