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Making Saints in Modern China$
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David Ownby, Vincent Goossaert, and Ji Zhe

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190494568

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190494568.001.0001

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Yiguandao’s Patriarch Zhang Tianran

Yiguandao’s Patriarch Zhang Tianran

Hagiography, Deification, and Production of Charisma in a Modern Religious Organization*

6 (p.209) Yiguandao’s Patriarch Zhang Tianran
Making Saints in Modern China

Sébastien Billioud

Oxford University Press

This chapter chronicles the life of Zhang Tianran, the Republican-period leader of China’s most successful redemptive society, Yiguandao (the Unity Way). In the 1930s and 1940s, Zhang presided over the astonishing expansion of Yiguandao’s fortunes, which began as a small, local group in Shandong and spread throughout the country before and after the Sino-Japanese War. Yiguandao’s success led to a massive campaign of suppression launched by the Communist regime in the early 1950s, one result of which was to thoroughly politicize Zhang’s biography, which is hopelessly divided between hagiography and demonization. Much of Billioud’s research draws on his fieldwork with contemporary Yiguandao groups in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and France, and explores the ways in which the group has harnessed Zhang’s charisma so as to maintain the group’s vitality.

Keywords:   Zhang Tianran, Yiguandao, Charisma, Fieldwork, Redemptive Society

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