The Secularization of Religious Figures : A Study of Mahoraga in the Song Dynasty (960–1279)

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number177
Journal / PublicationReligions
Issue number2
Online published17 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022



Mahoraga dolls, a type of figurine showing a child holding a lotus leaf, are sacrifice utensils that were commonly used in the Qixi Festival to pray for reproduction throughout the Song Dynasty in China. Scholars pay great attention to the Buddhistic origins of Mahoraga, relating it to different figures within Buddhism and discussing its religious artistic values. This paper focuses on the transformation of this cultural appropriation in Chinese society by discussing the localization of Mahoraga as well as the reasons behind the use of Mahoraga in worship in Qixi in particular. We believe that the population crisis and national population policies in the Song Dynasty stimulated Chinese people’s longing for procreation and this desire was responded to by the secularization and popularization of Buddhism in China, together with the increased prosperity of citizen culture, which ultimately promoted the popularity of Mahoraga in Song society.

Research Area(s)

  • Foreign religion, Mahoraga, Population crisis, Qixi Festival, Reproduction worshipping

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