A GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO A SERIES OF SOURCEBOOKS ONTHE PRIMITIVERELIGIONS OF CHINA
Lü Da ji
The religious beliefs of primitive peoples were not only the beginning of religion of all the people,but also,in some sense.the origin of all forms of culture of human society.The various religions in the epoch of civilization,no matter how great their deities,how mystic their creeds and how holy their ritual institutions,in fact,came from the vulgar worship of the barbarians of primitive society instead of through divine revelation.The same is true of the various forms of the refined,elaborated cultures:norms of lofty morality.solemn institutions of politics,literature and arts pleasant to both the mind and eyes.philosophical thoughts wise and deep,etc.,which,for all they took their roots in societies,grew and developed in primitive religions.The genesis and evolutionary development of religion and other forms of culture show that the study of primitive religion is of great significance.In order to have a good understanding of the nature and mystery of religion and other forms of culture,we should research their roots and the reasons for their genesis and development.For this reason,many scholars of religion,philosophy,ethics,literature,arts,anthropology,ethnology,sociology,history,etc.,like those who rush to a newly-discovered gold-field,cannot help going into the research field of primitive religion,which always makes one both puzzled and excited.
How religion came into being is an issue of great importance in the study of religion.According to traditional belief a holy religion must have its holy origin.Theologists believe that their religion came from divine revelations.But the scientific study of religion broke away from the mythical interpretation.The thinkers emerging during the Enlightenment eradicated the dictatorial decision of fideism with judgments made through rational criticism.They confirmed that religion,like other things in the world,has its process of formation and development.They tried to find out the nature of religion and the basis of its origin among human beings instead of deities.Owing to the rational research into religion,the study of religion shook off the yoke of theology and developed into an independent branch of the humanities—the science of religion—in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The research into the origin and evolutionary development of religion not only helped the modern science of religion to take shape but has also been a field of great interest to scholars of religion who pursue the subject avidly.Darwinism has played a great role in the development of the modern science of religion.Since man evolved from the anthropoid ape,everything in the human world naturally has its process of development,which is basically the evolutionary development of more complicated forms of life from earlier and simpler forms.Religion is no exception.Therefore,it wasnot the sacred gods and deities but the barbarians in primitive society who founded religion,and thus they become the target of the research into the origin of religion.As a result,it became a fashion to do field work and investigation on the subject of primitive societies,primitive cultures and primitive religions of various ethnic groups in the world.
From the late nineteenth century,when the science of religion had just been founded,to the early twentieth century,the modern science of religion achieved a vigorous development that produced a host of prominent scholars and academic schools in relation to religion.The diversity of their points of view on religion focused on its origin and development.Let us review some of the different conclusions on the problem of the origin of religion.Some German scholars held that the“gods”in religion and myths originated in the natural forces（especially the sun,the moon and the stars）,which were personified by the ancient people.According to Edward Burnett Tylor,religion arose from the ancient people's animistic ideas that developed through the process of a faulty logic drawn from physiological and psychological phenomena such as dreams,visions and trances.Herbert Spencer held that religion originated from the ancient people's worship of ancestors.Robertson Smith,Emile Durkheim and Sigmund Freud regarded the worship of the totem as the beginning of religion.R.R.Marett of Britain believed that the ancient people had held some more primitive forms of religious belief,such as “Manataboo”among the Melanesians,before they believed in animism.The German Roman Catholic priest and ethnologist Wilhelm Schmidt maintained that all the primitive people believed in a supreme God,that the idea of one God emerged in ancient times from the God's revelationto the human beings and that polytheism was the degeneration of the primitive monotheism.Other conclusions on the origin of religion owe it to the primitive people's faulty concepts and faulty association of ideas and attribute gods（objoets ofceligious belief）to people's fantasy and the nature of god to the human nature.As a result of the extensive debate in relation to religion,the modern science of religion swept ahead magnificently ever since it came into being.
