The Enchantment of Wealth

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:
The Enchantment of Wealth

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Money has an ancient history in China, but perhaps at no time did money have greater symbolic import than in the late Ming dynasty. To many, the proliferation of money unleashed the hordes of Mammon and ruptured the delicate bonds of reciprocity binding a solidary moral economy. The popular imagination also invested money with cultural meaning. Most conspicuous among the symbolic representations of money in late Ming Jiangnan was the “god of wealth.” In Jiangnan, since the eighteenth century the cult of the god of wealth has focused on a group of five deities known as the Gods of the Five Paths to Wealth. These deities are not ancient gods; rather, they are derived, in greatly altered form, from the cult of Wutong. Song and Ming folklore reveals a strong connection between Wutong and wealth.

Keywords: China; money; Ming dynasty; Wutong; wealth; Jiangnan; deities; folklore

Chapter.  14275 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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