Wutong: From Demon to Deity

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:
Wutong: From Demon to Deity

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The origins of the Wutong cult, like those of most popular deities, are obscured by time and myth. From the outset, Wutong possessed the diabolical attributes that so strongly colored his later incarnation as a god of wealth. Yet Wutong also figured as a benevolent deity who succored the sick. The shanxiao were particularly identified with the Wuyi mountain ranges dividing the Gan River valley (Jiangxi province) from the southeastern littoral of Zhejiang and Fujian. Hong Mai, who provides the most extensive discussion of contemporary beliefs about the shanxiao, traced Wutong to the shanxiao of this region. The shanxiao of south China, Hong reported, were known by a variety of local names: wulang, muxia sanlang, muke, and dujiao wutong. Hong likened these changeling demons to the fox spirits of the northern regions. Everywhere throughout the mountainous interior of south China people built small shrines dedicated to the muke/shanxiao called congci, or “grove shrines.” The new Daoist sects of the Song period, largely devoted to exorcism and therapeutic liturgies, took an active role in stamping Wutong spirits as malicious shanxiao.

Keywords: Wutong; cults; demons; deities; China; Hong Mai; shanxiao; spirits; grove shrines; exorcism

Chapter.  15314 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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