6. Deities & Spirits: General


Arrault, Alain. "Analytic Essay on the Domestic Statuary of Central Hunan: The Cult to Divinities, Parents, and Masters." Journal of Chinese Religions 36 (2008): 1-53.


Arrault, Alain & Michela Bussotti. "Statuettes religieuses et certificats de consécration en Chine du Sud (XVIIe-XXe siècle)." Arts asiatiques 63 (2008): 36-59.

Berezkin, Rostislav. "The Connection between the Cults of Local Deities and Baojuan (Precious Scrolls) Texts in Changshu County of Jiangsu: with Baojuan Performed in the Gangkou Area of Zhangjiagang City as Examples." Monumenta Serica 61 (2013): 73-111.


Blauth, Birthe, Altchinesische Geschichten über Fuchsdämonen. Kommentierte Übersetzung der Kapitel 447 bis 455 des Taiping guangji. Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 1996.


Bussotti, Michela & Alain Arrault. "Statuaria popolare cinese: le sculture lignee dell'Hunan centrale e la collezione del Museo provinciale." DecArt 9 (2008): 2-13.


Chan, Margaret. “Bodies for the Gods: Image Worship in Chinese Popular Religion.” In: The Spirit of Things: Materiality and Religious Diversity in Southeast Asia, ed. Julius Bautista. Ithaca, N.Y.: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 2012. Pp. 197-215.


Ebner von Eschenbach, Silvia Freiin, "Trees of Life and Trees of Death in China. The Magical Quality of Trees in a Deforested Country." Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 152(2002)2: 371-394.


Emmons, Deirdre. Dieux de la Chine. Le panthéon populaire du Fujian de J.J.M. de Groot. Lyon: Musée d'histoire naturelle/Un, deux, ... quatre Editions, 2003.


Evans, Grant, "Ghosts and the New Governor: The Anthropology of a Hong Kong Rumour." In: Grant Evans & Maria Tam [eds.], Hong Kong: The Anthropology of a Chinese Metropolis. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1997. Pp.266-296.


Dorfman, Diane, "The Spirit of Reform: The Power of Belief in Northern China." Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 4(1996)2: 253-289.


Dudbridge, Glen, "Buddhist Images in Action: Five Stories from the Tang." Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie 10(1998): 377-391.

Abstract: Cette étude prend comme points de repère deux livres récemment publiés - Mantras et mandarins (Paris, 1996), du regretté Michel Strickmann, et Religious Experience and Lay Society in T'ang China (Cambridge, 1995), du présent auteur. Le premier ouvrage présente une vision ésotérique de la culture du rituel bouddhique sous la Chine des Tang; le second une vue exotérique de la culture religieuse dans son ensemble. Le premier puise ses documents dans les textes rituels du canon bouddhique; le second se base sur un recueil d'anecdotes compilé par un fonctionnaire de province du VIIIe siècle. Le présent article examine cinq récits supplémentaires du même recueil Guang yi ji, lesquels ont pour sujet des icônes bouddhiques. Leur analyse fait ressortir un contraste très net par rapport aux procédés liturgiques et à la théologie étudiés par Strickmann. Les icônes bouddhiques y sont représentées comme des outils puissants capable de protéger toute personne assez riche et pieuse pour les avoir fait réaliser. Dans le monde matériel ces images exercent leur pouvoir sur les forces de la nature; dans l'autre monde, elles influent sur les autorités judiciaires. L'argent et les soins investis dans leur fabrication sont remboursés en fidélité personnelle. L'action des image n'attend pas de procédés rituels pour se manifester: elles peuvent être efficaces même inachevées, voire à l'état de simple intention dans l'esprit du commanditaire. La théologie sous-jacente ici reflète le système séculaire des cultes sacrificiels en Chine: les dons offerts avec sincérité parviennent à vaincre la colère du dieu et à assurer sa protection en temps de besoin; affronts et outrages sont vengés dans le sang. Le dernier récit présente la vision surnaturelle d'une statue de bronze articulée, capable d'effectuer des mouvements spontanés de la tête et des extrémités - cas à verser au dossier encore diffus des icônes articulées en Chine. [Source of abstract: article.]


Feuchtwang, Stephan, "The Avenging Ghost: Paradigm of a Shameful Past." In: Lin Mei-rong [ed.], Xinyang, yishi yu shehui: Di san jie guoji Hanxue huiyi lunwenji (renleixue zu) = Belief, Ritual and Society: Papers from the Third International Conference on Sinology (Anthropology Section). Taipei: Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, 2003. Pp.7-36.


Feuchtwang, Stephan, "An Unsafe Distance." In: Charles Stafford [ed.], Living with Separation in China: Anthropological Accounts. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003. Pp.85-112. [Note: On death, ghosts, and the living.]


Gardner, Daniel, "Ghosts and Spirits in the Sung Neo-Confucian World. Chu Hsi on kuei-shen." Journal of the American Oriental Society 115(1995)4: 598-611.


Goossaert, Vincent. Bureaucratie et salut: Devenir un dieu en Chine. Genève: Labor et Fides, 2017.

