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Reinventing Chinese TraditionThe Cultural Politics of Late Socialism$
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Ka-ming Wu

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039881

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039881.001.0001

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Spirit Cults in Yan’an

Spirit Cults in Yan’an

Surrogate Rural Subjectivity in the Urbanizing Rural

(p.122) Chapter 5 Spirit Cults in Yan’an
Reinventing Chinese Tradition

Ka-ming Wu

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the public secrecy and popularity of spirit cults in Yan'an in the context of the urbanization of the rural area. It first provides an overview of folk popular religion and spirit possession in and out of China before discussing how deity worship figures as a form of unspoken yet widely circulated knowledge, communal bonds, and spiritual services in rural Yan'an. It then considers how spirit cults in Yan'an produce what it calls a “surrogate rural subjectivity” and proceeds by turning to the emergence of women spirit mediums in the 1990s. The chapter argues that, in the context of rapid urbanization, spirit cults provide occasions for the expression of disappearing rural communal relations, folk values, and ritual memories. It also suggests that folk religion now constitutes a new form of rural discourse through which the urbanizing rural subject of China is recognized. Finally, it describes spirit cults as a major site through which rural norms, values, dispositions, and desires are de facto produced and reconstructed in the urbanization of the rural area.

Keywords:   spirit cults, Yan'an, urbanization, rural area, folk popular religion, spirit possession, deity worship, spirit mediums, China

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