HomeThe Way In



...hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth has no roads to begin with, but when many people pass one way, a road is made

Lu Xun, My Old Home


In contemporary China , road construction is a top priority for state economic planners as part of the effort to build "material civilization" ( wuzhi wenming ). But roads also invoke the discourse of "spiritual civilization" ( jingshen wenming ) in that roads can transport the "peasant" out of his backward conservatism by integrating him with a progressive global economy. The civilizing mission of road construction creates an emerging border-physical and conceptual-between the new cosmopolitan China and its backward hinterland. The self-evident notion that roads are beneficial and "civilizing" also imbues Western representations:

The toll collector is asleep in his booth on the border of rural Zhongxian County , 180 km and several decades of development away from the industrial city of Chongqing . At the toot of a horn, he puts out his hand to collect the four renminbi (50[cents]) the county charges motorists to share a narrow, potholed strip of pavement--more akin to an obstacle course than a toll road--with the ducks, water buffalo and yoke-bearing peasants who really rule the local roads. This day the ragtag traffic wends its way to the town of Shuanggui, where a morning market blocks the only through street, and locals go about buying and selling poultry and hot Sichuan peppers without so much as a nod to the snarl of vehicles. After all, the market has been a major destination on this road for centuries, and speed of passage has never been a priority. Until now. With the recent opening, not far away, of a key leg of the high-speed expressway that will eventually link the Tibetan capital of Lhasa with the port of Shanghai , Zhongxian's parody of a toll road has suddenly become a conduit to the real thing: a $150 billion, 30,000-km national highway network. Drivers who can afford the $5 toll to enter the four-lane expressway near Shuanggui get their money's worth, making the trip to Chongqing in three hours, instead of the usual eight. As roadbuilders tunnel their way east through the high mountains, the words of ancient poet Li Bai--that "getting out of Sichuan is more difficult than getting into heaven"--are finally obsolete ( Time International , August 21, 2000).

The progressive speed (and big money) of the modern expressway set against the stagnation of the recalcitrant yoke-bearing peasant, stuck in his sleepy, timeless potholed past is a stock set, with familiar characters. The misquotation of Li Bai-trying to get out of Sichuan instead of into it-is forgivable, given the flood of rural migrants currently fleeing the Sichuanese countryside, but no less telling of underlying value assumptions. If, as the article quotes an American businessman in Sichuan , "[T]he road is a metaphor for the tensions between the traditional rural way of life and the agents of change" then we should unpack the metaphor from the positions of global capitalism and the nation-state as agents of change, and from the yoke-bearer's place.

The fundamental assumption underlying the account cited above is the self-evident good of development. But as recent scholarship has shown, the discourse of development is in many ways the rephrasing of teleological and hegemonic discourses of Civilization, progress, and modernity. Emerging at the end of the Second World War as a discursive strategy of postcolonialism, the unquestionable goal of development constitutes a "regime of representation" generating dyadic identities of self and other, core and periphery, developed and undeveloped (Escobar 1995, 10). The discourse of development positions the nation-state in a temporal and spatial hierarchy where the marginalized Third World replicates a past growth-stage of the developed world; thus the rural road in the article is placed "several decades of development away from the industrial city" and on the wrong side of the rural/urban "border." Growth of the underdeveloped nation-state mimics the developed West, so Zhongxian's road is a "parody" of "the real thing." Modern reality is the modern expressway as "conduit" to global capitalism in the age of flexible accumulation, and key "link" (in a chain binding Lhasa to Shanghai) in the territorial legibility of the nation-state (Scott, 1998).

"Growth" suggests that development of the nation-state follows an inescapable genetic pattern of human development; nation-states are collective individuals growing from infant to maturity (Gupta 1998, 41). As development discourse fixes the destination of nation-state subjects, it also constructs its obstacles in underdeveloped peasant bodies misshapen by lack and excess (see also the articles by Sara Friedman and Kwong-ok Kim in this issue) blocking the inevitable path of growth. The Zhongxian road is an "obstacle course" by virtue of the disorderly and excessive presence of yoke-bearing peasants (suggestively paired with ducks and water buffalo) who lack awareness (the peasants are heedless to the "snarl of traffic"; the toll collector is "asleep"). The problem with such developmental civilizing discourses is that they are reductive and exploitative; their poverty lies in their inability to engage, let alone respect local communities. Rural communities are dismissed as obsolete, when the real issue is power.

Not all talk of development is so reductionist, of course. Responding to champions of the yoke-bearer, who brought to light his agency in "resistance" and found value in the "indigenous knowledge" that he bore, theorists discovered alternative modernities of "sustainable," "local" and "indigenous" development. The problem, as Akhil Gupta (1998, 18, 172-9) points out, is that the enterprise of empowering the "local"-still implicitly Oriented-can lead to a nostalgic essentialization of indigenous knowledge itself. Gupta's exploration of the "postcolonial condition" in rural India shows how the undeveloped and backward identity of the nation-state generated by developmental discourse becomes part of the self-knowledge of individuals, resulting in a "messy" cognitive landscape of "hybridity." This hybrid cognitive landscape mixes oppositions without necessarily dissolving its sources; what emerges has not been purged of inconsistency. The question facing the outside observer, then, is "How does one conceptualize impure, hybrid, incommensurable modes of thinking and being without filtering them of their messiness?" (Gupta 1998, 6).

In China , the position of the nation-state as both object and agent of development contributes to the messy hybridity of self-understanding. The state's discourse of "material civilization" can be seen as a Chinese inflection of global development discourse, a legitimation of market reforms and integration with global capitalism in the name of modernization. But the civilization invoked is a hybrid; "spiritual civilization" keeps the referential center within the nation-state, and maintains ideological control over emerging social inequalities. The hybridity of this material/spiritual civilizing discourse stems from its accommodation of a Marxist stage-theory of development, and at least a weak acknowledgment of an earlier commitment to egalitarian principles under Maoism (Anagnost 1997, chapter 3). Thus "building material and spiritual civilization" is hybrid along interleaving axes: the relation between China and the West, and the relation between contemporary modernization through market reforms and earlier socialist developmental models.

Further, while material civilization seems self-evident in the sense of "development," it is problematized through its pairing with spiritual civilization, which is much more ambiguous, open to history and thus to contestation from the very subject positions it creates. In other words, in what we might term the post-socialist civilizing project, "spiritual" serves as a floating signifier invoking earlier notions of civilization in intentional and unintentional ways. Here Stevan Harrell's (1997) framework of successive civilizing projects is helpful for understanding the enduring urge to civilize within China , as well as the changing (and interacting) content of "civilization" in each project. The Confucian civilizing project of the Late Imperial Chinese state was based on wenhua (culture) understood as a process of moral transformation through education, a process in which the civilizers were the literati elite standing at the world center. The Communist civilizing project is based on achieving modernity, understood as a stage in the universal unfolding of history through class struggle, with the Party as civilizer but standing at a nation-state center in competition with the world. While Harrell's typology refers to encounters with " China 's peripheral peoples" on the ethnic frontiers, the Confucian and Communist (and post-socialist) civilizing projects equally apply to understanding the evolution of civilization in developmental terms, and to the accretion of "impure, hybrid, incommensurable modes of thinking" in self-understandings. Just as "China" is itself positioned as a marginalized "other" in global development discourse, the discourse of civilization-Confucian, Communist, post-socialist-constructs its own internal developmental others: nongmin (peasants) especially backward in mountain areas ( shanqu ). I will discuss roads as a field where these civilizing projects interact and become a real presence in people's lives.

To villagers in the Chinese countryside today, roads are more than a metaphor. Especially in poorer mountain areas on the trailing edge of rural China 's economic transformation, roads are symbolically charged; they both are and stand for economic development itself, and are very concrete embodiments of hope. Rural Sichuanese, as a general rule, are not against change, but ask the question: on whose terms? To address that question, this article will explore the history of one 40 kilometer road in western Sichuan province, arguing that the "messy" cultural meaning of the road can be seen in the temples that serve as hubs in a network of negotiated interests, places saturated with morality and memory.

In looking at the significance of roads, the approach I adopt is a cultural analysis of the landscape-the interwoven field of physical environment, moral agency, and historical memory-in which particular places gather and keep a people's sense of themselves. Place is "indefinite, but not indeterminate"; its particularity confounds erasure, and its fuzzy borders are permeable, allowing place to absorb historical experience and keep memory ready-to-hand for precipitating moments of self-reflection (Casey 1996, 42). In China , roads and temples are prominent features in these cognitive maps of place and self, and they are conceived of differently by different groups of people. On the local level, historical analysis of road building reveals the evolution of power, "defined as the interaction of forces, creative and repressive, oppressive and evasive, cooperative and co-optive" (Dean 1993, 18) that has shaped the landscape with (ostensibly) contradictory meanings. Landscape, then, is more than the physical setting of development; it speaks to development discourse by disclosing the complexity of local self-understandings enacted and gathered in place.

The analysis this article applies to the road could equally be applied to other built features in the rural landscape, especially to the hydraulic infrastructure of dams, levees, canals, irrigation systems, power stations. These hydraulic projects were of enormous importance, historically, and continue to be essential throughout China . But roads are particularly important in the shanqu , where un-navigable rivers are obstacles rather than transport routes, and where the topography severely limits the amount of irrigable land. Roads today are made even more significant by the increasing importance of wages, and the relative decline in the portion of family income coming from agricultural production. Finally, in my own experience of this story's place, roads and temples were what people talked about. In that talk of roads they evoked a messy constellation of infrastructure, governance, and morality, in ways that sometimes confounded my own desire to delineate and categorize, but which made sense when viewed historically.

The road that is the focus of this study lies in western Sichuan province, within the administrative district of the small city Ya'an (figure 1). The North Road connects the city (formerly county seat) of Ya'an with a string of townships along its length, each serving a number of villages. Today the road flows out of Ya'an at a minibus depot in the newer north section of town, separated from the older city center on the other side of the Qingyi river. The road starts where the Qingyi is joined by the smaller Longxi River , and follows the Longxi upstream into the countryside. The first 10 kilometers of the road run through terraced hillsides and flat rice paddy land, that make up the broad basin south of Longxi township (formerly Taiping). Traveling north, rounding the gentle curve on the approach to Longxi, the vista reveals a curtain of mountains on the far side of the township. Beyond the mountains spreads a second valley, a beautiful upland richly endowed with paddy land running all the way to the headwaters of the Longxi river at White Horse Spring. Between these valleys, the North Road slices through a narrow, twisting gorge, with green mountain walls above, and river rapids below.

The Chuanzhu temple ( miao) stands where the river spills out of the gorge flowing south into the lower basin, about a mile north from the seat of Longxi township. Today a hydroelectric plant stands directly across the river from the temple. The North Road is squeezed between the temple close by on the hill above, and the steep riverbank below at the point where the road begins to climb sharply through the narrow gorge north of the temple . The temple is associated with the village of Xiakou , one mile further up the road within the confines of the gorge. This village was the site of my fieldwork, a place where I have lived and returned to over the course of the past decade. "Chuanzhu" can mean both "master of Sichuan " and "river ( chuan ) master." The first translation reflects the god's historical identity as the euhemerization (deified mortal) of the virtuous official Li Bing of the Qin state, who (along with his son, Er Lang, with whom he is frequently conflated) in the third century BCE engineered the flood control and irrigation project at Dujiangyan that transformed the Sichuan basin into productive farmland (Sage 1992, 148). Chuanzhu's historical identity in turn explains the god's power identity as the "dragon tamer," i.e. he who controls floods, as well as the particular placement of his temple in the local landscape.