Abstract: La « divinisation de soi » constitue en Chine une option originale dans l’éventail des possibles destins posthumes de l’individu. Dans ce livre, Vincent Goossaert réévalue le modèle d’un au-delà chinois peuplé d’ancêtres, et remet en lumière une alternative tout aussi crédible, si ce n’est plus enviable : celle pour l’homme de devenir un dieu. Ce faisant, le livre retrace les grandes étapes de l’histoire des conceptions et pratiques religieuses de la divinisation, de l’Antiquité à nos jours. Loin de la vision répandue d’un imaginaire funéraire essentiellement tourné vers le culte des ancêtres, la Chine se présente ici comme un terrain d’expérimentation des destins individuels au-delà de la mort. (Source: publisher's website)


Grootaers, W.A., Li Shih-yü & Wang Fu-shih, The Sanctuaries in a North China City. A Complete Survey of the Cultic Buildings in the City of Hsüan-hua (Chahar). Brussels: Institut Belge des Hautes Études Chinoises, 1995. (Mélanges chinois et bouddhiques, vol.XXVI).


Haar, Barend J. ter, "China's Inner Demons: The Political Impact of the Demonological Paradigm." China Information 9(1996/97)2/3: 54-88.


Hammond, Charles E. "What Yuan Mei Spoke of." Journal of Chinese Religions 36 (2008): 84-117.


Hansen, Valerie, Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China. How Ordinary People Used Contracts, 600-1400. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. See especially Part II: "Contracting with the Gods", pp.149-242.


Hinsch, Bret. "Prehistoric Images of Women from the North China Region: The Origins of Chinese Goddess Worship?" Journal of Chinese Religions 32(2004): 47-82.


Hu, Baozhu. Believing in Ghosts and Spirits: The Concept of Gui in Ancient China. London: Routledge, 2020.

Abstract: The present book by Hu Baozhu explores the subject of ghosts and spirits and attempts to map the religious landscape of ancient China. The main focus of attention is the character gui 鬼, an essential key to the understanding of spiritual beings. The author analyses the character gui in various materials – lexicons and dictionaries, excavated manuscripts and inscriptions, and received classical texts. Gui is examined from the perspective of its linguistic root, literary interpretation, ritual practices, sociopolitical implication, and cosmological thinking. In the gradual process of coming to know the otherworld in terms of ghosts and spirits, Chinese people in ancient times attempted to identify and classify these spiritual entities. In their philosophical thinking, they connected the subject of gui with the movement of the universe. Thus the belief in ghosts and spirits in ancient China appeared to be a moral standard for all, not only providing a room for individual religiosity but also implementing the purpose of family-oriented social order, the legitimization of political operations, and the understanding of the way of Heaven and Earth.


Hymes, Robert, "Personal Relations and Bureaucratic Hierarchy in Chinese Religion: Evidence from the Song Dynasty." In: Shahar, Meir & Robert P. Weller [eds.], Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. Pp.37-69.


Hymes, Robert, Way and Byway: Taoism, Local Religion, and Models of Divinity in Sung and Modern China. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002.

Abstract: Using a combination of newly mined Sung sources and modern ethnography, Robert Hymes addresses questions that have perplexed China scholars in recent years. Were Chinese gods celestial officials, governing the fate and fortunes of their worshippers as China's own bureaucracy governed their worldly lives? Or were they personal beings, patrons or parents or guardians, offering protection in exchange for reverence and sacrifice? To answer these questions Hymes examines the professional exorcist sects and rising Immortals' cults of the Sung dynasty alongside ritual practices in contemporary Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as miracle tales, liturgies, spirit law codes, devotional poetry, and sacred geographies of the eleventh through thirteenth centuries. Drawing upon historical and anthropological evidence, he argues that two contrasting and contending models informed how the Chinese saw and see their gods. These models were used separately or in creative combination to articulate widely varying religious standpoints and competing ideas of both secular and divine power. Whether gods were bureaucrats or personal protectors depended, and still depends, says Hymes, on who worships them, in what setting, and for what purposes. [Source of abstract: publisher's webpage]


Katz, Brian P., Deities and Demons of the Far East. New York: Metro Books, 1995. (Chapter 3 on China)


Katz, Paul R. "Trial by Power: Some Preliminary Observations on the Judicial Roles of Taoist Martial Deities." Journal of Chinese Religions 36 (2008): 54-83.


Kinney, Anne Behnke, "Infancy and the Spirit World in Ancient China." Archaeology 48(1995)5: 49-52.


Knapp, Bettina L., Women in Myth. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997. Note: See chapter 8: "China's Fragmented Goddess Images." (pp.169-200)


Lin, Wei-ping. "Conceptualizing Gods through Statues: A Study of Personification and Localization in Taiwan." Comparative Studies in Society and History 50.2 (2008): 454-477.


Mio, Yuko, "Deified Ghosts: Popular and Authorised Interpretations of Religious Symbols." In: Michio Suenari, J.S. Eades & Christian Daniels [eds.], Perspectives on Chinese Society. Canterbury: Center for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent at Canterbury, 1995. Pp.136-155.


Moskowitz, Marc L. , "The Haunting Fetus: Greed, Healing, and Religious Adaptation in Modern Taiwan." Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica 86(1998): 157-196.


