The Expansion of a “New Religious Movement”: Contemporary Dynamics of the Yiguandao

March 16, 2021 - 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
Sébastien Billioud (Chinese Studies, Université de Paris)

With millions of followers, the Way of Pervading Unity (Yiguandao) is one of the largest "new religious movements" in "cultural China." From its base in Taiwan, it is now quickly expanding not only in Asia but also globally. Based on fieldwork carried out in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China, the presentation introduces factors explaining the dynamics of Yiguandao's development. It emphasizes the way adepts live and confirm their faith; the importance of charismatic leadership; the role of Confucianism, which makes it possible to defuse tensions with the authorities and sometimes even to cooperate with them; and, finally, the well-structured expansionary strategies of the group, including its quasi-diplomatic efforts to navigate the troubled waters of cross-straits politics.

About the speaker: Sébastien Billioud is Professor of Chinese studies at Université de Paris. His cross-disciplinary research explores the modern and contemporary fates of Confucianism. He is the author of Thinking through Confucian Modernity (Brill, 2011), The Sage and the People: The Confucian Revival in China (Oxford University Press, 2015, with Joël Thoraval), Reclaiming the Wilderness, Contemporary Dynamics of the Yiguandao (Oxford University Press, 2020) and other works.

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  • Asian/Pacific Studies Institute

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