On the North Road , the Chuanzhu temple has served as an important source of local memory, and as a site where the interests and identities saturating place are brought to the surface. Stephen Feuchtwang has observed that "[T]he building of a road mobilizes both modern and traditional historical memories, even as it changes the definitions of places." (Feuchtwang 1997, 56). The connection between roads and temples in the landscape underscores the unity of physical environment and moral universe, the conceptual connection between natural and political forces, and the way these relations inform and are informed by historical change. The following discussion of the North Road , then, begins with a historical reconstruction of its physical extension during the Late Imperial period, and its "moral building"; that is, the placing of relations, values, and "order" consistent with the Confucian civilizing project, which in turn seep into memory in place, especially temples. The account then turns to the breakdown of that order from the late Qing through the 1940s, with the displacement of temples by modernizers and the unleashing of anomic forces in banditry, warlordism, and civil war. The Communist civilizing project radically re-ordered the meaning of the road, in a development project that imposed modernization, leaving in place painful and contradictory memories. Discussion of the road in the post-socialist period focuses on the revival of temples, a moment of self-reflection that precipitated many layers of historical memory. By looking at the various meanings attached to roads and temples in different historical periods, we have a window into the layering of different civilizing projects in place, and the changing relations of power in the landscape.

Confucian development: the moral building of the North Road


For most of its recorded past, Ya'an was a frontier of the Chinese empire. Originally settled by the Qiang people, Ya'an was first a military garrison under the Han dynasty (from 111 B.C.E., when it was known as Yan Dao ), and during the ensuing 500 years, it was only loosely connected to the imperial administrative center. From 779 to 964, as the Tang dynasty declined, the area was frequently overrun by invading armies of the expansive Tubo (Tibetan) empire to the west, and the Nanzhao kingdom to the south. Chinese administrative control was reasserted in the Song, when (beginning in 1070) Ya'an became an important outpost of trade, Chinese tea for Tibetan horses. Ethnic Han political control of the region was increased under the reign of the first Ming emperor, Hongwu, when the city walls were constructed (1368) and, more importantly, the South Sichuan Road connecting Ya'an with the provincial capital of Chengdu was officially opened in 1376 ( Ya'an shizhi , 1993 2, 7-9). Road construction intensified in the Qing dynasty. Post stations set up between 1662 and 1722 tied Ya'an to neighboring counties in the sprawling Yazhou prefecture that extended south and west into Tibetan areas ( Yazhou fuzhi, 3/ 1-2). As in other peripheral border areas relations with non-Han peoples under Qing administration was a top priority for local officials, and they kept detailed records of everything from local dress and customs of ethnic minorities to lists of tribal leaders and their territorial claims ( Yazhou fuzhi, 1/ 49-54). A set of maps drawn by these local officials in 1739 gives a glimpse of the landscape as they saw it: administrative islands in a web of mountain passes, rivers, bridges, roads, and temples extending westward into Tibet ( Yazhou fuzhi 1/ 32-48). (See figure 2).

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the county and prefectural seat of Ya'an was connected to surrounding counties by six roads, a total of 287km within the Ya'an administrative district serving a population of approximately 170,000 ( Ya'an shizhi 1993, 333, 139). These roads were divided into two categories, guan dao (official roads) and da dao , literally, "big roads." Both the guan dao and da dao connected through to broader networks, and both types of road were physically similar, constructed of stone paving and wide enough to allow pack horses (Skinner 1977, 719 fn 22). The difference was political: guan dao were named for the government officials who used them as lines of communication to neighboring districts and to the imperial center, while da dao were major transportation routes, but not the principal roads used by the state's post system. By looking more closely at the North da dao- the road of the Chuanzhu temple-we can see how it embodied the negotiation between state power and local initiative in later imperial times, and then had its meaning transformed in the civilized landscape formed in the twentieth century.

During the Qing dynasty the North Road served as an organizing principle for the administration of state power. Together the twenty administrative villages that used the road constituted the county's north district, divided into two townships, Taiping (also called Shuidong, containing eight villages) in the south closer to the city of Ya'an, and Zhongli (containing twelve villages) in the north. Qing administration relied on the cooperation of local elites-educated men from wealthy landholding families, sometimes holders of lower degrees in the imperial examination system. In the case of the North Road , the extent of local versus state responsibility was reflected in the road's construction, particularly in its most salient features, its bridges.

The Ya'an county magistrate built and maintained bridges within the city and in its immediate environs. For example, the county magistrate in 1745 built a bridge spanning the Longxi river, at the beginning of the North Road , one kilometer outside the city walls ( Yazhou fuzhi 3/ 27-8). Other cases of bridge building and maintenance indicate that state responsibility for infrastructure did not extend very far from its seat of power, and other groups took over bridges as the road passed through their locality. Two Chain Bridges were built and repaired by Buddhist monks from neighboring monasteries, one in Taiping, 8 kilometers up the North Road , one in Sanyichang, the road's midpoint, 20 km from Ya'an. On the furthest reaches of the North Road , bridges were built by contributions from local elite families, whose names were usually recorded on stone tablets, along with the date of the construction or repair. Five of these bridges are clustered around the market town of Shangli, 35 kilometers from Ya'an in the rich rice-growing valley along the headwaters of Longxi river. All of them were built or extensively repaired between 1809 and 1812, suggesting a rather high concentration of wealth, since the bridges were noted as fine examples of engineering and aesthetic detail ( Ya'an xianzhi , 1922). (See figure 3).

The bridges on the North Road reveal an expected spatial pattern of state power waning and local autonomy rising away from the administrative center (Skinner 1977, 262-263), but more importantly they served to reinforce elite status. In his 1930 study of Xunwu county, Mao Zedong observed that bridge and road associations were organized by local elites, noting that "even small bridges in villages have associations. If there is a bridge, then there is land, because landlords and merchants contribute to maintain bridges.Every year in December, an accounting is made and the bridge god is worshiped." (Mao 1990, 131). In other places, the connection between bridges and gods was expressed in the folk saying, " qiaoqiao you miao, miao miao you qiao -near every bridge a temple, near every temple a bridge." (Schimmelpennick 1997, 106) The earth gods who officiated over bridges or treacherous stretches of road served as an inscription of both elite patronage and imperial authority in the landscape.

Earth gods were the most local, village level representatives in what Duara describes as "the sprawling infrastructure of popular orthodoxy" integrating the village with the imperial state and a broader shared culture (Duara 1988b, 786). This hierarchy of symbolic state power was woven into the local infrastructure through the placement of earth god shrines and temples in the landscape. Temples set strategically along the North Road were usually the miao , gong , and fu of popular religion or Daoism rather than the Buddhist si , which tended to be located in the surrounding mountains. Temples devoted to the worship of canonized officials carried the bureaucratic metaphor to places beyond easy reach of the magistrate's yamen (Ahern 1981). The most direct channel of symbolic state power was through branch temples of the city god ( Chenghuang miao ), since the city god was a supernatural parallel of the county magistrate. On the North Road , city god branch temples were located on the farther reaches where actual state power was weakest and local autonomy the greatest, one in Zhongli (22 km), the other in Shangli (35 km). As a de-personalized symbol of imperial authority throughout China , the city god not only balanced local autonomy with state power, he symbolized integration of the periphery with the center more effectively than his flesh-and-blood counterpart, since the city god could be at once imperial and local.

The temple network extending the protective power of the god-official Chuanzhu was consecrated through ritual incense division ( fen xiang ), constituting a concatenation of like-places or a regional identity. In this case, local Chuanzhu branch temples, such as the one in Longxi, were connected with the cult center in Dujiangyan-the cult center being the historical " place where ling had been remarkably manifest" (Feuchtwang 1977, 590)-rather than an administrative site of official state religion. Thus the bureaucratic metaphor was present (Chuanzhu qua upright official), but imperfect in that the temple was placed in a local-regional network alternative to that of the state.

This balance of local and imperial power was also reproduced in the syncretic connection between different temples in one place. In Zhongli, for example, the city god branch temple was placed together with the Wenchang Gong (patron deity of the literati, often officially sanctioned) as in the county seat of Ya'an, but also with the Daizong Fu-- a branch of not just a city temple, but of the Mount Tai temple in Shandong province, the sacred center of a Daoist sect. The co-placing of the temples, in this case, localized an integrated center as it integrated a peripheral locality.

The nature of that integration was important, and negotiable. The North Road 's network of temples were places where state power was brokered through local notables, who mediated between the imperial state and local society in their role as temple leaders ( huishou ). In the case of one local legend related by villagers, the huishou literally embodied the god/offical: when prevented from attending the Chuanzhu temple festival by a flood, the story goes, he was physically possessed by the god who used his power to leap the huishou over the swollen Longxi river. For men of high standing in the community, the huishou role reinforced both their connection to official power by sharing in the efficacy ( ling ) of the god, and their elite status as local patrons. The huishou of Taiping's Chuanzhu temple was responsible for maintaining the temple and providing new clothes and banners for the god, and also for providing feasts and opera performances on festival days, as well as paying young men to carry the god in procession. These temple activities required capital, so while the huishou role was open to all, in practicality the position was rotated between wealthy men in the community. According to local residents, the capital outlay for temple activities was eventually reimbursed from the "gifts" ( ganqing ) donated to the huishou by temple participants. As the term ganqing ("feeling") suggests, the temple expenses served as a ritual of reciprocity, creating affective ties between huishou and community.

The ideal of reciprocity also extended to worshippers' relationship with the god, whose power was dependent on their worship (Hansen 1990, 160-1). Temples were places where local interests were asserted. The presence of the bureaucratic metaphor in local gods and temples did not inherently posit the total hegemony of state power or its infallibility. City gods, for example, could be ritually removed from office for failure to perform (Weller 1987, 49). Supplicants typically prayed to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy for private favors such as curing disease and giving birth to sons. Individuals could also appeal to Chuanzhu and the city god for personal welfare and the expiation of their accumulated sins, by serving as the god's escorts during his annual procession (Graham 1961, 154). In the paocha ritual, young men (especially butchers, according to locals) painted their faces, pierced the skin of their chests with metal hooks, and ran up and down the road ( pao ) brandishing long metal forks ( cha ). The gods of state cults would then take this service into consideration in judging their fates.

Negotiation between god and supplicant was not solely a contractual relationship, though, as gods sometimes needed help in other ways. For example, in 1895 the Chuanzhu temple was moved from the village of Xiakou (literally, "mouth of the gorge") to the township seat of Taiping two miles downstream. As some villagers relate the story, the decision to move was made after Chuanzhu appeared to a villager in a dream and requested "more spacious quarters." Others explain that the fengshui of Xiakou is not good, too narrow and restricted. The particular timing of the temple's move in 1895 may have been related to the unrest following China 's humiliating defeat in the Sino-Japanese war, which resulted in riots and anti-foreign uprisings in other parts of Sichuan (Stapleton, 2000, 49-50). The immediate historical catalyst of the move is less significant, for my argument, than the reciprocal relationship with the god, worked out through specific moral action in the landscape.

Matters concerning collective livelihood were taken before the supernatural hierarchy of officialdom; villagers turned to the city god to pray for rain, and to Chuanzhu for protection from floods. Temple gods and earth gods protected the rural infrastructure by exercising moral authority to maintain the proper balance of natural forces. In turn, the local order they ensured was a measure of the balance between asserting their imperial power, on the one hand, and responsiveness to local concerns, on the other.

