In the hills of China’s central Hunan province, an anxious young apprentice officiates over a Daoist ritual known as the Banner Rite to Summon Sire Yin. Before a crowd of masters, relatives, and villagers—and the entire pantheon of gods and deceased masters ritually invited to witness the event—he seeks to summon Celestial Lord Yin Jiao, the ferocious deity who supplies the exorcistic power to protect and heal bodies and spaces from illness and misfortune. If the apprentice cannot bring forth the deity, the rite is considered a failure and the ordination suspended. His entire professional career hangs in the balance before it even begins.
Weaving together ethnography, textual analysis, photography, and film, this lecture invites you into the flourishing yet fraught religious world of ritual masters amid the social and economic pressures of rural life in the post-Mao era. It reveals how these masters' livelihoods, which hinge on their liturgical ability to protect and heal bodies and spaces from demonic affliction, are a function of their personal relationships with fierce and fickle martial deities, and how those ritual claims are rooted in the great Daoist liturgical movements of the Song and Yuan dynasties (960–1368).
This lecture will appeal to specialists of East Asian religions and to religionists and anthropologists interested in ritual.
David J. Mozina studies living Daoist and Buddhist ritual traditions in Hunan province in south China, and the roots of those traditions in the liturgical vibrancy of the Song, Yuan, and early Ming periods (tenth–fifteenth centuries) and in the religious traditions of the late imperial period (sixteenth–nineteenth centuries). He is especially interested in phenomenological and semiotic approaches to ritual; in the relationship between ritual and material culture (i.e., talismans, liturgical implements, religious art); and in different ways of combining historical and ethnographic research.