Aymeric Xu



Project title: Religion, Superstition and Politics in Chinese Societies (ca. 1890s-1940s)


2015-2018: PhD in History, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris
Dissertation: Du nationalisme au conservatisme : les associations intellectuelles du cercle « essence
nationale » en Chine (vers 1890-1940)

2013-2015: Master in Social Sciences (History), École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris

Academic Positions:

2021-present: Postdoctoral Researcher at Scuola Superiore Meridionale, Naples

2018-2020: Lecturer in Chinese Studies at École normale supérieure de Lyon


Chinese, classical Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Japanese

This project elaborates on the process of categorization of religion and superstition in five Chinese societies – China proper, British Hong Kong, Portuguese Macao, Taiwan, and Manchukuo under Japanese rule – and reflects upon domestic and global political dynamics, social conditions and intellectual currents that gave rise to religion policies in these areas from approximately the 1890s to the 1940s. While there was no state religion in China, whether or not to establish Confucianism as the official religion and exclude other belief systems, notably Buddhism and Taoism, as superstition, constituted a major political debate from late Qing (1890s-1911) to the Republican period (1912-1949). The 1920s and 1930s also witnessed several anti-superstition campaigns in China. At the same time, Christianity, disseminated by missionaries from the late 19th century, was both an object of popular resentment (during the Boxer Rebellion and other protests) and of elite emulation. Meanwhile, despite different religion policies, Britain, Portugal, and Japan had all bought their own state religions into their colonies and puppet state in the Chinese peripheries, where local religions had flourished for centuries. As a consequence, either a dualism was created between religion and superstition in these Chinese societies, or local belief systems increasingly became the other of what then came to be acknowledged as “orthodox.” This research project will first straighten out the internal forces and global dynamics that informed the Chinese appropriation of the Western opposition between religion and superstition in these areas. From this point onwards, it attempts to analyze and compare how different conceptions of religion and superstition, as well as religion policies in these areas, both informed and were shaped by the political principles and governance of China, Japan, Portugal, and Britain, but also to relate religious movements in the Chinese world to a global context.


  • From Culturalist Nationalism to Conservatism: Origin and Diversification of Conservative Ideas in Republican China. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021.


  • “Criminalization of Abortion in Late Qing and Republican China.” Past & Present (accepted for publication in 2021. DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtab044).
  • “Neither Traitor nor Nationalist: Zheng Xiaoxu’s Intellectual Trajectory.” Global Intellectual History (accepted for publication in 2021, https://doi.org/10.1080/23801883.2021.1883456).
  • “Mapping the Conservatism of the Republican Era: Genesis and Typologies.” Journal of Chinese History 4, 1 (2020): 135-159.
  • “What Made Chinese Conservatism a Cultural Movement – A Case Study of the Southern Society.” Twentieth-Century China 45, 3 (2020): 331-350.


  • “Western Conservative Ideas and Politics in China from the 1910s to the 1930s.” in Matthijs Lok et al. (eds.), Cosmopolitan Conservatisms. Countering Revolution in Transnational Networks, Ideas and Movements (c. 1700‒1930), Leiden: Brill, 2021, pp. 375-396.
  • “L’Appropriation du néo-humanisme en Chine – le groupe de Critical Review et le Mouvement de la nouvelle culture”, in Marie Chaosson et al. (eds.), (Ré)appropriation des savoirs. Acteurs, territoires, processus, enjeux, Paris: Les Presses de l’Inalco, 2021, pp. 277-302.