In the late imperial period, then, road-temple networks served as a common space on which the ideal of order based on reciprocity was inscribed; as such they constituted a field of communication integrating local villagers, elites, and the state. Works on the role of popular religion as bureaucratic metaphor have shown that the "standardization" of gods into a state cult, and the "superscription" of state power onto gods and temples constituted a surface of orthodoxy and hegemony under which multiple meanings and interests contended (J. Watson, 1985; Duara, 1988b). Thus the bureaucratic metaphor was in effect a "civilizing" effort of its own day, (J. Watson 1985, 294), but order was achieved only through a fine balance of mutual accommodation between interests-individual and collective, local and imperial-and multiple meanings condensed in the shared symbol of temples and gods.

In considering the relationship between roads, temples and the negotiation of interests constituting "order," William Rowe's intellectual biography of the prominent Qing official Chen Hongmou offers an imperial model of civilization and its relation to what might be called "Confucian development." Rowe observes that "[t]here was likely no more energetic champion of new construction of regional hydraulic infrastructures in the eighteenth-century imperium than Chen Hongmou" but even more revealing is the grounding of that developmental urge in his vision of statecraft. As Rowe describes it:

The state should never proceed arbitrarily, without heeding popular opinion ( minqing ) as to what hydraulic works the people really want-and, by implication, will prove willing to maintain once they are in place. And yet the popular will being fragmented and shortsighted, neither can officials take the fact that local people have not proposed the project themselves as evidence that it is not desirable. It is the hallmark of the good official, with superior breadth of perspective, to provide the "supervision and prompting" ( ducui ) necessary to get new work underway. Indeed, this alerting of the local population to the untapped developmental potential of their habitat is a basic part of the official's moral mission to "civilize and instruct" ( huahui ) popular social practice. (Rowe 2001, 223)

Chen's emphasis on development proceeds from a more fundamental vision of the nature of civilization and moral order; a vision that offers insight into why the temples are a significant site of negotiation today. Civilization to Chen was a transformative process ( hua ) realized through education ( jiao ) and the official's position of superiority came by virtue of learning and the moral effort expended in achieving it. The elitism and egalitarianism implicit in this formulation found expression in Chen's attacks on Buddhist, Daoist, and heterodox beliefs-and in his "broader animus.against folk culture as a whole"-on one hand, and his "Mencian populism" with its "responsiveness to local differentiation" and popular opinion, on the other (Rowe 2001, 437, 405).

Rowe frames Chen Hongmou as an energetic participant in a Confucian civilizing project that would continue in the anti-superstition campaigns of the twentieth century. But Chen also believed in the civilizing power of temples and gods outside the official state cult, and he "made a point of seeking out sacred sites and the spirits who inhabited them, spirits that possessed unusual charisma and magical power ( ling )" that could be co-opted and channeled through the "moral quality" of the official (Rowe 2001, 96). Chen was famous for his performances of "Confucian magic," especially his prayers for rain, and his best-known work was an "Essay on Taming the Flood-Dragon." (Rowe 2001, 97)

The parallels with Chuanzhu are remarkable. Although Chen Hongmou speaks from an elite position of high authority and in an eighteenth-century context of relative prosperity and dynamism, I would argue that the values underlying his model of civilized Confucian development are quite similar to the values held by many villagers today along the North Road: state activism responsive to local opinion, self-transformation through education, and moral governance bringing order to the world. The years separating these similar sets of values brought a breakdown of that moral order, and a new layer of meaning placed in the landscape.


Conflict, Chaos, and Collapse of the Road's Moral Order


Signs that local order began to fall apart in the late Qing are reflected in the absence of recorded bridge and temple repairs on the North Road after 1883, a trend in other regions of China as well (Duara 1988a, 133). This trend coincided with the rise to power of the Gelaohui (Elder Brother Society), know locally in Ya'an as the paoge ("gowned brotherhood") whose appearance in the rural landscape highlights a heterodox meaning of roads that co-existed with the orthodox system of balance described in somewhat idealized form above.

The paoge began to fill the local vacuum left by waning state power in the late Qing. They became an increasingly dominant force in the Sichuan countryside in the early decades of the twentieth century, reaching the height of their influence in the late 1940s during the civil war. Originally formed in the late seventeenth century as an "oppose the Qing, restore the Ming" resistance group, the paoge first evolved into a mutual aid organization and communication network (Wang, 1993; Stapleton, 2000: 197-204). According to local accounts, the paoge 's main service to members, prior to the late 1930s, was the issuance of "passports" ensuring the traveler free accommodation and access to personal connections in other locations. This was of particular importance given that cash-poor villagers frequently worked as tea porters on the road to Kangding. Paoge groups controlled local roads, protecting their turf and preying on outsiders. After the disruptions caused by warlord militarism in the 1930s, banditry and smuggling locally produced opium were also activities of the paoge , and the group's role as both a predatory and protective organization (Perry 1980) forced many village men into joining up for self-preservation.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the paoge was dominated by traditional elites in both city and countryside, who established themselves as duobazi (helmsmen) at the top of an elaborate hierarchy reproducing distinctions of social class. These establishment men referenced a rich heterodox tradition of initiation rites, blood oaths, and sworn brotherhoods, along with organizational division names taken straight from Confucianism: "benevolence," "righteousness," "propriety," "wisdom," "sincerity" (Sun Xujun 1989, 251). Like the imperial power it replaced, the paoge was used by rural elites to strengthen their local authority and integrate with a larger political identity-in the revolution of 1911 this meant a regional rather than imperial identity. In Ya'an, local elites used the paoge to fight for the right of local control over future railroad development. The Qing authority was overthrown by a "Road Protection Alliance Army" made up of paoge groups from six surrounding counties under the leadership of the Ya'an duobazi Luo Yuepei ( Ya'an shizhi 1993, 770).

While railroads were still a distant dream, even a small hinterland city like Ya'an was modernizing its infrastructure quickly. Telegraph lines were installed in 1894, a small tool and die factory was established in 1906, and a match factory in 1919. As part of this modernization drive under the late Qing New Policies, Ya'an's urban elites began to embrace "Western learning," in new schools with modern curricula (1906) and an American missionary hospital (1907) ( Ya'an shizhi 1993, 10-11). One of the casualties of the gradual cognitive and political transformation that accompanied the fall of the Qing were the temples that had inscribed imperial power. Ya'an county's largest Chuanzhu temple was burned in the revolution of 1911. Reformers launched a civilizing mission against the "feudal superstition" ( fengjian mixin ) of popular religion, recasting temples as obstacles to progress and modernization (Duara 1991). Over the next two decades state cult temples within the city were either abandoned or transformed into schools, parks, and tourist attractions, effectively cutting off the rural branch temples of state cults from their source of authority, although many temples in the countryside outside or ambiguously related to the state cults continued their activities.

The change in the ideological infrastructure was matched by a new kind of "public road" ( gong lu ) which first appeared in 1925, connecting Ya'an and Tibetan areas to the west with Chengdu . In the 1920s, Western influenced urban planners and reformist warlords throughout Sichuan championed road construction as a modernization priority (Stapleton 2000, 225). Ya'an's warlord Liu Wenhui used conscripted peasant labor to build the Yazhou-Chengdu gong lu, financed through crushing taxes. Whether motivated by a civilizing impulse, or by the need to facilitate troops movements, the construction of this proto-national road did not extend to road building in the countryside, which suffered from increasing chaos.

As the new public roads were being built in Ya'an, "new landlords" allied with the militarist elite rose to power within local paoge groups in the late 1930s, essentially changing the paoge from protective organizations of mutual aid to predatory bands monopolizing the opium trade. On the North Road , there were over thirty paoge bands, dominated by men linked to Liu Wenhui's Twenty-fourth Army ( Ya'an shizhi 1993, 770-3). Villagers from Xiakou who had been paoge members described a booming trade in guns and opium-now widely cultivated on the hillsides and encouraged by the warlord government in need of cash. They also recounted that the paoge ran opium dens along the road and in the villages, with disastrous effects on many local families. All the stories of the paoge emphasized their control over local society: the paoge decided who could be robbed, who could be killed, and who protected, operating outside (or sometimes in concert with) the authority of the Guomindang government.

1935 brought the road's most famous integration into a national historical narrative when the Fourth Route of the Red Army under Zhang Guotao fled north on the road in the Long March, taking haven for three months in Zhongli, where they established a Soviet. During their short stay, the communists organized guerrilla units to "overthrow landlords and equally divide the land," a social revolution that killed those wealthy landlords too slow to run, but that did not outlive the Soviet. The attack on symbols of feudal superstition had more lasting effects, and can still be seen in the Red Army's nationalistic slogans carved in stone overwriting the mileage markers, gravestones, market squares, and temple tablets lining the North Road . ( Ya'an shizhi 1993, 603).

As older villagers in Xiakou remember their youth in the 1930s and 1940s, it was a time of warfare, banditry, general chaos, and moral disintegration. The county suffered a major flood in 1934, and drought in 1939 and 1944-45 ( Ya'an shizhi 1993, 137). One measure of the heightened degree of moral disintegration was banditry within kin groups. Temples in Ya'an county were also rapidly disappearing in this period, falling into disrepair or converted to other use, with an increasing intensity. Graham's surveys in the city of Ya'an found that there were half as many temples in 1947 as there had been just three years before (1961, 210-211). Many temples were seized by Liu Wenhui to be used as army barracks; one in Ya'an was used as headquarters by a paoge group (Graham 1961, 206, 209, 211). Still, with the exception of the brief period of occupation by the Red Army, local elites were flexible enough to maintain their authority. Yang Yunzhong, the wealthiest landlord in Taiping, was simultaneously local headman ( baozhang ) under the Guomindang government, leader of the local paoge branch, and occasional huishou at the Chuanzhu temple.

Even as the local centers of state cult temple networks were commandeered in the county seat, their ritual responsibilities to the people were not forgotten. As one older resident remembered: "It was minguo 28 (1939). It didn't rain for 48 days, so the [county] government hired somebody to pray for rain ( qiuyu )-the people ( laobaixing ) demanded it!" He explained that the qiuyu ritual took place in its traditional zone between the city god temple and the river, but the county magistrate did not enact it. Instead the government hired a proxy Daoist priest, who also organized a group of young men in the street performance of a battle between the shuilong (water dragon) and the hanba , a kind of monster representing drought. In addition to the ritual performance, he emphasized that people were forbidden to eat meat during the qiuyu , "and if someone saw you eating meat, they would grab it right out of your hands!" Popular will enforced communal penance, just as the people demanded the ritual as a fundamental moral obligation of the state to address a disordered cosmos. The city god temple's meaning as place persisted, outliving both its usurpation and the unwillingness of government officials to perform the qiuyu themselves.

The remaining temples in Ya'an that continued their activities -almost exclusively in the countryside (Graham 1961, 210, 212)- may have become even more important during the turbulent times of the late 1940s. Villagers remembered new spiritual possession cults that arose during this period, and particularly active Chuanzhu temple festivals, with many participants in the paocha rituals of self-immolation and penance. These memories suggest that, just as the paoge filled the local vacuum left by the absence of state authority, the Chuanzhu temple-as a place enacting both broader associational networks and an ideal of morally responsive governance-was called on to bring order to social chaos. Perhaps these local phenomena were not simply the resurgence of "society" in the wake of a receding "state" but the invocation of an ideal moral order balancing state control with responsiveness to local interests.