The study of the origin of religion did not begin in the nineteenth century.As early as the Greco-Roman period,philosophers already raised various theories.Xenophanes defined deities as man's fantasy,the result of personification.According to Democritus（460?-362 B.C.）,Epicurus（342?－270 B.C.）,and Lucretius（997-755 B.C.）,men's ideas of deities originated from their fear of the forces of nature.Pradikos,a Greek philosopher of the fifth century B.C.,,attributed religion and the concepts of deities and spirits to the activities by which men showed gratitude to the forces of nature that were critical to the existence of human beings.Critias,another Greek philosopher of the fifth century B.C.,believed that deities were fabricated by ancient legislators as supervisors and judges of morals so as to control the people.Aristotle maintained that religion,like philosophy,originated in man's awe and confusion about the creation of all things in nature and the movements of celestial objects.According to him,in order to explain the unknown,people produced religious myths,and in order to free the people from the stupidity of myths,philosophy came into being.Euhemerus,a Greek of the fourth-third centuries B.C.,attributed gods to the deification of the deceased eminent emperors and heroes.All these conclusions on the origin of religion ascribe the starting point of religion and gods to man's faulty ideas and therefore are a rational study based on antifideism.
Nevertheless,the approach to the study of the genesis of religion is quite different in the modern science of religion.In ancient society the study of the origin of religion was chiefly a philosophical inference,which had neither the concept of “primitive people”in relation to evolutionism nor positive evidence of “primitive religion”;while the modern science of religion put stress on field-work investigation and the collection of evidence in relation to the religion and culture of primitive society.
Max Muller,the founder of the modern science of religion,devoted great enthusiasm to the edition and translation of Oriental religious classic books（particularly the Veda of ancient India）and published Sacred Books of the East,which created a great sensation in academic circles.Edward Tylor,the founder of religious anthropology,wrote a well-known book,Primitive Culture,based on the field-work of primitive religion and culture he had made in Mexico when he was young.On the basis of his Questions on the Manners.Customs,Religions,Superstitions,etc.of Uncivilized or Semicivilized Peoples and through the investigation of.religious beliefs and customs of primitive people,James G.Frazer wrote and published GoldenBough,a masterpiece of primitive religion.Malinowski and many other fruitful scholars of religion all made long-term investigations into the religious belief of primitive peoples and worked among tribesmen before they wrote books with the materials collected from their field-work.So it can be held that without the investigation of the religious beliefs of the primitive and ancient peoples and the accumulation of materials,there could not have been the modern science of religion.
At the same time we have to notice that in the.early period of the modern science of religion various theoretical conclusions on the origin of religion were expounded,but many of them were in conflict with each other in theory and facts.This situation thus made many scholars of religion cast doubts on the value of the study of primitive religion.Since the primitive age had become a remote past,as they thought,and the religious belief of the existing primitive tribes was too complex for anyone to have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of it,the scholars of religion in developing the theories of the origin and evolution of religion had to take a part as a whole and make use of pseudo-philosophical deductions to substitute the missing links of historical facts.In view of this,some scholars maintained it was impossible for the study of the origin and growth of religion to become a true science because it could not be proved by experimental evidence.So they gradually gave up the study and turned to the contemporary comparative study of various religious beliefs and religious phenomena,giving psychological,sociological and phenomenological interpretations to them.Thus,in the modern science of religion,in addition to anthropological and historical studies of religion,there emerged new theories and new methods-psychological,sociological,and phenomenological studies of religion.
Nevertheless,the growth of new disciplines in the science of religion certainly did not mean that the academic importance of the study of primitive religion was reduced or negated.It is only a century since the science of religion was established and developed as an independent branch of humane studies.It is only natural that in its early period there were different points of view in relation to the study of religion.This was a result of in depth study and a subsequent understanding of the origin and growth of religion from different stands because the different theories on the subject are all based on certain facts.Instead of going away from it,scholars have come nearer to the truth.The diversity of academic discussions only shows that we should put more stress on he investigation of the peoples of the world on a wider scale and collect more comprehensive data that contain more facts,so as to lay down a more solid base for the newly-established comprehensive study of religion.
