Man Guo and Carsten Hermann-Pillath: Lineage, Food and Ritual in a Chinese Metropolis


Thirty years ago, the eminent sinologist James Watson published a paper in Anthropos on “common pot” dining in the New Territories of Hong Kong, a banquet ritual that differs fundamentally from established social norms in Chinese society. We explore the recent career of the “common pot” in neighbouring Shenzhen, where it has become an important symbol manifesting the strength and public role of local lineages in the rapidly growing mega-city. We present two cases, the Wen lineage and the Huang lineage. In case of the Wen, we show how the practice relates to their role as landholding groups, organized in a “Shareholding Cooperative Companies” that is owned collectively by the lineage. In the Huang case, identity politics looms large in the context of globalization. In large-scale “big common pot festivals” of the global Huang surname association, traditional conceptions of kinship merge with modernist conceptions of national identity.