Chapter

The Song Transformation of Chinese Religious Culture

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/9780520234086.003.0006
The Song Transformation of Chinese Religious Culture

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The rise of the Song dynasty was accompanied by epochal changes in all aspects of Chinese society and culture, changes that reshaped religious life. The vernacular religious universe on the eve of the convulsive transformations of the Song era can be most readily glimpsed through Glen Dudbridge's reconstruction of the folklore anthology Wide World of Marvels composed by Dai Fu. Ghosts, demons, and changelings abound in this world; the farther one ventures from the civilized domain of home and town, the greater the likelihood of chance encounters with them. The cult of the dead that had been central to Chinese religion from earliest times had evolved into elaborate, indeed baroque, forms. The intensification of this baroque cult of death stimulated the growth of salvific cults specifically focused on rescuing the souls of the dead from the torments of the underworld. A new concept of purgatory was propagated not only through texts like the Scripture of the Ten Kings but also through visual imagery. A deep concern with death and atonement gave rise to the practice of establishing “grave chapels.”.

Keywords: Song dynasty; religious life; ghosts; demons; the dead; salvific cults; purgatory; grave chapels; death; atonement

Chapter.  20070 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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