The contemporary comparative study of religion made by religious psychologists,religious sociologists,religious phenomenologists and others was doubtless important.In fact,they benefited considerably from the study of primitive religions made by the early scholars,who had made analyses of the starting point of the primitive people's religious concept of gods and their various activities of worship.By absorbing nutrition from the early analyses,the contemporary comparative study of religion gives psychological and sociological analysis and phenomenological interpretation of primitive religious belief.As to the psychology of religious activities,the primitive people's religious psychology was the simplest;as to the social functions of religion,the social functions of primitive religions were given the fullest expression in the primitive society;as to the human nature reflected in various religious phenomena,it was most directly reflected in the phenomenal forms of religious life in the primitive society.Thus it can be seen that without the study of primitive religions,these new approaches to the study of religion could not have attained its fullest development.
The significance of the study of primitive religion is not limited within the science of religion.Throughout history religion has been high on the top of the superstructure of society,controlling the spiritual world of the masses of people.Just as gods are considered as the rulers of the world,religion is taken as the sacred origin of all forms of culture in the human society.To the ancient Chinese,all things in the world were decided by the Mandate of Heaven,as it is said in Shang Shu（Book of History）,a Chinese classic.It is all the more for the westerners,who maintain that God created the world and Heaven decides al1.
In modern times this traditional concept was criticized in all the disciplines of the humanities,and the study of primitive religion gave it a crushing blow.Since the earliest gods were but a creation by the savages in the primitive era,the real creator of all forms of culture must have been man instead of god;the earliest creator of culture must have been the primitive people who created god.Almost all the young shoots of culture began in the religious concepts and activities of the primitive people.No matter whether Tylor's“animism”bas enjoyed the support of many scholars,the fact is that most of the primitive peoples of the world believed in animism.The belief that all objects are controlled by deities and spirits is a religious fantasy,but it is a doubtless fact that the primitive people had the fantasy.It was just such a universal belief that provided the primitive people with the“glasses of animism”,through which everything in their eyes were covered by clouds of religious mysticism.The religion in the primitive era became an all-embracing guiding principle of their life,a basis of their thoughts,a principle of their behavior,an origin of their passion,a standard of their morals,the ties of their social and personal relations,and a guarantee of their social order.The social life and all forms of culture of the primitive people were stamped with the brand of religion.They absorbed nutrition necessary for their growth from religious concepts,showed their existence through religious activities and thus developed their different forms of representation.The connection of culture with religion in the primitive era was not an obstruction but a promotion to the growth of culture.The fundamental elements necessary to the formation of religious system,such as religious concepts,religious feelings,religious actions and religious institutions-all played a role similar to“hormones”in the growth of the primitive culture.
It should be taken as a qualitative change in the evolutionary development of the thoughts of human beings that the primitive people conceived of the ideas of souls and gods.Though they are vulgar and ill in taste in the light of the profound theories of theology and in the eyes of modern men.souls and gods in the primitive era were the greatest and loftiest existence the primitive men had ever imagined,on which they concentrated their highest wisdom and placed their hope for a happy life and the concern about their fate.It is not known how primitive people,who spent all the day seeking food to support their life by means of their natural capacities,could have conceived of the idea that a soul was able to leave the human body.Moreover,they imagined that“spirits”were floating and“gods”could create the miracles men could not make....The imagination,like the light of early dawn that broke the dark world of the primitive era,was not in the least inferior to the design of the first spaceship made by modern scientists.The concepts of gods and spirits of primitive religion put a pair of supernatural wings on the imagination of primitive people.Thanks to the wings,they shook off the natural yoke of men's physiological instincts and thus made men fly freely in the limitless supernatural space.Therefore,the primitive peoplewent beyond the world directly perceived through senses into the sphere of abstract thinking that can be achieved only by human beings.
