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Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1276

Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1276

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1276
    Book Description:

    In her study of medieval Chinese lay practices and beliefs, Valerie Hansen argues that social and economic developments underlay religious changes in the Southern Song. Unfamiliar with the contents of Buddhist and Daoist texts, the common people hired the practitioner or prayed to the god they thought could cure the ill or bring rain. As the economy rapidly developed, the gods, like the people who worshiped them, diversified: their realm of influence expanded as some gods began to deal on the national grain market and others advised their followers on business transactions. In order to trace this evolution, the author draws information from temple inscriptions, literary notes, the administrative law code, and local histories. By contrasting differing rates of religious change in the lowland and highland regions of the lower Yangzi valley, Hansen suggests that the commercial and social developments were far less uniform than previously thought. In 1100, nearly all people in South China worshiped gods who had been local residents prior to their deaths. The increasing mobility of cultivators in the lowland, rice-growing regions resulted in the adoption of gods from other places. Cults in the isolated mountain areas showed considerably less change.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6043-2
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. CHAPTER I Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    The 150 years between the Jurchen invasion of north China in 1127 and the Mongol conquest of south China in 1276 witnessed many changes. The majority of China’s population settled in the south for the first time, a national market came into being, and local elites began to concentrate their activities in their home counties. Accordingly, the Southern Song (1127–1276) is widely viewed as the the final phase of China’s medieval transformation, a process which had begun some six centuries earlier. Although little studied, religious change reflected—sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly—these other developments. Among the most important of...

  7. CHAPTER II Lay Choices
    (pp. 29-47)

    Whenever illness befell individuals or epidemics struck entire towns, whenever drought, locusts, or torrential rain hit agricultural communities, and whenever marauding troops or bandits threatened settlements, Chinese people who had no other means of tackling these problems looked to the gods for protection. An age of great commercial expansion and urbanization, the Song ushered in other new uncertainties; whenever farmers who were unfamiliar with market dynamics lacked accurate price information, they also prayed to the gods to assist them. Asking for help was relatively simple. One could pray directly to a god or hire an itinerant religious specialist to conduct...

  8. CHAPTER III Understanding the Gods
    (pp. 48-78)

    Because the gods were thought to reason exactly like the human beings they had once been, their behavior was explained in highly anthropomorphic terms throughout the Song. One broad principle underlay all interpretations: people and gods were mutually dependent. As men needed protection and miracles, deities needed people to acknowledge and reward them. The gods lived, even vied, for human recognition. Temple inscriptions andThe Record of the Listenerall indicate how highly gods were thought to value paintings and sculptures of, temples to, and central government titles for themselves. Intensely concerned with the state of their own images, temples,...

  9. CHAPTER IV The Granting of Titles
    (pp. 79-104)

    According to the precepts of popular religion as reconstructed in the previous chapter, devotees expressed their reverence for the gods by making new or refurbishing old images and temples. Starting in the late eleventh century, a third form of recognition—the granting of titles by the central government—became more and more common. Of the many ways of recompensing deities for miracles, only title-granting involved officials each and every time. The officials awarding titles worked on the same assumption as did the devotees who built temples and erected statues: the gods needed human recognition in order to continue to perform...

  10. CHAPTER V Popular Deities in Huzhou
    (pp. 105-127)

    Previous chapters have discussed the general principles of interacting with the gods and the process by which the government granted titles to deities. This chapter shifts vantage points to examine deities in just one prefecture, Huzhou in Zhejiang province, on the south bank of Lake Tai and adjacent to Hangzhou (see map 1).¹ As should be obvious by now, the illiterate common people of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries did not themselves produce records, but the temple inscriptions they commissioned provide otherwise unavailable insights into the changes they experienced during the Song. Other prefectures in China may have rivaled Huzhou...

  11. CHAPTER VI The Rise of Regional Cults
    (pp. 128-159)

    The changes delineated in the preceding chapters—the diversification of the gods, the standardization of title-granting, and the alliance between county officials and local elites—were so gradual that contemporary observers rarely remarked on them. Not so the topic of this chapter: the dramatic increase in extralocal cults excited great controversy throughout the Southern Song. Unlike local cults, regional cults were not confined to a single locality but spread across space, so that their temples covered regions and in some cases the nation. At the beginning of the twelfth century, branch temples (xingmiao, xinggong, fenmiao) to a few deities began...

  12. CHAPTER VII Conclusion
    (pp. 160-166)

    “Because lay people sought the help of the gods or religious specialists whenever they faced the unknown or the uncertain, popular religion cannot be separated out from the stuff of medieval life.” So I claimed in the introduction. I then promised that each chapter would touch on people, money, and the government and so provide a new vantage point for viewing the social, economic, and political changes of the Song. The intervening pages have covered a variety of topics in Song popular religion: choices the laity had to make, contemporary understanding of reciprocity with the gods, the government’s granting of...

  13. APPENDIX I: Comparison of The Record of the Listener and a Temple Inscription Recording the Same Miracle
    (pp. 167-170)
  14. APPENDIX II: Selected Translations from The Record of the Listener
    (pp. 171-175)
  15. APPENDIX III: Tables
    (pp. 176-200)
    (pp. 201-216)
    (pp. 217-242)
    (pp. 243-246)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 247-256)