Chinese Family at Prayer

Chinese Family at Prayer480
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6 Essays

  1. Monique Centrone | Sociologist, Stony Brook University says:

    What is striking about this picture is the way it brings the public and performative nature of prayer, a religious ritual, to the fore. Prayer, a ritual we tend to think of as so very private and internal, is revealed for its formalism and community-oriented nature. Further, it is interesting that this photo contains a subject in military uniform, which heightens the formalism. At the same time, the sweetness of the child in the center lightens and balances the darkness of the adults’ garb. Additionally, the focus of the child, along with her light clothing, is easily seen as a purity and innocence of purpose, perhaps in contrast to that of the adults, whose collective attention is scattered and more vague, rendering them less than perfect in the spiritual endeavor.

  2. Guo Liang | Philosopher, Deputy Director, Center for Social Development, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says:

    China does not have real religion, according to the Western standard. People could go to a Taoist temple to “worship” soon after they worshiped in a Buddhist temple. What they pray for are not spiritual but practical things, such as giving birth to a boy instead of a girl, or to have good business. Standing at the center of the Temple of Heaven, where the emperors used to pray for good harvests, the five adults and the little girl are tourists. They are not serious, they are not displaying religiosity, they just wish to take photos.

  3. Donna Gaines | Sociologist, says:

    The power of the state to regulate all aspects of human life – even contact with the Divine. Women pray, and a small child participates, for now. Corralled onto a small space, flanked by a soldier and a father or brother, are they protected or quarantined by patriarchal state power? Are they dissidents or a family of prayerful tourists?

  4. Yingfeng Wu | New York Academy of Medicine says:

    The photo captures social change in a very important aspect – the beliefs of Chinese after economic reforms. Following the Marxist tradition, the Communists in China are generally atheists and consider religion as spiritual opium. During the extremist era of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), all religions were banned, and praying was declared as superstition and thus was banned as well. Since the 1980s, however, some people, especially women and/or the younger generation, have started to be interested in religious beliefs again. Praying in temples, which are also usually tourist places, has become a fashionable way of expressing good wishes. However, it is still not acceptable for many people, especially for the Communist cadres and military service personnel, because they are the backbone of the Communist regime. The photo clearly shows the different attitudes of members of the same family towards praying. The older man appears to be a Communist Party or government cadre, and the younger man is in the military. While their other family members are sincerely praying, they find it difficult to do so.

  5. Guo Liang | Philosopher, Deputy Director, Center for Social Development, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences says:

    Only when Westerners stay in China can they understand why China has to conduct the “one family one child policy.” There are too many people in China! Yet simply imagining the structure of one child as the focus of two parents and four grandparents suggests that there must be something wrong. Nevertheless, these “little emperors” are enjoying their happy lives right now, no matter what the future will be.

  6. Suzanne Salzinger | Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York StatePsychiatric Institute and Columbia University says:

    Rachel’s photos reflect her receptivity to such a broad variety of experience, that they immediately raise questions about how to describe the relation of people, so apparently different to one another, to other species, and to the environment in this era of rapidly increasing communication and consequent globalization. Very importantly, many of the photos also portray these relationships layered in time.

    Can the social sciences offer any unified or comprehensive theory of life adaptation that can help people live peacefully and productively in a world of such pronounced differences and inequities of wealth and condition?

    These are the challenges that these photos raise for the social sciences. We need social science to help us understand the universals and the social and cultural resources that people can bring to the task of bridging these differences. In my own work in child development, one of the most heuristic frameworks for guiding the investigation of such questions as children’s adaptation under stressful life conditions has been ecological theory which focuses attention on the increasingly comprehensive layers of social and environmental context in which each individual is embedded.

    Within this framework, scientists can organize and conceptualize the study of the transactions that take place longitudinally between the individual and the contextual layers that change the characteristics of both the individual and the contexts within which they function.