It was the supernatural religious ideas and the coucept of gods that made men ponder over men and supermen,nature and supernature,and that thus became the starting point of all philosophical thoughts and scientific research in the epoch of civilization.We cannot,of course,call the primitive people who had the conception of animism“primitive philosophers”as Tylor did,because what they formed in their minds was but a dim belief instead of a clear inference.On the other hand,if the primitive people did not have a certain belief in“supernatural power”,there would not have been either religious concepts of gods,or the philosophy and theology that expounded and proved it later in a certain period of civilization; nor would there have been the natural science and the Enlightenment philosophy that have subsequently returned the“supernatural forces”to the original forces of nature.
Once the imagination about the supernatural and above-the-world gods and spirits emerged in their unrealistic fancies,the primitive people were certainly in awe of and dependent on them.With the development of the imagination,the higher the divinity was,the stronger the divine power became,and the deeper the feelings of awe and dependence were.
Feelings had to be expressed outwardly through speech and physical actions.Since gods were but an existence in men's fancies,nobody could have physical contacts with them.Therefore,all the speech and physical actions that represented divinities had to be personified and symbolized.All symbolized representations,whether they are the symbolization of the purely illusory gods through objects and idols,or the representation of the nature and form of gods through speech by analogy,or the imitation of the imagined actions of gods through ment's physical acts,were the creation of human nature and became visualized arts afterwards.As a result,the symbo1s of speech developed into the literature and arts（poems,myths and so on）that express men's praise of and gratitudes to the meritorious contributions of gods; symbolized imitation through physical actions developed into dances,and the creation of idols of gods developed into plastic arts such as sculpture and painting.
The artistic activities and creation of the primitive people doubtlessly came first of all from their social practices,and on the other hand it was also a doubtless fact that the primitive arts in the primitive society could not exist and develop without the stimulus of religious conception and the nutrition of religious worship.The studies of cultural anthropology show that the early arts of all peoples without exception were tinged with religion and dependent on their religious life.
The primitive people's dependency on gods and spirits was expressed as the worship of gods（praying and offering sacrifices）,their feelings of respect and awe of gods were expressed in the restriction of their own acts（taboos and the like）.Owing to the belief of animism,the daily activities of the primitive people almost became a religious life full of sacrifices and taboos.Primitive society was of the clan system based on blood ties.In the society the members of a clan all believed in their common gods and thus engaged in common religious activities.This resulted in the gradual formation of the institutionalized religious rituals,which all clan members should observe and therefore brought them into a universal pattern of behavior and a unitary religious institution.The rituals enjoyed superpersonal authority and imposed many restrictions on the behavior and action of every member of the clan.The clan society gave religious taboos and rituals sacred authority,which forced the primitive people to gradually intensify the observation of social norms and the control of personal behavior.The sacred taboos and norms became the“highest orders”the primitive people had to obey in their daily life.Under the“orders”their animal instincts were restrained and they learnt to control themselves.With time passing by,the sacred taboos and the norms of behavior evolved into the customs and habits of the clan,the outward compulsion into inner voice urging one to behave in a certain way,and the “necessity”in one's behavior into the “obligation”required by one's conscience.All this caused the strengthening of behavior norms and consciousness of moral principles.
According to Frazer,in the early societies,the taboo institution,related to the concept of sacred,played an important role in stabilizing social order,guarding private property from robbery and encroachment,establishing the sacred nature of marriage,and safeguarding and respecting a person's life.There is truth in the argument.In primitive society,without ritual institutions and taboo regulations,which were related to religious worship,and the terrifying holy sanctions that would follow,the primitive people's moral principles and“laws”would have been difficult to set up,let alone the development of civilization and social progress.