Until the 1950s, the bulk of the North Road itself had not changed physically; it was still a stone footpath winding through the long canyon, treacherous in places, and too narrow for animal-drawn carts. Older residents of Xiakou said the trip to Ya'an took three hours, and required a ferry crossing. Loads were carried on human backs, sometimes as far as Kangding in the tea trade with Tibetans, more often to the closer periodic markets along the length of the road and temple network, markets that provided villagers with news, entertainment, and livelihood. On the North Road, markets were held on either end of the road-- in Taiping (km 8) and Shangli (km 35) on days of the lunar calendar ending in 2, 5, and 8; in Xiali (Sanyichang, km 20) on 3, 6, and 9; and in Zhongli (km 28) on 1, 4, and 7. Each of these markets ( chang ) were located in spaces protected by temples, and, on the ends of Taiping and Shangli, where bridges and short spur roads into the mountains came together. The connection between temples and rural commerce was reinforced by large annual markets held in conjunction with the gods' festival days, especially those of Chuanzhu and Chenghuang. In addition to the usual buying and selling of produce, handicrafts, and services from haircuts to poetry, these annual markets provided agricultural tools, books, fortune telling, and local opera performances. Markets also extended personal networks of connection. Villagers said that marriages, for example, were (and are) frequently arranged through market excursions, and close proximity to a good road was considered a strong determinant in marriage choices. Thus villagers looked forward to gan chang , "going to town (market)" for more than the purposes of buying and selling; they attached social meaning to roads beyond their utility as formal economic infrastructure.

Here I follow the lead of anthropologists (Basso and Feld 1996) who apply the insights of phenomenology to the understanding of how people encounter the world, and themselves, in place. I am drawn to landscape and place because it emphasizes historical and ethnographic particularity. My use of place is similar to Mayfair Yang's analysis of space in this issue (especially her discussion of "representational space"). The common dynamics across two very different Chinese landscapes is significant.

Dean , (1993, 61-69, 84) analyzes fen xiang networks and regional identity in Fujian .

For a thorough discussion of ling , see Feuchtwang (1992, 81-5). Weller (1987, 54-56) examines the role of huishou .

As Roxanne Prazniak shows in her study of rural resistance to Qing "New Policy" reforms, divisions of social standing within the Gelaohui [ paoge ] in southern Sichuan tended to work against coordinated efforts with the anti-Qing Tongmenghui (Revolutionary Alliance) until the common cause of the "Protect the Railway" movement of 1911 (Prazniak 1999, 138-141).

In analyzing tax rates during the same period as this road construction throughout Sichuan , Gunde finds staggering tax increases benefiting the "new landlords" emerging out of warlord-bureaucrat collusion (Gunde 1976, 30). Jerome Ch'en's economic analysis of the Central China highlands, including Eastern Sichuan , also asserts the emergence of new "local ruffians" allied with warlords and rising to power in the murky unrest of increasing militarism following the fall of the Qing. These arrivistes supplanted traditional elites, becoming large landholders through expropriating public resources and buying out impoverished farmers (Ch'en 1992, 18-19). The new elites were also colluding agents of warlord taxation, which in the 1920s and 1930s reached staggering levels in order to cover ever-rising military expenditures (Ch'en 1992, 111-13, 125).

Ch'en (1992, 111-3, 125) describes the importance of opium in eastern Sichuan during the same period.

Through the temples and markets of the North Road , reminders of the ideals of integration, order, and reciprocity were still symbolically placed in the landscape, even in the disintegrated and chaotic decades preceding Liberation. The reintegration to come in the 1950s would be violent, killing off the remnants of elite authority, and imposing a new Communist civilizing project that erased nearly all the reminders of the old order from the landscape in the name of a grand vision of development.


"Feudalism" and "National Construction": The North Road Revolutionized


The North Road 's physical modernization began with the construction in 1942 of Ya'an's first hydroelectric station, on the Longxi river in Taiping, downstream from the Chuanzhu temple. The hydroelectric project (whose power flowed not to the surrounding communities but to the city of Ya'an ) was undertaken by the warlord (now Nationalist) general Liu Wenhui. Liu presided over the peaceful "liberation" of Ya'an by Communist troops on 31 January, 1950, but on 6 February an alliance of local paoge forces attacked the Taiping power station and took control of the North Road for one day ( Ya'an shizhi 1993, 605). The People's Liberation Army had little trouble defeating the "bandits," who were interrogated in the Chuanzhu temple, and then executed on the North Road next to the temple, a favorite ambush spot for the paoge . The power station battle was the opening salvo of a new modernization effort combining road construction, political violence, and new civilizing efforts that would radically transform the landscape of the North Road . By June of 1951, the communist forces had captured all of the paoge leaders, the last in Ya'an county, at the furthest end of the North Road . By July, on the southern end of the road, the new county government had completed construction of a new stone-arched Qingyi bridge to replace the one built in the eighteenth century by the county magistrate. The road itself was already widened to 3 meters as far as Taiping, integrating the township seat and its electric plant with the city, a shift symbolized by abolishing the periodic market in Taiping ( Ya'an shizhi 1993, 605, 337, 429).

The state also asserted its symbolic power in Taiping, a proven trouble spot, by occupying the Chuanzhu temple as the seat of the new township government, superscribing a new meaning on the old locus of authority. The political violence of the "clean out bandits, oppose local despots" campaign that targeted the paoge opened the way for Land Reform and the overthrow of the social order; both campaigns used executions on the North Road as blunt tools of control. Meetings to elect the "Poor and Lower-Middle Peasants Association" were held in the Chuanzhu temple, which was the center of activities in the Land Reform campaign. After its transitional usefulness in Land Reform was exhausted, the temple was systematically deconstructed. According to locals, road building damaged the temple's fengshui , and the animal guardian statues were thrown into the river-two events which furthered the party's displacement of the temple's power. Now demystified as "feudal superstition," the temple was only a shell of stone and wood that the township government largely dismantled to construct a new government building on the old market square. This pattern of occupying and then displacing cultural symbols of authority was repeated the length of the road.

This initial widening phase of road construction to allow motorized traffic reached the northern market town of Shangli in 1954. As the road was transformed in phases, so was the social landscape surrounding it. In the same year village agriculture was organized into Mutual Aid Teams, the initial step in a process of labor collectivization that gathered momentum: producer cooperatives in 1955, lower-stage collectives in 1956. While individual experiences obviously differed, local accounts tended to narrate the period of the early 1950s as a whole, in a revealing nostalgia constructed through recurring local tropes. Everyone I spoke with viewed Land Reform as a good and fair movement, but they also pointed out that, by and large, most people in the shanqu had been "equally poor" before the movement. Many observed that the local difference between landlord/rich peasant ( dizhu funong ) and poor/lower-middle peasant ( pingxia zhongnong ) was so small that the movement's violence was "unreasonable" ( meiyou daoli ), to the point that many landlords were not "struggled" at all. As much as the resulting egalitarian land tenure, these accounts emphasized the fairness of the process. The Party workteams were praised for consulting the masses, who had the ability to "raise opinions" ( ti yijian ) at the meetings and elections held in the Chuanzhu temple.

Memories of the early 1950s frequently invoked the revolutionary line (composed in song) that "the people's status [was] high" ( renmin diwei gao ), a new self-understanding and hope for the future based on the Party's promise of a new order. The transformation of the landscape and the personal change accompanying it lent credence to that promise. Older villagers remembered the increasing ease and comfort of travel. The trip to the county seat was safe and much faster; mobility reinforced the sense of higher status: "we could go to town and see opera, see movies, stay in a hotel, everything was cheap!" They stressed the importance of the "rubber shoe revolution" ( jiaohai geming ) that meant sure footing on mountain paths and, most importantly, dry feet. At the same time, novel social space was opened on the village basketball court, and new relationships formed around the competitions with other village teams along the road.

The improved road was a local manifestation of "national construction" ( guojia jianshe ) that in turn enabled further infrastructure development, changing not only the physical landscape, but also the composition of the social body. The first project was a new, much larger electric station placed opposite the river from the Chuanzhu temple. Construction workers from other parts of Sichuan came to build the station, staying at the impounded house of the executed duobazi Yang Yunzhong. One worker married Yang's widow and moved into the village. The changing landscape intended to the physical body itself; internal revolution was "turning the body" ( fan shen ), and people spoke of "changing skin" ( huan pifu ) to mean peasants turning into workers.

The building of the new order held out hope of an improved living standard, economically and culturally, brought about through national construction. The early 1950s served as a rememorate of good government, and, to a large degree, the party's development projects, including road building, gave it legitimacy. Roads were a symbol of government responsiveness, and villagers were generally willing to trade autonomy for mutual respect and order. At this point, most villagers saw the changes brought by this unprecedented penetration of state power into their lives as serving their interests. The Party had cleared the road of warfare, banditry, opium, landless poverty-in short, chaos-providing "unified leadership" ( tongyi lingdao ), and the promise of a better life.

The transformation of the North Road corresponded and contributed to the new organization of village life. More construction in 1955-56 opened the road to big trucks, literally paving the way for what the Party saw as the final victory of modernization over feudalism, the highest stage of collectivization in the People's Commune of the Great Leap Forward. The Great Leap was intended to bring the benefits of "science" to backward peasants, and in one daring act of will send production "up like a satellite." As part of this great transformation, the over 6,000 inhabitants of all eight villages in the township were joined together to form Taiping People's Commune. The Commune was headquartered in the township government building recently constructed with materials recycled from the Chuanzhu temple, and the last remnant of the original Chuanzhu temple was converted into the communal granary.

The experiment in collectivization resulted in disaster. The state kept the newly improved North Road busy, using commune trucks to transport labor to huge infrastructure development projects and Commune iron furnaces. Commune workers built a dam on the Longxi river, or were sent away to work in the coalmines of Yunjing to the south. With all able-bodied villagers between 15 and 55 called away for national construction, most of the crops rotted in the fields, and planting was a frantic waste of seed to fulfill state targets. Still, the trucks kept coming, taking virtually all the grain harvested to cover the boasts of commune officials in their competitive inflation of crop yields. The trucks also hauled away the valley's forest cover, using the wood from these massive clear-cuts to fuel iron furnaces and the communal kitchens.

Resistance was not an option; a reign of terror enforced the new policies and disobedience ended in some villagers being beaten to death. Local cadres of "good" class background put in charge of the militant mobilization in 1958 were blamed for irrational violence of the Great Leap. Local people explained that "[the brigade leader] had no culture, no thought, no education ( meiyou wenhua, sixiang, shuiping )." The ecological damage and human suffering caused by the Great Leap and its famine of 1959-62 are inconceivable (Becker 1996; Kane, 1988; Leonard 1994; Smil 1984, 15). In production team two of Xiakou village, where I did my fieldwork, out of the 150 residents in 1958, only 72 were still living in 1962.

At the onset of the famine in 1960, the commune launched another construction project to turn the North Road into a "smooth and easy" public road. By the time that road improvement was finished in 1970 (capped by renaming it " Red Army Road ") the destruction of trees, rock formations, earth god shrines, and temples reinforced the social destruction wrought by the revolutionary violence of class struggle and denunciation. Over the period know locally as "collective times" ( jiti de shihou ) the process of national construction along the road continued: more electric stations were built, providing villagers with power, and irrigation canals on the hillsides above the road were built between 1966 and 1970.

Construction of the North Road and its related national construction infrastructure in the revolutionary period can be seen as part of the socialist civilizing project. That project de-ordered the "feudal" landscape-traditional elites removed through class struggle, villages renamed, temples razed and recycled to state use, local culture forsaken-and emplaced a new order through a process of development culminating in the high-modernist violence of the Great Leap Forward.

