Dr. Raymond, P. Ambrosi – Interconnections amongst Folk Religions, Civil Society and Community Development
Meihua Boxers as constructors of social trust and the earth-bound public sphere
Name: Raymond P. Ambrosi
Affiliation: Peking University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Academic and Professional Background:
Raymond Ambrosi’s Anthropology PhD, (Peking University) examines the interconnections amongst folk religions, civil society and community development. Fieldwork for the dissertation included two years living in Minghe village in rural Hebei. This work built on his Geography Master’s thesis on sustainable rural development that examined the role of folk martial arts in cultural tourism, and later work in Japan that focused on religious festivals, folk martial arts and community cohesion. Ray holds undergraduate degrees in anthropology and geography and worked for several years in government and research institutions in Canada. He is currently a researcher, consultant and writer based in Beijing. Hobbies include, quite expectedly, martial arts, yoga and various exercise modalities, photography, videography, and hiking and outdoor activities. His research interests include: grassroots cooperative associations, social trust, civil society, sectarian religions and their role in development of civil society, martial arts and connection with religion and identity. Regional interests include: rural north China, Canada prairie regions, rural communities in Japan.
Research Areas: meihuaquan, martial arts, earth-bound social sphere, agrarian social sphere, civil society, social trust, folk religion, sectarian religion, Hebei province Yongnian County.
Current Research projects
Meihua Boxers as constructors of social trust and the earth-bound public sphere
For many centuries, grassroots martial arts and sectarian religious organizations have played an important role in the social and cultural lives of villagers on the North China Plain. Yet these organizations, commonly branded as “heterodox sects”, have long been shrouded in misunderstanding with their positive and stabilizing social function largely overlooked by modern scholarship. This ethnographic study examines one such sectarian group, the Plum Flower (meihuaquan) boxers in Minghe village, Hebei, to show how the group’s engagement in martial arts and religious ritual is playing an important role in building networks of social trust and expanding the earth-bound public sphere. Meihuaquan adherents, describing their sect “The Way of the Poor”, believe that following sect teachings will accumulate spiritual merit and that cooperation among rural people will lead to a “harmonious society”. The sect is comprised of two parts, a Wǔchǎng Martial Field – the exciting activities of which attract and engage many followers and which serves as the public face of the sect – and a Wénchǎng Ritual Field that embodies many annual and life-stage rituals that serve to enhance adherent’s faith, and engage them in cooperative sociality.
The religious and martial arts activities and rituals are compelling to villagers and function to embed adherents in the horizontal social networks that they clearly realize are desperately needed after decades of government policy that made grassroots social organization illegal and denied people access to traditional institutions and the venues by which they could participate in public life and achieve a sense of belonging and dignity. The revival of meihuaquan martial arts, and related religious rituals promote cohesion within families, within villages and interconnect geographically- distant villages and meihuaquan communities. Sectarian organizations like meihuaquan gain new members because the sense of community significantly enriches the lives of members by proffering expanded opportunities for leisure and fun.
The internal cohesion and enlarged social networks engendered by martial arts and ritual activity enables meihuaquan believers and supporters, who comprise large segments of the village, to undertake, for the first time in decades, cooperative efforts in order to improve public life in the village. Such efforts included teaching martial arts for free, building a village library and not-for-profit school, snow and garbage removal, and paving roads. The group has begun take on a broader function as a nascent civil society that provides badly-needed grassroots social welfare functions in rural society.
Understanding the basic structure and function of such grassroots organizations in rural society may help these rural cultural institutions develop their capacity to undertake community-based, not-for-profit efforts that will lead to improvements in the social and cultural lives of rural people.
Buzna, Viktor – Defence and Security Studies
The Public Diplomacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) : Beyond The ImageName
National University of Public Services (Budapest, Hungary), Zrínyi Miklós National Defence University (Budapest,Hungary), University of Bedfordshire (UK)Field
Defence and Security Studies, Communication StudiesAcademic and Professional Background
Viktor Buzna worked as a journalist for Magyar Nemzet (a national daily newspaper in Hungary) for over two years, writing and editing an extensive series of articles. At the same time, Viktor Buzna has been actively involved in many research projects, collecting numerous publications in the most influential academic journals for media and defence study in Hungary. Since January 2013 he has been working as a research fellow at the University of Public Services in Hungary, Budapest. In addition, he is also the founder of the University of Public Services’ PhD Fellow Association and in the past he has also served as a member of the Supervisory Board of the Hungarian PhD Fellows Association.