Religious institutions and social institutions.formed a harmonious whole in the primitive epoch.The clan system became religious.and the institution of religious worship became a social institution of clan society.The totem worship stipulated exogamy,by which marriage was prohibited within a totemic clan.Ancestor worship stipulated funeral institutions.Beliefs in relation to productive activities evolved into various sacrificial rites,etc.All this shows that the primitive religion penetrated into all the aspects of the clan's social life and fixed and even formed all of its social institutions.It was an all－embracing superstructure of primitive society.All superstructures（including religion）originated,of course.from the economic base of the society,but in primitive society they expressed themselves as a part of primitive religion.With the evolution of societies.many superstructures and social institutions have taken off the overcoat of religion,but.if we trace back to their origin,we can almost always find their earliest forms in primitive religion.
Research into the roots of things reflects the nature of human intellect.What distinguishes human intellect from animal perception lies in the fact that the power of the human mind to reason is not satisfied with the information gained just through the senses and thus continuously attempts to trace back to the roots,even the roots of roots,behind the direct perception.The research by way of tracing back to roots arouses the enthusiasm in thinking and intensifies understanding.The scientists of geography who traced the origin.of the Yangtse River and the Yellow River did not aim to make them run backward,but to scientifically reveal the formation of the two rivers and foresee their future changes in order to control and make use of them.Similarly,the search for the origin of all forms of culture in primitive religion does not aim to make civilization go back to barbarism and degenerate the elegance and high value of the culture,but to find the seeds of all forms of culture in the human nature of the primitive people,revealing the true traces of the evolution of culture.
The period of primitive society covered a very long time in history.The primitive religion that covered a long time and great space is in fact the origin of later knowledge,inexhaustible and essential for the science of religion and other disciplines of the humanities.But,if we are to study the religion of primitive society,it is necessary to collect all the relevant materials available.Without materials,there certainly will not be scientific study.
The first-hand materials about the early religions could only be the remains and cultural relics of primitive man.The concept of religion cannot be perceived,but,as it began to grow in the mind of primitive man,it would be sooner or later expressed through speech and action as the activities of religious worship.The activities themselves might have passed away,but the result they left behind might have been materialized and stay in the world（such as the funeral objects of Upper Cave Man,the ancient tombs of the Neolithic Age,the temples and sacrificial objects and other cultural relics of the Hong－shan Culture）.Therefore,anthropologists and archaeologists can make a comparative study of the primitive relics and then deduce a conclusion about the primitive man's religious.concepts and worship activities.The religious relics in the archaeological findings themselves can not show how primitive man had carried out their religious worship.We can only make an explanation of it on the basis of a comparative study of the religious beliefs of the modern primitive ethnic groups which are analogous to those of the ancient people.With the great Geographical Discoveries the peoples in the world began to know each other's social life,customs and habits.There are still a number of peoples who live in primitive societies,about which ethnological information can provide our studies with a direct basis and a referral system.
China is one of the cradles of human beings.The ancestors of all the peoples in China had their own primitive religious beliefs.Most of the ethnic groups have entered into the epoch of civilization,but a few of them still remained in primitive society as late as the 1950s.They could be taken as the“living fossils”of primitive religion and culture.Even the Chinese people,who created one of the oldest civilizations in the world,cannot get away from the prints their ancestors have left in the traditional religion.In their historical documents there are a lot of records of primitive religious life.As to the relics of primitive religion in archaeological findings,they have a wide spread in China,inside and outside of the Great Wall and to the north and south of the great rivers.All these findings provide our study of the primitive societies,religions and cultures of the various ethnic groups in China with rich information in anthropology,archaeology,history and ethnology.If we hope to trace the origin of Chinese culture and religion,we must pay a great deal of attention to the primitive religions of China's various nationalities.In view of the importance of the scientific study of primitive religions,on the conference held in Fuzhou in 1983 for making the program of philosophical and social sciences in the period of the Sixth Five-Year Plan of China（1981-1985）I proposed that we should list the study of Chinese primitive religions and the collection of information concerned as a part of the national program of scientific studies.The proposal was highly valued by the academic circles.The conference for making the program of philosophical and social sciences in the Seventh Five-Year Plan（1986-1990）held in Beijing in 1986 listed the project I had proposed as one of the important items of the program and entrusted the work to me.Many scholars of religion and ethnology warmly supported the project,hoping to take part in the work.In a short time dozens of experts and professors that had made remarkable achievements in their studies took part in one of the most comprehensive studies of primitive religions,that has been carried out involving broad multi—sided cooperation.
