From Filial Piety to Forgiveness: Managing Ambivalent Feelings in a Beijing House-Church

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This article is based on fieldwork in a Chinese Protestant house-church in Beijing—more specifically, it focuses on a form of group therapy, which took place in the vicinity of the church. It combines two phenomena usually studied separately, namely the popularity of Chinese underground churches and China's so-called “psycho-boom.” Drawing on attachment theory, I focus on the psychic conflicts that draw certain people, in this case a young woman, Lin, to this kind of therapeutic/ritual context. Filial piety, the moral value that children should respect and honor their parents, who have sacrificed so much for them, remains a strong social norm in Chinese society. I argue that forbidden feelings such as anger directed at parents found expression in this Chinese house-church. The ritual and therapeutic context can be understood as a cultural defense mechanism, which celebrates an inversion of dominant societal norms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalEthos (Malden)
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)411-426
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • ambivalence
  • China
  • cultural defence mechanisms
  • filial piety


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