Shamanism and Spirit Possession in Chinese Modernity: Some Preliminary Reflections on a Gendered Religiosity of the Body

Mayfair Yang (楊美惠)
2015 Review of Religion and Chinese Society  
Recent fieldwork in rural and small-town Wenzhou reveals that shamans, ritual healers, and spirit mediums have reemerged in the post-Mao era, slowing a long decline that may have started with the ascendancy of Neo-Confucianism in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and that was exacerbated by Maoist-era suppressions. Unlike the shamanistic cultures of contemporary Taiwan, Fujian, and Chinese ethnic enclaves in Southeast Asia, and what we know of China in late imperial times, most spirit mediums in
more » ... hou today are women who do not engage in the bloody and violent public ritual performances found in those areas where male shamans predominate. This article reflects upon four possible explanations for the modern animosity toward shamanism and spirit possession by Chinese officialdom and mainstream Chinese society today. It suggests that the fourth possible explanation, one focusing on the bodily performances and gender of shamans, has not been adequately explored in the study of Chinese shamanism. This fourth explanation deserves attention in any future studies of spirit possession in contemporary China, as it does not treat China as an isolated case of shamanism in the world, but places Chinese shamanism in the larger global context of a shared reconfiguration of the human body in global modernity. Keywords shamanism -spirit possession -modernity -gender -the body 52 Yang review of religion and chinese society 2 (2015) 51-86
doi:10.1163/22143955-00201001 fatcat:mmoxa73edvdq7jdtiynirqmqie