Chapter

Introduction

Richard von Glahn

in The Sinister Way

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2004 | ISBN: 9780520234086
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928770 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520234086.003.0001
Introduction

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Chinese religion, past and present, has functioned above all as a means of invoking supernatural powers to gain some measure of control over one's mortal existence. Although historians of Chinese religion have devoted considerable attention to the origin and development of cults centered on individual gods, less attention has been paid to the demonic aspect of the supernatural realm. This book explores the remarkable history of the cult of Wutong within the larger context of China's evolving religious culture. It argues that Chinese religious culture throughout its history has manifested two fundamental orientations: eudaemonistic regimes of propitiation and exorcism that regulated relationships between the human and spirit worlds; and an abiding belief in a moral equilibrium inhering in the cosmos itself (though frequently mediated through the agency of divine powers). Demons and demonic forces were cardinal features of these two basic orientations. The history of the Wutong cult and the development of Wutong into a god of wealth provide a unique perspective on popular conceptions of the nexus between money and social relations.

Keywords: China; religion; Wutong; cults; money; exorcism; supernatural powers; religious culture; moral equilibrium; demons

Chapter.  7696 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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