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Grant number like: RZ-50163-04

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Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890)
Donald Sinclair Sutton (Project Director: November 2003 to September 2006)

Collaborative Research
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$75,000 (approved)
$75,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2004 – 8/31/2005

Contesting the Yellow Dragon: Religion and Ethnicity at China's Margins

A study of the relationship between religious pilgrimage and ethnic identity at the sacred site of Huanglong in northwestern Sichuan on the Sino-Tibetan border.

The project is for Donald Sutton and Xiaofei Kang to coauthor an historical and contemporary study of folk religion, ethnic relations, and the role of the state in the remote margins of west China, at a moment of rapid change. Our focus is a pilgrimage site called Huanglong, Yellow Dragon, where people have come annually for at least five centuries and which a decade ago was named a UNESCO world heritage site. Preliminary research in July 2003 reveals a long-term process of ethnically-grounded contestation affecting the interpretation, use, decay and refurbishment of the way-stations where pilgrims pause during their progress through the site. Increasingly tourists visit, superimposing their own interpretations and affecting the pilgrims' experience. We see the Huanglong pilgrim center, perhaps like others, as a place where people can be seen to create and reshape cultural meaning, and redefine competitively their own social position and relations with others. This is true not only of the Tibetans, Qiang, the Han Chinese and other pilgrims, but also of Chinese middle-class urban tourists, who better grasp their modernity-and their privileged ethnic status-by visiting China's less altered, more primitive regions. The book will also include study of the state, which has long played a role in ethnic relations and religion, and now through its local agents struggles to bring modernity (capitalism, tourism, environmental management) to China's ethnically mixed interior. Focusing on Huanglong's mid-July festival and the wider contexts in Songpan county, and returning respectively to Pittsburgh and Beijing for the winter of 2004-2005, we expect within 14 months to research and draft most of our book.