The most pressing task at the moment is that we must make an indepth investigation of wide scope and get overall systematic firsthand data and have them published so as to provide the scholars of religion and other disciplines of the humanities studies with the most authoritative information.For this purpose we decide that A Series of Sourcebooks on the Primitive Religions of Chinashould be edited and published after collecting and sorting out,systematically,the archaeological findings,historical literatures and the field investigation data on the nation's primitive religions.The collection will gather as much data as possible about the primitive religions of various ethnic groups of China up to the present day.The sources consist of（1）field—work reports.（2）archaeological findings,（3）historical records,and（4）valuable data in academic works,It will be a comprehensive expression of all the data concerned.
On the other hand,we should notice that,though the primitive religions of China are rich in color,our academic circles have not made sufficient investigations of them.In the 1950s and 1960s,to meet the needs of social reforms,the Chinese government sent a large number of personnel（of whom many were et hnologists）to carry out a large—scale investigation of the society and history of all minority nationalities in China.From the investigation a lot of data about the traditional culture and folk activities of minority groups was gathered.the data was of course very valuable,But,for some historic reasons,the investigation laid particular stress on socio—economic formation and class formation.As to the investigation of traditional religions,it stopped after only scratching the surface.There were only fragmentary records of superficial knowledge of the religions,and few touched the inside of them.Today,as we make up for the missed investigation of religions,we will certainly meet with many difficulties that cannot be overcome objectively.However,the investigation does not allow us to put it aside any longer.The forty years since the founding of the People's Republic of China have witnessed a historical period in which China has experienced great changes and the cultural interchange between nationalities has sped up.With social reforms,the existing primitive societies and the remains of primitive religions are dying away quickly.This situation heightened our responsibility to fulfill the task.To investigate and study primitive traditional religions of all the peoples in China and to sort out the data is an academic project to record the primitive culture.We must pay much attention to it and carry it out as soon as possible.To do the work at the moment is already rather late.If we delay it again and again,when the last traces of primitive religions are washed away in the torrents of time,it will be too 1ate to repent.That is why all the scholars who take part in the project are eager to undertake this important historical responsibility.For all the shortage of financial support and hands,we began to collect and sort out written records and to carry out field-work in the areas of national minorities in China.Some of our group members are of old age and in bad health,but they selflessly threw themselves into the work,traveling across mountains and rivers in remote and undeveloped places.When you read the series,you will know in what difficult situations they have made the contributions and thus will have a sympathetic understanding of the shortage of data caused by objective conditions.
The nature of A Series of Sourcebooks 0n the Primitive Religions of Chinahas decided that the sources involved should be only the data of the primitive religions.But,since most Chinese nationalities have passed over the primitive period and entered class society,and the eletnents of their primitive religions have fallen into or mixed with later developed religions,the collecting and sorting out of the data must be in accordance with the intension and extension of “primitive religion”.After several discussions we reached a better understanding of the term.The“primitive”here,we think,is a historical category,referring to the religious form that emerged in primitive society as the origin of all religious.Though they grew with the development of primitive society,primitive religions did not disappear when the primitive society evolved into class society.Many of their elements and forms through transformation were deposited in the religions of later generations.The religions of class society are not“primitive”in its true sense,but they have kept many elements of the“primitive religions”.If we use scientific methods to analyze them,it will not be difficult to tear off the elements added by class society and discover the original characteristics of the primitive religions.
