God Worship and the Chiao

Robert Hymes

in Way and Byway

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2002 | ISBN: 9780520207585
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520935136 | DOI:
God Worship and the Chiao

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This chapter explores the modern ethnographic literature about a ritual, the Offering (chiao), which on the one hand is Taoist but on the other honors local lay gods, to argue that the tensions between personal and bureaucratic models can help explain modern religious phenomena as well. The Offering tells that local gods at best convey people's appeals to their celestial superiors. During most of the Offering, the Taoist rites are only one show among many for lay participants, who circulate on the grounds, visiting whatever building they choose and making offerings “to any image of any spirit in any shrine.” Arthur Wolf told how his informants explained why, when arranging images, they placed the stove god in a higher-ranking position than the god of the locality, despite his lower bureaucratic rank. Nepotism is not a simple expression of bureaucratic principles but an interaction or tension between two different principles.

Keywords: chiao; Offering; Taoist; gods; bureaucratic models; Arthur Wolf; nepotism

Chapter.  27919 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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