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Society and the Supernatural in Song China

Society and the Supernatural in Song China

Edward L. Davis
Copyright Date: 2001
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    Society and the Supernatural in Song China
    Book Description:

    Society and the Supernatural in Song China is at once a meticulous examination of spirit possession and exorcism in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and a social history of the full panoply of China's religious practices and practitioners at the moment when she was poised to dominate the world economy. Although the Song dynasty (960-1276) is often identified with the establishment of Confucian orthodoxy, Edward Davis demonstrates the renewed vitality of the dynasty's Taoist, Buddhist, and local religious traditions. He charts the rise of hundreds of new temple-cults and the lineages of clerical exorcists and vernacular priests; the increasingly competitive interaction among all practitioners of therapeutic ritual; and the wide social range of their patrons and clients.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6436-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book takes its title seriously. Its overwhelming concern is the relation of Chinese society with the supernatural and with the experience of the supernatural as an aspect of social relations. More specifically, it focuses on the experience of the supernatural in its most palpable and dramatic form—the descent of gods, ghosts, or ancestors, and their habitation within a human body. It focuses, in other words, on what we call “spirit-possession” and what Chinese writers of the Song period (960–1276) denoted by the term “pingfu.”¹ I understand this experience both to be occasioned by a crisis in social...

  6. 2 Therapeutic Movements in the Song: Texts
    (pp. 21-44)

    The emergence in the twelfth century of a class of exorcists called “Ritual Masters” (fashi) coincides more or less with the appearance of a large corpus of textual material, preserved in the Daoist canon, that was the patrimony of a plethora of new Daoist lineages active in South and particularly Southeast China during the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. The overwhelming concern of these lineages was therapeutic and exorcistic. Each specialized in a particular method (fa), and their practitioners are addressed in the texts as either “Ritual Master” or “Ritual Officer” (faguan). The most important of these new lineages, or...

  7. 3 New Therapeutic Movements in the Song: Practitioners
    (pp. 45-66)

    The importance of the new therapeutic rites in the social life of the Song upper and lower strata is confirmed by the secular, anecdotal literature of the twelfth century. In Hong Mai’sYijian zhi, those addressed in the canonical text as “Ritual Masters” or “Ritual Officers” emerge as an identifiable class of exorcists distinct, on the one hand, from both the Daoist priest and spirit-medium, yet associated, on the other, with a broader group of lay religious experts and healers. If these exorcists can be said to constitute a class, they do so precisely as a function of these distinctions...

  8. 4 The Cult of the Black Killer
    (pp. 67-86)

    By the Northern Song, the Mandate of Heaven had moved squarely within the fold of Daoist interpretation. It became clear, moreover, that even with the consolidation of the South, this mandate was in serious need of shoring up. After 1005, the emperor Zhenzong (r. 998–1022) woke up to the defeat of his armies, the loss of territory, and the humiliating treaty with the Liao. In 1006, the architect of this treaty, Kou Zhun, was dismissed, and the emperor turned increasingly to Wang Qinruo. Wang would be excoriated by Song historians for allowing the emperor to fiddle away his time...

  9. 5 The Daoist Ritual Master and Child-Mediums
    (pp. 87-114)

    In a recent essay on vernacular and classical traditions of contemporary Daoist ritual, Kristofer Schipper offers a modern perspective on the notion of the Daoist Ritual Master’s mediating function in the Song, just outlined in Chapter 4. Following J.J. M. de Groot’s observations in nineteenth-century Amoy, Schipper states that Ritual Masters (fashi) were, and for that matter still are, recruited from two sources: from among “the junior, non-ordained members ofdaoshifamilies,” and from among the local initiation groups of “gong-beating lads,” or young spirit-mediums.¹ This “double direction of recruitment” obtained in the Song period, though with respect to the...

  10. 6 Tantric Exorcists and Child-Mediums
    (pp. 115-152)

    Our analysis will now move freely across the boundaries that distinguish China’s religious traditions, for at the very same time, in many of the same areas, there were Buddhist monks who were using child-mediums in exorcisms. Buddhism, in fact, had its own, very specialized tradition of the ritualized possession of children, a tradition we consider below. By the Song, however, we have moved so far beyond the rather restricted milieu of the Tang court, where this tradition was first elaborated, that it becomes difficult to know when and where we are justified in speaking of continuity. By the Song, we...

  11. 7 Daoist Priests, Confucian Literati, and Child-Mediums
    (pp. 153-170)

    In the previous pages, I have purposely restricted my analysis to the rural and suburban world of lay Daoist Ritual Masters, Tantric exorcists, and spirit-mediums. To this picture of village and vernacular life we must now apply a more classical and highborn veneer, for just as spirit-mediums becamefashi, so members of the religious and bureaucratic elite did, and these Daoist priests and upper-class laymen also performed exorcisms in which they employed child-mediums. Moreover, they did so in ways that particularly engaged their moral anxieties and moralizing sensibilities. Before we come to these and other concerns that reflect the distinct...

  12. 8 Spirit-Possession and the Grateful Dead: Daoist and Buddhist Mortuary Ritual in the Song
    (pp. 171-199)

    In the Song, Buddhism had a monopoly on death, although Daoist priests increasingly demanded a share in this lucrative market. In the twelfth century, both began to be challenged by the small but articulate group of Neo-Confucians so exhaustively studied by historians. Though methodical and impassioned, these critics were not very convincing. Yu Wenbao (fl. 1250), the Zhejiangese Confucian, tells the following story with a palpable resignation:

    Jiangxi tended toward Neo-Confucianism [lit., “the school of principle”]. When the Vice-Minister Huang Lao of Linchuan died, his son Huang E did not want to use the Buddhist or Daoist priests. His relatives...

  13. 9 The Syncretic Field of Chinese Religion
    (pp. 200-226)

    In my concluding remarks, I would like to talk explicitly about theory. Specifically, I want to discuss the current debate on civil society among historians of modern China and its relevance to historians of pre-twentieth-century China. This debate is relevant to us not because it provides us with a model, but because the collective expertise of historians of religion can and should make an important contribution to the debate. What I hope to show is that this debate is not only about the presence or absence of civil society in the late Qing, and the implications of this for China’s...

    (pp. 227-242)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 243-312)
    (pp. 313-328)
    (pp. 329-350)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 351-355)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 356-356)