If we want to clarify the distinctions between the two scientifically.we should have a scientific understanding of the characteristics of primitive religions,which,we think,lie in the following two as pects:
First,the primitive religion was a comprehensive expression of the superstructure and social consciousness of the primitive society of the clan system.Its social nature was mainly embodied in the consolidation of the clan system and the safeguarding of the tradition of clan society.The fundamental elements of primitive religion such as religious concepts,objects of worship,acts of worship,rites of worship,religious institutions-all reflected,both in content and form,the nature of human relationship and the needs of the clan system in primitive times,and mixed with the social structure of the clam system to form a harmonious whole as the norms which put the thinking and behavior of all the members of the clan under contro1.The primitive religion was also a“clan religion,”which all members of a clan believed in and which was not colored by class consciousness.
Second,the religious concepts of the primitive people were the fantastic reflection in their minds of the alien powers that decided their daily life.From the earliest times,human beings had to rely on nature to maintain their existence.At that time,in order to get what they needed for their daily life,they had to carry out productive activities in groups based on blood ties.Thus,their life was under the control of natural forces and restricted by social relations.The two alien powers were imagined by them as sacred and mysterious objects,which were mainly expressed as ancestor worship and nature worship.Ancestors and nature were the main concepts and objects of worship of the clan religion in primitive society,from which other objects of worship developed.
Totem worship was a religious expression,by which natural objects were considered as clan ancestors and clan symbols when the primitive people could not clearly distinguish men from nature in their minds.The totem worship,ancestor worship,nature worship and other religious expressions in a class society are in nature the“deposited elements”derived from primitive religion.We may infer to some extent some other phenomena of primitive religion from them,provided we tear off their class color.
It is generally according to this theoretical principle that the field-work investigation for A Series of Sourcebooks on the Primitive Religions of Chinawas made,and the sources were collected,sorted out and edited.
China is one of the pioneer civilized ancient countries.The majority of ethnic groups in China have long passed over the primitive period of social development,and cultural and religious interchange has been frequent among them.Except in a few ethnic groups,the forms of“primitive religion”in its strict sense have long become things of the past.If we do not use the scientific method to pick up the original characteristics by wayof taking off the“added elements”as mentioned above,the primitive religious elements will be buried at the bottom of history forever.
It is just like digging gold.In the natural world.pure gold is very rare.Gold,as a rule,is always found in the ore consisting of many other metallic elements,or in sand.Gold can be purified and refined by sieving and other methods.Of course,we should like to have our gold panned as pure as possible.But in reality the work is always restricted by objective conditions.The same holds good of our work.The primitive religious consciousness and their co-existing practices have always been combined by history into some new religious understandings.To restore them to their original state requires theoretical analysis.If we did so,what we offer to our readers would not be the sources but some theoretical abstracts.Nevertheless,A Series of Sourcebooks onthe Poimitive Religions of China sometimes have to provide our readers with some“co-existing objects”of these co-existing practices and not just the primitive religions in their original form.To those who are interested in the study of Chinese primitive religions and their history,the “co-existing practices”will perhaps give them a better understanding of the traces of primitive religions and the relations between the primitive religions and other religions.Instead of reducing the academic value of the sources,we think,this will enlighten the scholars.
China is a multi-national country.The primitive religions of the minority nationalities have common elements,while each has its characteristic features.To keep the national characteristics,we shall publish the Series with a nationality as one unit.But for the convenience of printing,some nationalities who have many similarities in beliefs or who inhabit the same area are put into one volume.So,besides the volumes about the nationalities,there is a volume on archaeology and a volume on ancient documents in the Series.The editing and publishing of the Series with so many volumes is an important and difficult academic project.Thanks to the hard work and sincere cooperation of our colleagues,things have gone smoothly and the project will be accomplished on schedule.Now we are offering the first fruits to the readers.In the coming years we shall complete the writing of other volumes.At this moment when we are over joyed at our harvest,we would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the China Social Sciences Publishing House.Without their foresight and sagacity in opening up new academic frontiers and their great support,the publishing of the Series would have been impossible at the present time when the publishing business is at a low ebb.
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