In this NYT obituary I recall the life of one of the most influential China scholars of recent years, Kristofer “Rik” Schipper, who died earlier this year in Amsterdam, aged 86. 

A native of Holland, Schipper’s experiences in Nazi-occupied Europe helped usher in a fundamental shift in how people think of Chinese religion and society.  

Schipper helped elevate Taoism from a widely disregarded faith to one of the world’s great religious traditions that is regularly included in global discussions of key current issues.

More importantly, his ideas helped explain how much of Chinese society has been organized through its history– by local autonomous groups often centered around temples, rather than the emperor and his vaunted bureaucracy that traditional historians have tended to describe. 

Thanks especially to Tao Jin for letting us use his photos from the ceremonies in China, and for help from Ju Xi, Kenneth Dean, Vincent Goossaert, Paul Katz, and Elena Valussi. 

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