The Party's early inroads into local society imbricated some of the values underlying the Confucian civilizing project, especially the sensitivity to public opinion and the development of rural infrastructure. But the hard lines of Marxist teleology imposed a class struggle that drove the "peasants" from the feudal stage of production to the leap into communism. Development took place in the local landscape on an unprecedented scale, but it was national construction. The modernity being built was centered in the national imaginary positioned in Cold War competition with other nation-states, hence the ubiquitous references to Sputnik and "overtaking Great Britain in steel production." The road successfully integrated the local with the national, but on imposed rather than negotiated terms. Under the modern state the road had become an open artery bleeding the surrounding villages of their resources and killing the villagers' trust in the Party. The promise of modernization made, kept, and broken by the Party left a profound mark on the landscape. The painful, contradictory, complex experiences from those times flowed into memory and saturated in place, ready to be brought to the surface in a moment of self-reflection.



In Ya'an, the market reforms of the 1980s signaled a shift back to a more traditional state policy of benign neglect in the countryside. Decollectivization, the return of production to the family, and the freeing of wage labor resulted in initial economic gains for local farmers between 1980-86. Roads were an important part of the new local economy, providing employment on construction crews and enabling village men to travel in search of jobs. Recovery did not lead to sustained prosperity, however, as inflation and declining wages began to erode family incomes after 1986. At the same time, the state center's modernization efforts focused on coastal and urban areas, not the mountainous hinterland.

By the early 1990s, on the local level, some township officials ignored development of the countryside in favor of pursuing self-interest in the new market economy. Township residents complained that local officials were less interested in management than in extracting investment capital from their jurisdictions. When villagers in a neighboring township had their land condemned for the construction of a new paper mill, the township kept the settlement payments in an escrow account. Mistrust of the local officials was so high that residents demanding their money lay siege to the government building in 1993, trapping staff and a visiting vice-mayor inside for twelve hours. The deteriorating relationship between the state and rural Chinese was manifested in the issuance of IOUs in lieu of cash payment for farmers' crops, the expansion of what villagers see as a parasitic class of officials at the township level, and periodic campaigns against the resurgence of feudal superstition targeting everything from violations of the one child policy, religious ideological rivals to party orthodoxy, and organizational alternatives to state control in rural society.

The most celebrated case of revolt in the Sichuan countryside took place in Renshou county in 1991, where controversy surrounding a highway connecting the county seat with Chengdu erupted in violence. The highway's construction was financed by a series of ad hoc fees and taxes levied by local officials with no accountability to either higher levels or the people. When posters appeared exposing these onerous local practices as violations of national government policies, farmers rioted, overturning police cars and attacking government offices (Sun Kuo-cheng, 1993). It is important to note that what happened in Renshou reflects the symbolic richness of roads as political yardsticks for expectations of the state's involvement in local affairs. When road building is done irresponsibly and integration is achieved improperly, as in Renshou, villagers tend to see it not simply as a particular instance of government failure, but as emblematic of a corrupt, exploitative state.

Along the North Road more basic issues remained. Despite its transformation during the collective period, it was paved only to the township of Taiping (7 kilometers), and continued as a dirt road from the Chuanzhu temple on up the valley. The road was prone to collapse in the rainy season, and required frequent maintenance. Smaller roads feeding into the North Road were open only to tractors, and some communities in the surrounding mountains still had only stone-paved footpaths.

On July 21, 1992, the Longxi river flooded (figure 4). Most of the flood damage occurred in the narrow gorge running between the Huanglong reservoir, upriver, and the township seat of Longxi. Several homes were destroyed in mudslides, and the township's school building was washed away, along with two sizable sections of the North Road connecting the three upland valley townships of Xiali, Zhongli, and Shangli with the city of Ya'an . With the road washed out, all the communities north of Longxi were effectively cut off. (See figure 4) The village of Xiakou was one of the hardest hit. Three homes on the west side of the river were crushed by a house-sized boulder, which also destroyed a section of canal above the village as it rolled down the mountain. The corn crop suffered, but even more damaging financially was the inability of farmers to deliver their milk (a significant source of income) to the milk powder factory in Ya'an because of the road collapse. In short, the flood of 1992 was one of the worst in memory.

The flood precipitated a crisis of credibility for the local government, blamed by many villagers for neglecting the infrastructure (canals, retaining walls, and jetties) that was supposed to protect the road. Worse, the township officials had significantly exacerbated the crisis by clamping down on stirrings of "feudal superstitious" activity at the local Chuanzhu temple, destroying the small Chuanzhu statue just two days before the god's festival day, one day before the flood. Given Chuanzhu's power to control floods, and his historical identity as heroic official and engineer, this move inadvertently gave efficacy to the god, and symbolic power to the issue of road building. In the eyes of local villagers, the coincidence of the flood on the heels of the temple's desecration showed the god to be alive with effective power ( ling ). In response to this sign of the god's ling , a group of local residents revitalized the temple, directly challenging the local party's authority. (Figure 5)

The revitalization of the Chuanzhu temple was about more than infrastructure and road construction, and has been discussed in relation to local identity (Flower and Leonard 1997) and its connections to the river, flooding, and natural disaster (Leonard 1994). But the event gave symbolic power to roads as a tangible metaphor for villagers' relationships with the state and with each other-relationships that many local people felt had deteriorated under the socialist market economy. Especially for many of the older people involved in its activities, the temple was a place to address what they saw as moral erosion, and to assert a localized definition of "spiritual civilization"-in essence subverting the state's discourse in order to voice their own values. At a temple gathering, one old man voiced the common complaint that "today everything's really crooked ( wai de hen )," explaining that:

People don't believe in heaven and don't believe in earth-they don't believe in anything! It's young people's personality today, they don't respect old people. What are old people? What are these gods? [Young people] just want to buy things.to eat well, dress well, have fun-in the cities now they are everywhere! .They don't care if they die: no heaven, no earth, no spirits ( shen ), no belief ( xinyang ). They can do anything because they believe in nothing.Now it's everybody out for themselves.

The woman next to him agreed, adding that "in Mao's time" there was "no begging, no stealing, no trickery ( jiaohua )." She expressed nostalgia for the low prices of collective times, and finally commented that, "it always ends up falling on the nongmin (peasant). The nongmin always gets the worst of it! All we can do is depend on the gods to protect us!"

Temple activists tended to be older, but they represented a broad cross-section of their generation in terms of their class background. There were also many children at the temple, left in the care of their grandparents for the workday, who dutifully performed the ritual prostrations taught them by their elders. Temple festivals brought a wider variety of age groups. Local people had many different views of the Chuanzhu temple revival, and they exhibited varying levels of support, interest, or even disapproval (Flower and Leonard 1997, 284-5). We asked a man in his forties whose ancestor had contributed to the temple if he had any opinion on the proposed name change from miao to si . He shrugged the question off by saying (with irony) "I don't believe in that stuff. I believe in Marxism-Leninism."

On another occasion, when I was discussing spiritual possession ( ganshen ) with a middle-aged man, he replied to my question about the difference between "feudal superstition" and religious belief:

It's hard to say clearly what the difference is. Take the Chuanzhu miao for example. For some people it's part of their religious belief, others just go to get some benefit from the spirit. They don't understand or care who the god is. Maybe we can say that religion has a use in society, it can help keep peace in society and can provide spiritual comfort for the people. Superstition is praying for material benefit. It is also a way of explaining things nongmin don't understand.

Here the temple is conceived more broadly, not as a platform for directed critiques but as a place open to moral meaning and self-understanding. Superstition is private, ignorant, narrow material benefit, while belief is public, understanding, socially useful and therefore spiritually comforting. Attitudes toward the temple were mixed, but the very plurality of views on the temple highlights its role as a site for negotiating the shared fate of the community.

Some younger observers simply dismissed talk of moral ideals drawn from the past as crotchety nostalgia, but others saw the temple as a significant place of moral doing and approved of the temple activists. A nearby resident in his mid-forties admired the three local men who served as the temple's leaders, noting that two of them were master carpenters and the third a skilled blacksmith, and that all of them were educated:

Those three old guys are really something. They all studied at least three or four years of the Confucian classics. Only three or four years and they have much more learning and culture than my generation.The old learning was really strict. it taught them morality ( daode ). Those old guys are good people. Everyone respects them. They live a simple life and don't care about money. They just want to have enough to eat and warm clothes to wear. If they have more, they give it to people who have less. They are always willing to help out people who are poor or need help.

Discussions in and of the Chuanzhu temple often raised issues of morality and belief, counterpoised to the prevailing amoral and rootless social climate. The identity of the temple's leaders as craftsmen distinguished them, and further affirmed the rightness of their position as builders of place and community through moral praxis. Temple building invokes culture ( wenhua ), a disciplining process led by these worthies of old learning, devoted to simplicity and immune from the corruption of money. By avoiding excess, they are able to redress lack, and thereby harmonize the chaotic forces unleashed by the inequalities of the wild market economy. Such men of belief dwell with the god, and gather his ling , creating a protective place through moral action.

The temple was also a place that gathered the power of moral outrage, by a similar counterpoising of morality and chaos. The villagers held up Chuanzhu, the upright official and master builder, as a mirror to expose the township government's corrupt and impotent management of local infrastructure. Drawing on both old society ideals and the promise of national construction during the collective period, villagers came to hold infrastructure construction and maintenance as a fundamental component of political legitimacy. In neglecting this fundamental responsibility, the local government was discredited; or, as one temple participant put it, "they're not real party members."

There was no indication that the Chuanzhu temple revival represented a "radical reversal of power relations" as in the temple revival analyzed by Jun Jing (1996, 21), where temple activists were those who had been singled out for persecution during the Maoist revolution. In fact, one of the three leaders of the revival had been head of the Poor and Lower-Middle Peasants Association during Land Reform, elected 40 years earlier in the same temple. The many criticisms of the local government voiced in the Chuanzhu temple most frequently took the form of negative comparison to the upright cadres of the collective period and their conscientious management of infrastructure and "public safety." These views were held by the same people who had endured the horrors of the Great Leap Forward, and who on other occasions expressed deep rejection of socialist collective production. The contradiction only underscores the creative agency of remembering; now the idealized "real" Party itself had become part of the moral repertoire of historical memory (Feuchtwang 2000, 165-6).

The road collapse served as the main precipitate of general anger over official corruption and neglect of local affairs, for a number of reasons. The condition of the road directly affected more people than isolated flooding of homes and fields, and was more directly associated with state responsibility for infrastructure. In the reform-era economy, the road enabled the marketing of resources, especially stone and bamboo, and the mobilization of wage labor, both of which had become more important to household incomes than agriculture, now seen largely as ensuring a safety net of subsistence. But even more than these practical considerations, the road was frequently cited as an example of corruption and general moral decay in the collusion and deception surrounding contracting practices.

After the flood, the township government contracted the road repairs and construction of a large retaining wall to a private contractor. Some local villagers who worked on the project noted the standard strategy the contractor used to increase profit: the foundation was improperly built, and the cement in the wall was adulterated with extra sand to cut costs. As the workers predicted, the wall disintegrated in the first big rain in the spring of 1993 (figure 6). Popular outrage increased. One young teenager said that people were "talking about natural disasters" and "if the [Chuanzhu] temple is not rebuilt this year, a flood will wash away the township government buildings, wash them gone." The party's construction of infrastructure and moral rectitude in the early 1950s had helped earn it legitimacy in the first instance; now local leaders had squandered that legacy and a new relationship needed to be forged through the temple.

The opportunity for negotiating a new relationship presented itself in a change of leadership at the township level. As related by one young woman (in a story that had wide circulation), when the new officials went into the temple,

They were going to destroy the Chuanzhu statue that was there, so the one official lit its clothes on fire, but they didn't burn, they just smoked. He was afraid the whole building would burn so he threw water on it. When he did this, three characters appeared on the body of the statue. Nobody knows what the words were, but [the new officials] decided to open the temple officially and they got a new statue to replace the old one...

