Spiritual Concoctions: Human Spirits and Their Relationship to State Authority in Early Medieval China (220-581 AD)
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
Related Research Unit(s)
The purpose of this dissertation is to survey how human spirits were created and adhered to in medieval China and interpret the spirits’ relationship to state authority. By means of careful historical text analysis of the historical materials, affiliated with the most influential deity Jiang Ziwen in this period, the dissertation argues that the state authority, Chinese shamans (wu), Buddhism, and Daoism have played an integral part in the establishment of human spirits. At the core of the dissertation, the manifestation of Deng Ai as a state sage will be juxtaposed with how the same individual became a folk spirit. The state-folk contradiction will expand into a discussion on how Buddhist shamans and Daoist witches created spirits such as Su Jun and Fu Jian. Daoist theology accelerated during the early-medieval Chinese period which resulted in unknown figures such as Zuo Ci and Kong Yu who, without any notable meritorious deeds, became established as extraordinary Daoist spirits. Zuo Ci and Kong Yu contrast the nearly one-hundred spirits surveyed in this dissertation as the majority became spirits because of their merits to the people. As a result of this study, this dissertation argues that the popular beliefs of post-Han pre-Tang China are not as chaotic or ‘random’ as presented in previous scholarship. Quite the contrary, the spiritual narratives often embody elite narratives and were essential in the reunification of the Chinese people after a period of division.
- Human Spirits, Early Medieval China, Daoism, Buddhism, State Authority, wu