Taiwan Studies Workshops

The Taiwan Studies Workshops are a new space for reflection that aims to bring together young and more established researchers around a specific theme in Taiwan studies.

Ateliers de taïwan franch taïwan studies

God of the soil, god of riches: ethnology of the quest for prosperity in the Hongludi Nanshan Fude temple in Taiwan

Monday 13 March 2023

16:30 h Salle 327, Bâtiment de recherche de l’EHESS, Campus Condorcet, 2, cours des Humanités, 93322 Aubervilliers

The Hunglodei Nanshan Fude Temple (Hongludi Nanshan fude Gong 烘爐地南山福德宮) is one of the most famous places of worship today in Taiwan for the quest for wealth (qiu cai 求財). Located in Nanshijiao Mountain (Nanshijiao shan 南勢角山) in Chungho District (Zhonghe qu 中和區) in New Taipei.


The Hongludi Nanshan Fude is dedicated to Tudi Gong 土地公, the god of the soil. Tudi Gong is considered to be the deity in charge of protecting a human group settled near its anchorage place. Given his power related to the land occupied and exploited by humans, previous studies on the cult of Tudi Gong have focused on the relationship between the cult and the notion of space. Tudi Gong was defined as a “deity of Place” (Henri Maspero, 1971: 127) operating in a small-scale administrative context – the neighbourhood of a city, villages in rural areas (Henri Doré, 1995: 864). In Taiwan, the Taiwanese ethnologist Lin Mei-Jung 林美容 (1987) had considered Tudi Gong as the cult for understanding the social structure of a village. On the other hand, Alessandro Dell’Orto (2002: 25), in a comparative study of the different cases of Tudi Gong worship in Taiwan and the relationship with the cult space, had found that the multitude of altars in his name and the local legends contributed to constructing the meaning of the god’s action space according to its actors.


Indeed, although place is a fundamental connotation of this cult, Tudi Gong is also considered as a god of wealth. This connotation is linked to the cult’s relationship to the land, conceived as the source of its power and the symbolic carrier of fertility and abundance. According to my interlocutors, Tudi Gong is the “most ancient god of wealth” (zui lao de caishen 最老的財神), because “if there is the land, there is also wealth” (youtuyoucai 有土有財). However, how do we define this concept of wealth in relation to the Tudi Gong cult? Hongludi Nanshan Fude is mainly known for the quest for material prosperity based on personal enrichment. However, is the quest for prosperity in this place of worship today only about enrichment through an accumulation of economic capital or is it a multi-faceted wish that touches the sphere of the applicant’s daily life, namely the attainment of family and work happiness and status in the social environment to which he belongs?

This session inaugurates a new space within the Taiwan Studies Workshops: the Young Researchers’ Workshop. Marta Pavone, a doctoral student in social anthropology at Inalco, will present her research work conducted in the heart of the Hongludi Nanshan Fude temple in Taiwan. This temple is dedicated to Tudi Gong 土地公, the god of soil.  Marta Pavone’s presentation will be discussed by Stéphanie Homola, anthropologist, researcher at the CNRS – IFRAE.


Geneses of Taiwanese democracy: thinking and building the Republican State

Monday 22 March 2021

2:30-5:30 pm, online

The ongoing formation of a truly Taiwanese nation-state is accompanied by an increasing autonomy of Taiwan studies. We can only welcome this development, which has made it possible to understand the political and social dynamics of the island in all their plurality by emancipating itself from a Sinocentric reading. Nevertheless, contemporary Taiwanese society is partly based on a political framework that was formed on the mainland before 1949, and it is therefore essential to examine this framework in order to understand the democratisation that has been taking place since the 1980s.

The aim of this workshop is to offer students working on Taiwan an overview of the different ways in which the republican state was conceived and constructed in China before 1949. In contrast to a teleological interpretation of the transition from the Manchu Empire to the Chinese nation-state, the aim is to identify the successive responses to the paradoxical challenge of rebuilding a strong state while giving voice, at least in principle, to the sovereign people.

Félix Jun Ma will attempt to reassess the first republican experience of the 1910s through the case of the Progressive Party (jinbudang), situated at the hinge between the aborted attempt at a parliamentary monarchy and the subsequent efforts to institutionalise a strong state through law. However, the state was not the only possible horizon for thinking about the transformation of society, as Aurore Michelat will explain in relation to the Chinese anarchist movements between 1907 and 1927. Through the neglected contribution of the warlords to this transformation, Xavier Paulès will question the relevance of the still prevalent narrative according to which the modernisation of the republican state took place despite the centrifugal and external forces threatening it. Finally, David Serfass will show how the advent of party-states at the end of the 1920s led to a rethinking of the relationship between the strong state and democracy, thus founding the framework in which Chinese society is still evolving today and against which its Taiwanese neighbour is now trying to build its own model.

“The Progressive Party (jinbudang 進步黨) and the construction of a strong state in the early Republic of China”
Félix Jun Ma (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3-ReSO)

“Building China without a state: a panorama of Chinese anarchist thought from 1907 to 1927”
Aurore Michelat (EHESS-CESPRA)

“The construction of the State under the Republic: plurality and convergences
Xavier Paulès (EHESS-CCJ) 

“Partis-States and popular sovereignty in China from 1920 to 1950
David Serfass (Inalco-IFRAE)