An older man explained that the new party branch secretary Gao, decided to support the temple because Gao's father and brother were daoshi (Daoist practitioners). He also repeated another widely circulated story that Gao had performed the ketou to Chuanzhu, and that the statue fell on top of him, thanking the new party secretary for his support of the temple. In these representations of the new leadership's change of tactics, the god is a powerful participant, beckoning his secular counterpart with signs of "culture": the appearance of written characters and the enactment of ritual propriety.

The new township officials certainly recognized the seriousness of the temple's challenge, and their response was an effort to control the damage by co-opting the temple's message in three ways: First, they encouraged rather than suppressed the revival in a move to channel the temple into administrative structures (especially state-sponsored Buddhism) under party control. Second, they sought to identify the party with Chuanzhu in order to co-opt the god's power. Finally, they tried to redirect the temple's criticism of the party's political failure toward the positive goal of economic development. As revealed in the following excerpts from a transcription of the meeting between the township branch party secretary, the party-selected leadership group, and local temple activists, all of these efforts at co-optation focused explicitly on roads:

[Leadership group spokesman]: We temple leaders, including Auntie Jiang, Old Li, and others, have invited Huang shifu [Buddhist nun], her disciple and novice, and Jiu shifu from Jinfeng temple here today, through the offices of the Bureau of Culture and the United Front department. We have invited them to manage the temple and to change it from a miao [popular religion temple] to a si [Buddhist temple]. This has been done with the permission and agreement of the government. The money you gave last time-- over 1,000 yuan -- will be handed over to Huang shifu for management of the temple.

Rebuilding this temple and practicing Buddhism will serve the Party. It will teach people to be better, to make fewer mistakes, so it's a good thing. Moreover, we can develop tourism and improve the local financial conditions here. We can build a road from here up to Yunxing temple and Mengding mountain [tourist area five miles east up the mountain]. The city government has encouraged us to buy some tourist buses for this purpose. The Transportation department has already agreed to give 20,000 yuan to build this road, but a total of 60,000 yuan will be needed; the remaining 40,000 the local government must figure out a way to get.

Today we meet here to speed up the construction of this temple, and especially to promote the name of Chuanzhu miao [sic], to publicize it. Uh... Party Secretary Gao will come by any time now. He is very busy, he has to inspect some work being done on the irrigation canal-- but he will come. There is a place down below where the water isn't flowing out... but he will be here any time now ...

[Two minutes later, branch party secretary Gao arrives and addresses the meeting:] Our Longxi township has many temples like this one. Temples as big and active as this one can be found in three places; why choose this place and not the others? One reason is that the conditions for tourism here are better, so we chose this place. Furthermore, the city Party committee, city government and Bureau of culture all support us and ask us to speed up the pace of construction [Warns against practicing feudal superstition]

I am preparing to begin work on the road that will go all the way from Longxi to Yunxing temple and Mengding mountain. That way no one will have to climb the mountain and tourism will be very convenient. Not only will there be no need to climb the mountain, but the buses will have to park somewhere, and you can get a parking fee. Not only that, but there will also be opportunities to start service businesses like restaurants, teahouses and exhibitions. All of this will bring economic advantage to you. So, Huang shifu and her nuns can carry out their Buddhist activities, and we can develop the economy-- there is no contradiction in that! So, the Bureau of Culture and other related bodies encourage us to speed up construction. There is just one problem: no money.

Today I'm very busy. Everyone is flooding their paddies and there is not enough water to get through to everyone, so I'm going to direct the situation. [...Again warns against feudal superstition, and encourages villagers to raise money, then leaves].

Party Secretary Gao led the effort to co-opt the temple; systematically redefining its meaning through a series of inversions. By his redefinition, the temple was not revitalized by local villagers, but chosen by the government as a tourist development site. Similarly, the temple ( miao ) was not a spontaneous expression of local popular religion-that would be "feudal superstition"-but rather a si firmly under the control of the state-sponsored Buddhist bureaucracy. These inversions were conditions of the government's support of the temple, support justified by road building.

The road, as proposed by Gao, would not only benefit the villagers economically, it would also literally and symbolically integrate them with both the Buddhist establishment and the national policy objective of market-driven development. By going beyond repair of the existing road and actually proposing to build a new road, Gao essentially saw the temple's bluff and raised the stakes-- an open recognition of the powerful symbolic connection between road building and political legitimacy. In a barely more subtle way, Gao one-upped the temple again in his self-presentation as busy looking after the township irrigation system-surely an intentional co-optation of Chuanzhu's historical and power identities, as if to say, "I am not a pale reflection of the upright official/ builder ideal, but the very embodiment of it!"

Gao invoked traditional symbols the villagers would recognize, even as he imposed from above a modern redefinition on the temple. This inversion strategy extended to the traditional connection between roads and social networks, re-channeling the villagers' efforts from below into fundraising for economic modernization. Gao's lieutenant from the United Front department summed up the strategy after Gao's departure: "Now we're all very clear; we will certainly follow the policy on religion in doing things. We will open up ( kaifang ) and do things correctly. All that Chuanzhu miao- [er], Chuanzhu si needs to do is open up, make more friends: 'Another friend, another road' ( duo yige pengyou, duo yitiao lu )."

The Party was very clear on what doing things "incorrectly" meant-disobeying orthodoxy by practicing feudal superstition. "Doing things correctly," on the other hand, meant conforming to the Party's national reform agenda of "opening up" ( kaifang )-the very thing roads are supposed to do to the peasants' closed environment and backward thinking. The civilizing discourse used here by Party secretary Gao and the representative of the United Front department is based on an axiomatic conception of an "isolated, poor and backward" rural landscape breeding a feudal ( fengjian ) consciousness into its rural inhabitants.

The original reference of fengjian was to practices of enfeoffment imputed to the golden age of the Zhou dynasty, and the term has a long history, coeval with imperial rule itself, in debates over the relative merits of "political feudalism" versus centralized bureaucratic ( junxian ) governance (Min 1989, 89-91). As Min Tu-ki points out, the questions of the locus of sovereignty and the "fundamental justness of government" raised in these debates framed the thinking of late imperial reformers advocating more local autonomy, thus fengjian served as the discursive precedent for local self-government in the institutional reform movement of 1898, culminating in the late-Qing establishment of provincial assemblies (Min 1989, chapter 4). Philip Kuhn argues that fengjian discourse inspired early Nationalist theories of local self-government aimed at mobilizing local initiative to national purpose, but the perception that local autonomy was hijacked by "local bullies and evil gentry" led to the reassertion of central administrative control practices in the republican period (Kuhn 1970, 296-8).

Just when fengjian local autonomy was abandoned in practice, it was repudiated in theory. Myron Cohen (1993, 155) shows how Marxist-influenced iconoclast intellectuals of the 1920s recast fengjian as a "modern word" used to express the reflexive criticism of now problematic "tradition," and to invent a modern Chinese identity in negative reference to backward peasants. In this modern sense of "feudal," which reached its high tide in the campaigns of the socialist period, fengjian signifies temporal backwardness, but the term also carries spatial meaning as a revaluated compound of feng (envelope, closed, sealed off) and jian (to build, construct). In Chinese modernist discourse "feudal" still serves as a spatial metaphor for socio-political stagnation and cultural closedness-a reference not only to traditional walled family compounds nestled in sealed-off villages and city quarters, but to the walls closing off people's minds, as well. In contemporary civilizing discourse, the specific vehicle for persistent cultural closedness is "peasant consciousness" ( nongmin yishi ), attributed to the living environment of villagers, which breeds ignorance and a psychology of isolation (Flower, 2002; Kelliher, 1994). The conflation of spatial and cultural closedness in the discourse of peasant consciousness has become a commonplace notion, widely shared by state agents and intellectuals. We might think of road building as a physical extension of this modernizing logic; thus roads fit into the spatial metaphor of fengjian as the mechanism that "opens" rural isolation, bringing enlightenment to the closed peasant mind.

But what were roads 'supposed to do' in the villagers' thinking? And how did the temple's revival and subsequent co-optation serve their own road building interests? In one sense the villagers had clearly won: the temple could continue; it had effectively communicated their message that the local government must fulfill its neglected obligations, and as proof they had extracted a promise of new road building. As long as the roads were properly looked after, the villagers had no objection to the planned tourist development (although they expressed skepticism about how much it would actually benefit them). They were also quite happy to share their space with the Buddhists-- but not to totally relinquish it. Thus the co-optation was mutual, but only to a point. What the villagers refused to abandon was the temple's identity as a miao rather than a si . They rejected not the Buddhists, but Buddhist control; not the government, but the government's imposed definition of the temple as "feudal."

One dimension of their refusal to change the temple's identity lies in the spatial metaphor that connects temples and roads; that is, in the most fundamental sense, the temple's meaning is its placing, its fengshui . Older local residents describe the fengshui of the temple as a long tou (dragon head), the end of a rocky mountain spine running east to west perpendicular to the river and perched just above it. It is a liminal place, where potentially competing natural forces need to be harmonized, and a logical location for Chuanzhu to exercise his taming powers over the dragon, and his protective (engineering) powers over the road and bridge. The decision to move the temple to its present location in 1895 underscores the importance of its placement. Even through the collective period's campaigns against feudal superstition, villagers surreptitiously burned incense and placed offerings at the temple's site, in spite of the danger. The villagers could no more give up the temple's miao identity, than they could agree to physically moving it from its fengshui ; in either case, the meaning would be lost.

The villagers used a common rather than specialist understanding of fengshui . The practitioner of fengshui (as geomancy) uses esoteric texts, instruments, and expertise to read and manipulate elemental energy flows encoded in the landscape. Smith points out that since geomantic analysis requires consideration of a complex array of cosmological, topographic, and manmade features, its complexity has left ample room for interpretation (Smith 1991, 148). In its popular understanding, fengshui is reinterpreted from a systematized impersonal theory of the specialist, to a pragmatic, personified set of beliefs (Weller 1987, 151-2). Anthropologists have looked at the way fengshui is used to veil opposition and resistance to the state and to competing lineages when political energies are mobilized (R.Watson 1988), and at the way fengshui serves as a spatial metaphor for social relations imbued with moral and political significance (Leonard, 1994). We might, then, define this popular understanding of fengshui as the construction of space based on a moral ideal of harmonious landscape, wherein natural forces and human activity accord.

Fengshui expresses an understanding of how the physical environment embodies social relationships as they have developed through time. Positive and negative intentions are expressed through the language of fengshui , and each location has a particular history that is relevant to those who come to have a relationship with it in the present. Graves , houses, trees, roads, and temples reflect the moral and amoral dimensions of social relationships: a filial son finds a good grave site for his father, the preservation of a tree represents a village's shared hopes for a good fate, a vindictive person sabotages a rival with a wall blocking his rival's father's grave. Thus Stephan Feuchtwang (1997, 52-3) highlights how fengshui can create a sense of shared destiny that helps to define a community of common interest, even as it makes room for competing interests within that destiny.

