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:

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The shape-changing Wutong, lurid caricature of polymorphous sexuality, seems out of place in the urbane Song world, from which radiated waves of Confucian learning that brought rational reflection and sober faith in human perfection to the farthest reaches of the empire. Or at most the Wutong spirits might appear to be a vestige of an earlier era of benighted custom and rustic ignorance. Yet the Wutong cult was very much a part of its age, giving expression to the lures of wealth, ambition, and desire that epitomized the convulsive changes in social mores taking place during the Song dynasty and afterward. Song religious culture was charged with ostentatious emotion and lurid spectacle that bespoke a profound elaboration of the preoccupation with sin, death, and atonement that had emerged in the Han dynasty. The baroque cult of death fixated on the torments of infernal punishment that gave force and immediacy to the notion of a cosmos predicated on moral equilibrium. Transformations wrought by death had been central to Chinese religion since earliest times.

Keywords: Wutong; Song dynasty; spirits; wealth; religious culture; sin; atonement; death; infernal punishment; moral equilibrium

Chapter.  3557 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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