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Religions 2018, 9(12), 397; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120397

The Evolution of Chinese Shamanism: A Case Study from Northwest China

College of Philosophy, Law and Politics, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 26 October 2018 / Revised: 22 November 2018 / Accepted: 30 November 2018 / Published: 3 December 2018
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Abstract

This paper presents information on the shamanic religious system practiced among the Tu ethnic group of Qinghai Province in Northwest China. After presenting ethnographic information on the spirit beliefs, rituals, and shamanic specialists of the Tu, the paper will use a systemic definition of religion to (1) identify changes that have occurred in the focus of Tu shamanism and the role of the shaman, and (2) identify a cluster of causal factors—techno-economic, sociopolitical, and ideational—exogenous to the religious system itself that appear to have played a role in generating these changes. The paper will focus on two specific changes: (1) a decrease in the frequency of private shamanic healing rituals, and (2) a corresponding increase in the importance of shamanic leadership in collective rainfall rituals that affect the entire community. The explanatory paradigm utilized is a modified adaptation to contemporary Chinese reality of the Historical Materialist paradigm pioneered by Marx and Engels and the Cultural Materialist paradigm developed by Marvin Harris. While continuing to emphasize the causal power of technological and economic factors, the Chinese experience, both at the macro level of transformations of the Chinese economy and at the micro level of Tu shamanism, forces analytic attention on the causal impact of socio-political and ideological variables. View Full-Text
Keywords: shaman; religious system; Chinese ethnic groups; historical materialism; Cultural Materialism shaman; religious system; Chinese ethnic groups; historical materialism; Cultural Materialism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Xing, H.; Murray, G. The Evolution of Chinese Shamanism: A Case Study from Northwest China. Religions 2018, 9, 397.

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