In the fengshui idiom, Roads are like rivers, liminal places where movements of energy are strong. Roads are in the abstract neutral conduits, carrying both beneficial and malevolent flows. The straighter the road, however, the more conducive it is to bad energy flows. Properly constructed roads conform to the landscape and maximize the beneficial flow in and out of the physical village; bad roads that violate the landscape cause outflows of wealth and allow malicious forces in. In fengshui logic situations along smaller veins tapping the energy of main arteries is best; too near main arteries is dangerous and unlucky (Feuchtwang 1974, 131-2). Villagers see roads as potentially beneficial, but they also perceive roads as sources of social instability and as fields of violence. The flight of young people away from their home villages is directly related to the attractions of the road, often with tragic results, as retold in stories of young men killed in distant construction accidents or young women lured by golden work or marriage opportunities to other provinces only to be sold into prostitution. Dying on the road, far from home, one risked not having a proper burial; dog-eaten corpses on the roads are horrors remembered from particularly the famine and pre-liberation days. As flowing, unstable ground, roads are barometers of danger; thus when people in the countryside reach for a symbol of violence in society as a whole, they bring up robbery and hijacking on the long distance buses. Roads were also frequently invoked as examples of endemic corruption, from the kickbacks to officials awarding contracts, to contractors charging full price for shoddy work. These negative social images of roads as corrupt, dangerous places cannot be separated from their political significance as channels of state power. As if to underscore this connection, the public security bureau sometimes blocked off a narrow section of the North Road to serve as an execution ground for criminals, just as they had used it to execute the paoge leaders in the 1950s.

Temples ritually harmonize such dangerous flows and potentials of the road. In the rituals performed on the biannual festival days of the god Chuanzhu, the road literally and symbolically plays a central role. The festivities begin on the road itself, with a statue of the god carried from his dry-season residence to the temple, followed by a procession of pilgrims from outlying localities carrying banners inscribed with their village names and bearing gifts for the god. In the courtyard, the god and his supplicants cross over a symbolic bridge before entering the temple. In the procession, the road is a stage for acting out social networks connected at the temple hub. The god's procession re-consecrates the temple as protective space, and re-members the community, as such it is a ritual act to restore a moral/spatial ideal of order.

From the perspective of state modernizers, fengshui is an example of feudal peasant consciousness, a cognitive roadblock to enlightenment and progress. Yet the fengshui perspective makes common sense, since roads connect isolated communities with wider social networks, but the consequences of that integration are variable. In the fengshui spatial metaphor of the villagers that was being reasserted in the temple's revival, roads, like the temples serving them, are supposed to ensure a harmonious connection of social networks, and a new relationship with the state that protects local interests. The temple's latent fengshui- its memories and meanings layered in the landscape-was revived when the Party imposed the fengjian spatial metaphor on the temple, even as the modernizing logic of the Party failed to live up to its promise.

In the eyes of villagers, the collapse of the road was not simply an isolated mistake; it symbolized the state's lack of investment in poor mountainous areas, part of the broader unequal pattern of development on the national level. The temple's revival was an attempt to restore the road, and the harmony that the state had ruined through neglect. Restoring harmony meant reintegrating local society with the nation-state, but only on terms that would respect the villagers' interests and local identity.

The temple revival was a collective and conscious act of remembering. Participants were turning to the past in an effort to rework the relationship between the local people and the state in a time of flux. The past they were remembering was itself a picture in motion, a dynamic evolution of the road as a metaphor and embodiment of power. The remembering in the temple revival was a creative act; memory filtered the past to serve present interests (Jing 1996, 128, 175). Turning to memory meant that the seamless web of meanings once implicit in the fengshui metaphor had to be made explicit , and thereby transformed. The traditional role of the state in building roads, for example, was in reality quite minimal under the Qing dynasty, but the implicit connection between the state and the road was maintained symbolically, through the bureaucratic metaphor of temples and the broader shared spatial metaphor of fengshui . The temple's revival of that tradition changed it, making the state responsibility for roads explicit-a change in perception brought about by the state's own modernization discourse. When villager's reflect on what was good about the collective period, they remember that the socialist state was an upright bureaucracy focused on the needs of the common people and responsible for infrastructure development-most significantly improved roads and irrigation works. The state's imposition of the fengjian metaphor attempted to erase from the landscape the traditional referents of fengshui , and the high tide of socialist modernism in the Great Leap Forward left bitter memories of violence and loss. But that transformation of the socialist civilizing campaign has left the state as the sole inheritor of villagers' expectations and demands. Thus in the Chuanzhu temple revival the party found itself subverted by its own co-optation of the temple's meaning.


The Civilized Road


In the end, the road was repaired and paved with concrete. The 1992 revival of the Chuanzhu temple had succeeded in attracting the attention of government authorities, but the results of that attention were mixed. The temple's popularity peaked in 1995, before the North Road was improved, when thousands of people came to take part in the renewed tradition of Sichuan opera performances as part of the temple festivities. Party Secretary Gao was recalled-reportedly for supporting feudal superstition-and in 1996 less sympathetic local authorities cracked down on the temple, withdrawing government support, intimidating local temple activists, and restricting temple activities. Their justification was that the temple festival "blocked the road." Today the township government operates a two-story concrete tollhouse, directly across from the temple, controlling access to the North Road in the very place where the paoge once lay in ambush.

No matter the stance toward the temple itself, and despite harsh criticism of the township government, there was broad consensus that branch party secretary Gao had handled the situation well. Even as local people used the term guojia in the undifferentiated sense of "the state," they also drew distinctions between different levels of government and particular state agents. In local estimation, Gao was responsive to local concerns, respected the people. He knew how to "talk sense" ( jiang daoli ), a term connoting the particularist reason of traditional dispute mediation in tea-house courts and community shrines, and a public role of the old scholar gentry elite and wise men of the community (Mao 1990, 126-7; Flower 1997, 437-9). Perhaps Gao's subsequent reassignment was related to the particularist ethic of these horizontal ties with the community that threatened his loyalty to the party (Yang 1994, 205). Whether or not this was in fact the case, most local people saw it that way, and his removal from office only heightened the contrast with other unresponsive or corrupt officials.

Gao's case is particularly significant in that his respect for the people was perceived as ritually enacted through the temple, and absorbed into it as a new layer of meaning. Gao's name is now inscribed on the new stone tablet in front of the Chuanzhu temple, and his example thus joins in the collective ideal of the responsive "upright official." It is appropriate that Gao be memorialized in the same place as the god he sought to co-opt, given the folklore surrounding Li Bing's sinification of the indigenous population of Shu (ancient western Sichuan ) during the construction of the Dujiangyan water control project on the Min river. As Steven Sage relates, "Animist Shu religion had regarded the Min as a deity. [Li Bing] co-opted this indigenous belief and made it a Qin state cult by building a temple to the god." (Sage 1992, 150).

Local approval of the improved road was expressed in one of the most recent revivals of North Road fengshui, a "Goddess of Mercy cliff-road protection shrine" with old stone inscriptions of local donors dating from the Ming dynasty. A new stone tablet explains that the shrine was rebuilt at the request of Guanyin and Chuanzhu, who appeared to a local villager in a dream. He was traveling in Kangding (a terminus for the traditional Ya'an trade with Tibetan areas) at the time of the dream, and raised funds for the shrines to thank the gods for their protection. The shrine was newly timbered and perched on the original roadbed fifty feet above the present road, north of Xiakou and across from a new tourist area.

The tourist development was a joint venture between the city and township governments and a private company headquartered in Chongqing -but it was not the development originally proposed by Party Secretary Gao. The tourist attraction was scenic rather than cultural, a waterfall strewn gorge the locals used to call Orchid Gulch, but that had been renamed by the city government (in an ironic twist) "Bifeng Gorge" after the Buddhist temple (Bifeng si ) at the top of its mountain. All revenue went to the company and state; few villagers benefited from the development. On the contrary, those living within the park's boundaries were relocated, and villagers in the surrounding area who had previously used the area's resources were now charged admission (which they could not afford) and fined for grazing animals or cutting wood in the park.

The intended and real beneficiaries of the North Road 's improvement are tourists, not locals. The result is a spectacle of displacement: just as the tourist area contributed little to local development, but rather renamed and removed the villagers' landscape from their control, the road actually contributed to the dis-integration and alienation of countryside from city, as villagers watched luxury cars speed by, speculating on the income of the vehicle's occupants, and whether they would rent the park's 8,000 yuan per night villa, or hunt exotic animals in the park's game reserve. The "peasants" glimpsed from whizzing cars are homogenized; their statistical identity displayed on a roadside blackboard, posting the requisite steady increase of agricultural production and family incomes. Oldtimers say the blackboard's formulaic gains recall the exaggerated crop yield of the Great Leap Forward. The tourists rarely if ever bother to look at it.

The tourist attraction brings into sharp focus the way civilizing discourse is creating new borders in the rural landscape. The conception of "pristine nature" underlying the park's development displaces local culture. With its exotic wild animals and tropical architecture, safely sanitized of inconvenient inhabitants, the park is a construction of nature qua anti-civilization. The bald exploitation of the park's corporate/bureaucratic alliance is not lost on locals who see a redefinition of their place from which they are written-out. The tourist area is inextricably dependent on its own road network of gaosu gonglu "high-speed public roads" or highways. Construction is well underway on the extension of the Chengdu-Ya'an expressway continuing on to the city of Panzhihua , crossing the North Road on its way (See figure 7). Even if the highway connects directly to the North Road , locals say, it will bring no benefit to them.

The new road branching off the North Road that Party Secretary Gao had promised at the temple meeting in 1992 was not built in the end, much to the disappointment of villagers on the old tractor path that was to have been improved. This road would have connected the Chuanzhu temple with the Yongxing Buddhist temple at the top of the mountain. In 1995, local residents took their cue from the Chuanzhu temple, and revitalized their own Buddhist temple sited at the mid-point of the proposed route. The temple leaders were quite explicit about their intentions-they still wanted a road, and they used the temple festivals to raise funds for road construction. Under the stewardship of a local woman healer, the temple turned over three thousand yuan per year to a fund managed by the township and earmarked for road construction. Hopes raised by this steady progress were shattered in 1999, when a man was accidentally electrocuted in the temple. T he temple leadership disputed with the township over who should pay compensation to the family of the dead man-the temple, the installer of the electric line, or the township government. Local people said that although the temple was very close to finishing the formalities to obtain an official permit, when the center's policy to crack down on the Falun Gong was passed down, the township leaders used the policy as a pretext to blow up the temple. "There was no Falun Gong here. They blew the temple up and left this village without hope."

In the summer of 2000 a local man discussed recent developments on the unimproved tractor path that passed the blown up temple. He explained that most family incomes had fallen by one-third; the prices for crops and tea were down, and wages for outside labor were not reliably paid. They had stopped raising dairy goats, and the bamboo recently planted in their village was too hard to get out because of the poor condition of the road. They still had to pay taxes to the township, and school tuition was their biggest financial burden. He said that the current officials never came to their village, and he compared them unfavorably to Gao and to the township head who had first cleared the road in the late 1980s. In competition with other areas they always lost, he said, citing the planned annexation of the Yongxing temple (the original tourist destination at the top of the mountain) by a neighboring county. In other townships road construction provided some temporary employment, but plans for their road had stopped when the temple was closed down, "Now there is no temple, and there is no hope."

The farmer who reflects on his hopeless position in this way is keenly aware of his own backwardness, and of the reasons for it. The yoke he bears is not the inheritance of timeless tradition, but a creation of power and history. His landscape holds ready-to-hand the memories of successive civilizing projects, of wenhua , promised modernity, bypassed development. The temple gave him hope not because it was "traditional" but precisely because it was a place where the subject of civilizing discourse could be engaged, instead of written out of the narrative.