Research areas: Public Diplomacy – China and the Media
- Hu Baijing, Public Diplomacy:”Situation, Connotation and Types”, Iternational Public Relations, 2009
- Ordeix-Rigo, Enric, Duarte, Joao, „From Public Diplomacy to Corporate Diplomacy: Increasing Corporation’s Legitimacy and Influance, American Behavioral Scientist 2009, Dec. Vol.53, pp.549-564
- Joseph Nye Jr., Soft Power and Hard Power, Beijing, Peking University Press, 2005
- Karl Gerth, As China Goes, so Goes the World – How Chinese Consumers are Transforming Everything, Hill and Wang Press, 2010
- Tom Doctoroff, Billions: Selling to the New Chinese Costumer
- Gervase Poulden, China exports its environmental problems consumer culture booms, The Ecologist, 2011:
- Caryn Voskuil, Grasshoppers and Ants: Consumerism in China and the West Laowaiblog, 2011:
- Nancy Gibbs, Your Life is Fully Mobile, The Times, 2012
Current Research Projects
The Public Diplomacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) : Beyond The Image
The Way: Causes men / To be of one mind / With their rulers / To live or die with them / And never to Waver. The thought belongs to Sun-Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist and war theorist. It is the first main principle, in his book, The Art of War. As it was written more than two thousand years ago, it tells us that the Chinese leadership is aware of the importance of public opinion a long time ago. The above thesis is now adopted by many different cultures and nations, and its’ present interpretation is especially interesting in case of the People’s Republic of China.
For the western individual, it is difficult to understand how a single-party state society becomes an integrated part of the global consumer culture. “China will not copy Western system in political reform” − said former CPC General Secretary, Hu Jintao on the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012. In accordance to this, few months ago the newspaper Time released an analysis, with a survey about the global habits of smartphone customers. The result shows, that 42% of the Chinese customers are willing to buy only the latest technology, when they decide to purchase a new phone.
The hypothesis of the research: Following the transformation of the value system represented by the Chinese society, the Communist Party of China builds traditional, Confucian values in its communication. With this effort, the negative effects of the western individualism on the society are being balanced.
The main objective of the project is to support Hungarian foreign policy planning with helpful and easily adoptable practices, in order to tighten the relations between the two countries. Also, as this field is not yet well explored, I feel confident to set up recommendations for the Chinese government for more successful communication.
The research would give a deep analysis of the currently dominating ideas within the Chinese society, which is essential information for a successful bilateral cooperation and intercultural communication.
The research is innovative, as it would analyze the communication of the CPC from a new approach: how successfully is it processed to the public and which are the main distinctions between the value systems of the two sides. The Value Based Communication (VBC) is an existing methodology in management studies, the research would follow this process.
The research would contain three main areas:
The proportions of the communist, Confucian and consumer culture’s values in the CPC’s communication. I would monitor the appearance of the main principles (values) of the three ideologies in the Chinese news. The first part of the analysis should give an overview on the structure of the ideology, followed by the CPC.
Simultaneously, the reactions from the public opinion would be also analyzed, mainly in the social media site, Weibo. In the last part of the research, the values, appears in the communication of the CPC and in the reactions of the public opinion would be matched. The result should show us, how the CPC values are accepted by the public and what kinds of conflicting points exist.
Beside the empirical analysis, the research would also provide a deeper insight into the main dominating ideas in China, communism and Confucianism. Also, the open sources of CPC communication strategy would be analyzed.
In the conclusion, I would be able to reply the following questions:
- How coherent are the two value systems, the one represented by the CPC and the one represented by the public opinion?
- How effective is the communication strategy of the CPC?
- Which connection points exist between the communication cultures by the West, especially Hungary and China?
 Sun-Tzu, The Art of War, p. 3-4. Translated by John Minford, 2002, Pinguin Books ISBN:0-670-03156-9
Dr. Pattberg, Thorsten – Comparative Philosophy and Philology
The East-West Dichotomy: The Conceptual Contrast between Eastern and Western Cultures
GermanyAffiliation:Peking University, Tokyo University, Harvard UniversityField:
Comparative Philosophy, PhilologyAcademic and Professional Background
Dr. Pattberg has written and published extensively about Global language, Competition for terminologies, and the End of translation. He is also active in promoting Confucianism, in particular Chinese terminologies, on a global scale. He has been a research fellow at Peking University, Tokyo University, and Harvard University, and studied under cultural masters Ji Xianlin and Tu Weiming. Dr. Pattberg has written four monographs ‘The East-West Dichotomy,’ ‘Shengren,’ ‘Holy Confucius,’ and ‘Inside Peking University,’ and contributed to Asia Times, China Daily, Global Times, Global Research, China Today, Shanghai Daily, German Times, Korea Herald, Taipei Times, South China Morning Post, Asia Pacific World, Straits Times, Southern Weekly, People’s Daily, Big Think, RT Russia, The Japan Times, and so on. He is currently a fellow at The Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies (IAHS) at Peking University (PKU), and member of several academic organizations, including the International Association for Comparative Mythology (IACM), the International Association for Comparative Study of China and the West (IACSCW), and the German East Asiatic Society (OAG).
