Chinese American Familism and the Theory of Liyi
Chapter 1 introduces two key concepts, familism and liyi, and concludes with methodology and chapter overviews. While nonreligious Chinese Americans are heterogeneous in their worldviews, they are bound together by their familism, a transpacific lived tradition that prioritizes interdependence and right relationships through the meaningful rituals of being family. Moreover Chinese Americans tend to be heterodox and nonsystematic in their beliefs and practices, affirming the existence of spiritual beings and keeping home shrines, in spite of their nonreligious affiliations. American sociological accounts of “religious nones,” however, emphasize categories of belief and belonging that obscure Chinese Americans’ rituals, values, and practices. Thus this chapter discusses appropriating liyi as an indigenous Chinese framework in parallel with the Western category of religion. Liyi is a compound composed of two uniquely Chinese concepts: li (禮), which means “ritual propriety,” and yi (義), which means “righteousness.”
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