In his study of the T'ien Hou cult in South China , James L. Watson brings to light the deeper dynamics of co-optation, flexible interpretation, and mutual accommodation underlying civilizing processes in state sponsored popular religion during the imperial period. He concludes that "the ambiguity of fundamental symbols was.an important element in the creation of a unified cultural tradition in China " (J. Watson 1985, 324). The parallels with the Chuanzhu temple revival are striking, and suggest in turn the importance of temples as open fields of communication, and as potential sources of civilization in themselves. Modernization through road construction can be viewed as an emerging, but ambiguous, symbol of civilization. As the temple revitalization and recent construction on and along the North Road reveals, local people feel that the state is fundamentally alienated from their interests. Once reminders of unity and moral order, roads and temples are now places of conflict where state civilizing discourse-expressed in the fengjian metaphor-and local interests and identity-expressed in the conceptual vocabulary of fengshui- collide.

The cultural collision precipitated by the North Road is one particular placing of the wider encounter between what Prasenjit Duara, in the introduction to this issue, calls "the enlightenment and the popular syncretic" discourses of civilization. As the other articles in this issue demonstrate, the contours of this encounter have never been clear-cut; closer scrutiny reveals a fuzzy border of interpenetration and negotiation between these competing civilizing discourses. Felicity Lufkin 's analysis of the discovery and sanitized exhibition of "the folk" by Chinese intellectuals in the republican period shows the ambiguity at the heart of the historical emergence of Chinese modernity, torn between the universal signifier of enlightenment Civilization and the particular expression of national identity. As this civilizing urge was taken up in the socialist period, the state imposed a Marxist definition of modern civilization through negative reference to feudal and backward internal Others-not only minority nationalities, but peasants and, as Sara Friedman's study in this issue illustrates, the gendered body itself.

The feudal backward identity became self-referential for the objects of socialist civilizing discourse, but once internalized, the ambiguities and inherent tensions within that discourse offered points of leverage for self-assertion. Thus Friedman argues that the contradictory representations of the Hui'an woman bring to light both the lived effects and shadowy limits of the state's civilizing project, just as Kwong-ok Kim's close-up view of the civilized village campaign reveals the ambiguity (and irony!) in abstract discourse put into concrete practice: the state's discourse of "spiritual civilization" opens the space for its own contestation. Mayfair Yang's article frames the contest between enlightenment and popular discourses of civilization in terms of "spatial struggles" that likewise highlight the subversion of state civilizing projects and the stubborn persistence of local, alternative understandings of civilization. The parallels between the "revenge of the gods" in Wenzhou , and the revitalization of the Chuanzhu temple are evidence of a common process of local cooptation of state civilizing discourse across two very different Chinese contexts.

The present article joins this common theme of exploring the encounter between alternative discourses of civilization, as well as the common approach of disclosing both the messy ambiguity inherent in civilizing projects and the creative agency of the people subjected to those projects. Looking at road-temple connections as constitutive of the changing balance between local knowledge and state power has meant exploring the complex ways in which local people understand themselves in place. I have argued that the road-temple network on the North Road is a place that holds an accretion of memories-positive ideals of order and the promise of national construction, negative experiences of uncultured violence and neglect-memories that inform local understandings of civilization. In the past, social institutions such as the Chuanzhu temple were once implicitly structured and deeply embedded in the community. In the temple's revival, its meaning has been reformulated around increasingly explicit issues including economic development, competing definitions of culture, a yearning for morality, and finding an appropriate accommodation with the state. The question of belief, in this context, has emerged as a prominent subject of conscious reflection and local discussion. Belief dwells in place. Participation in the temple, like the practices of fengshui more generally, gains its meaning for actors from the field of particularized knowledge and historical memory archived in place. This particularism can be seen as a counterpoint to not only the civilizing discourse of the Chinese state, but also to the depersonalizing processes of globalization and commodification brought to bear in the unquestioned assumption of development.

Nevertheless, to see participation in the temple as "traditional resistance" frames it according to outside concerns that are antithetical to its logic. As Arturo Escobar (1995, 163) has noted, integrated rural development differentiates tradition and modernity, making them distinct isolates by creating a strata that encompasses both, and studies of resistance typically only hint at the cultures from which resistance springs. Looking at place, and the enactment of self-understanding in place, I have aimed to reveal the hybridity of tradition and modernity in the historical memories from which people creatively draw in expressing their desires for an accommodation with the state, and their aspirations for an improved life condition.

This hybrid self-understanding, the seamless mixing where older meanings can persist in new contexts, speaks to development discourse beyond the state-local framework. As Akhil Gupta points out, even counter-hegemonic assertions of "sustainable," "local," or "indigenous" development fall within the dominant discursive field, as nostalgia for a lost stage "mimicked" in the developmental process of the underdeveloped other: " Within development discourse itself, therefore, lies its shadowy double: not the return of the repressed, not a distorted image of itself, but a virtual presence, inappropriate objects that serve to open up the 'developed world' itself as an inappropriate object, that ensure the strategic failure of development not only by the ambivalence of mimicry but by the lack of closure of the self-narrative of progress as well" (Gupta 1998, 42).

Roads bring to light this virtual presence, as do other modernization projects in China 's saturated landscape. The construction of dams and hydraulic infrastructure projects present the same dynamics of power and memory, in places where local interests are submerged in the name of development. Large dams are frequently prioritized over local irrigation canals, just as expressways are valued more than arterial roads. The question of whether these development objects are "appropriate" calls us to question our own prioritization of development itself, raised in senses of our own places.

The new gaosu gonglu are emblematic of contemporary development priorities: modern toll roads connecting urban centers, elevated, and sealed off by fences to keep local traffic out. They create a vertical border, as both physical structure and avatar of a higher, modern stage of civilization "passing over" the countryside. Yet the new highways must stand on the landscape they stand over, a landscape in which memory and evolving meaning are deeply layered. For the people of the North Road , the connection they maintain between roads and temples is a call to be engaged instead of silenced in the discourses of civilization, and an assertion of moral ideals placed and remembered through the landscape.

Jing (1996 , 51-2, 69-83) relates a similar account of the fate of temples during the revolutionary period.

Prazniak (1999, 264) also argues that Maoism was originally conceived as a kind of development that sought to create self-reliant rural communities, but that it gave into to an alternative vision when it succumbed to creating a nation state in competition with western industrial nations.

Feuchtwang and Wang (1991, 258-9) explore the tension between tourism and feudal superstition.

Recent ethnographies of Chinese minority nationalities (Litzinger, 2000; Mueggler, 2001) have highlighted the importance of local historical memory as a counter-narrative to state discourses defining ethnicity. I argue here that memory plays the same role of counter-narrative among Han Chinese "peasants" in terms of state civilizing discourse. Also like these studies, my aim is to bring out not simply the construction of identity by the state, but its dialectical interaction with local agency, as well. Here Mueggler's focus on "another side of this dialectic, in which older local self-representations engage or absorb state discourses about ethnicity to create new possibilities for struggle and self-definition" (2001, 126) equally applies to discourses of civilization.

It is important to note that the evaluation of local officials was not dependent on the popularity of the policies they enforced. One particularly popular local official was nicknamed "Zhang the Finer" (Zhang Fakuan), remembered for his willingness to ride his bicycle up into the hill villages in pursuit of wrongdoers. Villagers resented the fines, but admired his impartiality and his efforts to understand local people, to know their names. Both Zhang and Gao exemplified the moral value of reciprocity, and they received the same measure of respect that they gave. Everyone heard the reports that Gao had performed the ketou to Chuanzhu's statue, and that the statue had nearly toppled over, interpreted as a reciprocal ketou from the god (Flower and Leonard 1997, 279, 285).


Here I follow the lead of anthropologists (Basso and Feld 1996) who apply the insights of phenomenology to the understanding of how people encounter the world, and themselves, in place. I am drawn to landscape and place because it emphasizes historical and ethnographic particularity. My use of place is similar to Mayfair Yang's analysis of space in this issue (especially her discussion of "representational space"). The common dynamics across two very different Chinese landscapes is significant.

Dean , (1993, 61-69, 84) analyzes fen xiang networks and regional identity in Fujian .

For a thorough discussion of ling , see Feuchtwang (1992, 81-5). Weller (1987, 54-56) examines the role of huishou .

As Roxanne Prazniak shows in her study of rural resistance to Qing "New Policy" reforms, divisions of social standing within the Gelaohui [ paoge ] in southern Sichuan tended to work against coordinated efforts with the anti-Qing Tongmenghui (Revolutionary Alliance) until the common cause of the "Protect the Railway" movement of 1911 (Prazniak 1999, 138-141).

In analyzing tax rates during the same period as this road construction throughout Sichuan , Gunde finds staggering tax increases benefiting the "new landlords" emerging out of warlord-bureaucrat collusion (Gunde 1976, 30). Jerome Ch'en's economic analysis of the Central China highlands, including Eastern Sichuan , also asserts the emergence of new "local ruffians" allied with warlords and rising to power in the murky unrest of increasing militarism following the fall of the Qing. These arrivistes supplanted traditional elites, becoming large landholders through expropriating public resources and buying out impoverished farmers (Ch'en 1992, 18-19). The new elites were also colluding agents of warlord taxation, which in the 1920s and 1930s reached staggering levels in order to cover ever-rising military expenditures (Ch'en 1992, 111-13, 125).

Ch'en (1992, 111-3, 125) describes the importance of opium in eastern Sichuan during the same period.

Jing (1996 , 51-2, 69-83) relates a similar account of the fate of temples during the revolutionary period.

Prazniak (1999, 264) also argues that Maoism was originally conceived as a kind of development that sought to create self-reliant rural communities, but that it gave into to an alternative vision when it succumbed to creating a nation state in competition with western industrial nations.

Feuchtwang and Wang (1991, 258-9) explore the tension between tourism and feudal superstition.

Recent ethnographies of Chinese minority nationalities (Litzinger, 2000; Mueggler, 2001) have highlighted the importance of local historical memory as a counter-narrative to state discourses defining ethnicity. I argue here that memory plays the same role of counter-narrative among Han Chinese "peasants" in terms of state civilizing discourse. Also like these studies, my aim is to bring out not simply the construction of identity by the state, but its dialectical interaction with local agency, as well. Here Mueggler's focus on "another side of this dialectic, in which older local self-representations engage or absorb state discourses about ethnicity to create new possibilities for struggle and self-definition" (2001, 126) equally applies to discourses of civilization.

It is important to note that the evaluation of local officials was not dependent on the popularity of the policies they enforced. One particularly popular local official was nicknamed "Zhang the Finer" (Zhang Fakuan), remembered for his willingness to ride his bicycle up into the hill villages in pursuit of wrongdoers. Villagers resented the fines, but admired his impartiality and his efforts to understand local people, to know their names. Both Zhang and Gao exemplified the moral value of reciprocity, and they received the same measure of respect that they gave. Everyone heard the reports that Gao had performed the ketou to Chuanzhu's statue, and that the statue had nearly toppled over, interpreted as a reciprocal ketou from the god (Flower and Leonard 1997, 279, 285).


About This Essay

The Road to Xiakou

This essay serves as a narrative point of entry into the Landscape and Power in a Chinese Village project. It provides a historical overview of the construction of the 30 kilometer-long North Road that connects the village of Xiakou with its broader region of social, economic, political, and cultural interaction. The North Road limns the landscape we explore in this project, and brings out the connections among the different analytical perspectives developed in each of the chapters. Links to each of the chapters are woven into this introductory essay, which focuses on the historical construction of the landscape. An earlier version of this essay was published as " A Road is Made: Roads, Temples and Historical Memory in Ya'an County, Sichuan" in the Journal of Asian Studies 63:2 , August 2004.