Research areas: World History, Linguistics, Comparative Studies, Political Theory
Current Research Projects
The East-West Dichotomy: The Conceptual Contrast between Eastern and Western Cultures(10/2013)
The East-West Dichotomy (2013) discusses the philosophical concept that two diametrically opposed hemispheres exist – East and West. As the Peking University scholar demonstrates with numerous examples, their cultures and way of thinking differ radically; one could say they are 180 degrees apart. Pattberg’s underlying argument is that because of the dichotomy Westerners, who are mostly rugged individualists, are more analytic and deductive in their thinking, while Easterners, who are more focused on the collective, favor a more intuitive, inductive, “holistic” approach to life. Moreover, he explores the origin and the future of the dichotomy, and shows how it has shaped the West’s and the East’s different attitudes towards nature, philosophy (both epistemology and ethics), as well as gender and society. Pattberg also shows his willingness to take on any potential critic of his theory in his chapter “Problems with the Dichotomy.” This book is a valuable resource for those eager to gain a better understanding of the “Western” and “Eastern” psyches and of how they both harmonize and clash. –Foreign Language Press, Beijing
The difference between the East and the West has been a fascinating subject for comparative studies. In a thought-provoking and pioneering attempt, Mr. Pattberg illustrates a few highly significant philological and philosophical issues in the history of the two great cultural systems – when they harmonize and when the clash. This is a tour de force that should excite interest in a wide readership. – TU Weiming, Peking University
An intriguin and historically informed work on the origin, evolution, and justifiability of the dichotomy between East and West. – Daniel A. Bell, Tsinghua University
This book is an important contribution to the East/West debate, which is critical and urgent in the radical shifts under way. While the West has dominated the discourse on the history and philosophy of civilizations for the past few centuries, the earlier domination by Asia is in the process of returning on the world stage. Pattberg’s contribution deserves a seat at the table of this conversation. – Rajiv Malhotra, The Infinity Foundation
A truly ambitious monograph. – Roger T. Ames, University of Hawaii
I have read The East-West Dichotomy with amazement and an impulse to recommend it to everyone I meet. It is the most interesting and insightful exploration of the East-West cultural differences. The author indeed has done a magnificent and extremely important job in the field of comparative culture. – GU Zhengkun, Peking University
As global economic and political power shifts from the West to the East, it is so important for intellectuals everywhere to develop a profound appreciation of some of the underlying philosophical and cultural currents that may shape the emerging universal civilization. Thorsten Pattberg’s book offers extremely useful insights that are not readily available elsewhere. – Chandra Muzaffar, University of Science, Malaysia
A highly original and stimulating take on East-West cultural differences. Though impressionistic and controversial in its style, it is a lively and thought-provoking book, full of material that was new to me. In particular it will intrigue those who are interested in attentional and cognitive differences between Westerners and Far Eastern peoples. – Iain McGilchrist, London
The Rise of Chinese Terminologies in the 21st Century (6/2014)
Dr. Pattberg’s current research is centered on Cultures, Languages, and Empires. He led Peking University’s effort to establish the discipline of ‘Translation History’ at The Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, under Professor Tu Weiming, that would –it was hoped- eventually convince Chinese scholarship to promote original Chinese terminologies into World History (instead of falling back on European translations). In collaboration with academia and media in China and abroad, Dr. Pattberg composed a series of influential language articles with a combined circulation of over three million copies sold in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore. Repeated key phrases were Language Imperialism, Competition for Terminologies, End of Translation, Shengren, European Confucianism, Future of Global Language, Post-translational Society, etc. A compilation of these articles will be published in book form in summer 2014 with generous grants from Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters, supported by Peking University, The Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, and published by China’s Foreign Language Press under the preliminary title ‘The Rise of Chinese Terminologies in the 21st Century’:
“It is true that China has risen economically, politically, and military; yet, it is also true that China has left little impact on the world culturally. In fact, the Chinese tradition is being marginalized by Western cultural dominance, largely because most theories are owned by Western thinkers and overwhelmingly expressed in Western philosophical vocabularies, Judeo-Christian categories, or Greco-Roman taxonomies. By comparison, Chinese thinkers and their vocabularies, categories, and taxonomies play no greater part in the formation and continuity of world history. (This is about to change.) Even after the successful establishment of the ‘Confucius Institutes’ overseas, China had to realize that it cannot teach the Chinese language to the majority of foreigners, and that the Chinese language is far too complex and difficult to master part-time, letting alone without living in China. But what the ‘Confucius Institutes’ can do, and what is explicitly addressed in this book project, is the promotion of Chinese key terminologies into foreign languages.” –T. Pattberg (10/2013)
#20 – New Leaders, New Policy? 18th Congress and China-USA Relations
October, 30 2012
Prof. Dr. XIE Tao 谢韬
American Studies Center Beijing Foreign Studies University
#17 – Egyptian Islamists’ Foreign Policy towards China
May, 23 2012
Prof. Dr. WANG Suolao 王锁劳
Associate Professor, School of International Studies, Peking University
Associate Professor of Sociology, Peking University, Center for the Study of Chinese Religion and Society