Moskowitz, Marc L., "Fetus-Spirits: New Ghosts in Modern Taiwan." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California-San Diego, 1999.


Moskowitz, Marc L., The Haunting Fetus: Abortion, Sexuality, and the Spirit World in Taiwan. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001.


Overmyer, Daniel L.,"Convergence: Chinese Gods and Christian Saints." Ching Feng 40 (1997) 3/4: 215-232.


Paper, Jordan, The Spirits are Drunk. Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995. (Chapter 8)


Pimpaneau, Jacques, Chine: Mythes et dieux de la religion populaire. Paris: Philippe Picquier, 1999.


Poo, Mu-chou, "The Completion of an Ideal World: The Human Ghost in Early Medieval China." Asia Major, 3rd series, 10 (1997) 1/2: 69-94.


Poo, Mu-chou, "Imperial Order and Local Variation: The Culture of Ghost in Early Imperial China." Acta Orientalia (Budapest) 56(2003)2-4: 295-308.


Poo, Mu-chou, "The Concept of Ghost in Ancient Chinese Religion." In: John Lagerwey [ed.], Religion and Chinese Society. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press / Paris: École française d'Extrême-Orient, 2004. Pp.173-191.


Puett, Michael J., To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, Harvard University Press, 2002.

Abstract: Evidence from Shang oracle bones to memorials submitted to Western Han emperors attests to a long-lasting debate in early China over the proper relationship between humans and gods. One pole of the debate saw the human and divine realms as separate and agonistic and encouraged divination to determine the will of the gods and sacrifices to appease and influence them. The opposite pole saw the two realms as related and claimed that humans could achieve divinity and thus control the cosmos. This wide-ranging book reconstructs this debate and places within their contemporary contexts the rival claims concerning the nature of the cosmos and the spirits, the proper demarcation between the human and the divine realms, and the types of power that humans and spirits can exercise. It is often claimed that the worldview of early China was unproblematically monistic and that hence China had avoided the tensions between gods and humans found in the West. By treating the issues of cosmology, sacrifice, and self-divinization in a historical and comparative framework that attends to the contemporary significance of specific arguments, Michael J. Puett shows that the basic cosmological assumptions of ancient China were the subject of far more debate than is generally thought. [Source: publisher's website]


Sangren, P.Steven, "Myths, Gods, and Family Relations." In: Shahar, Meir & Robert P. Weller [eds.], Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. Pp.150-183.


Shahar, Meir & Robert P. Weller [eds.], Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996.


Shahar, Meir, "Vernacular Fiction and the Transmission of Gods' Cults in Late Imperial China." In: Shahar, Meir & Robert P. Weller [eds.], Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. Pp.184-211.


Sterckx, Roel, The Animal and the Daemon in Early China. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2002.


Stevens, Keith, Chinese Gods: The Unseen World of Spirits and Demons. London: Collins & Brown, 1997.


Stevens, Keith, "Demonic Images on Chinese Altars." Arts of Asia 28(1998)5: 108-121.


Stevens, Keith G., Chinese Mythological Gods. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 2001.


Tsai, Yi-jia. “Taiwanese People’s Cultural-Psychological Images of Gods and Divine Power.” Huaren zongjiao yanjiu/Studies in Chinese Religions 2(2013): 101-133.


Watson, James L. "Living Ghosts: Long-Haired Destitutes in Colonial Hong Kong." In: James L. Watson & Rubie S. Watson, eds. Village Life in Hong Kong: Politics, Gender, and Ritual in the New Territories. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2004. Pp. 453-469.


Weller, Robert P., "Matricidal Magistrates and Gambling Gods. Weak States and Strong Spirits in China." Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 33(1995): 107-124. (Same article in: Shahar, Meir & Robert P. Weller [eds.], Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. Pp.250-268)


Weller, Robert P., "Bandits, Beggars, and Ghosts: The Failure of State Control over Religious Interpretation in Taiwan." In: Morton Klass & Maxine Weisgrau [eds.], Across the Boundaries of Belief: Contemporary Issues in the Anthropology of Religion. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999. Pp.271-290. (Reprinted from American Ethnologist, vol.12, no.1, 1985, pp.46-61)


Werblowsky, R.J. Zwi, "Catalogue of the Pantheon of Fujian Popular Religion." Studies in Central and East Asian Religions 12/13(2001-2002): 95-192.


Yi, Sumei, “The Making of Female Deities in North China, 800—1400.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, 2009.

Abstract: In order to study the multiplicity and controversy in the making of female deities, this dissertation takes both a longer perspective, the six centuries from 800 to 1400 as a whole as opposed to a single dynasty, and a broader perspective, writing about female deities in collections of hagiographies and making offerings to them and praying to them in local temples (traceable largely from temple inscriptions) rather than a single coherent body of texts. It starts with a search for continuities and transformations in representations of female deities and moves to an exploration into temple cults to female deities in North China. The examination of female cult deities includes an analysis of views and practices of various actors (the state, elites, clergy, and ordinary devotees) and influence of gender as well as a case study of the Two Transcendent cult in southeastern Shanxi.