Special Issue "Explorations in the Practice and Theory of Shamanism: A Collaborative Project Between China and the West"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 October 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Thomas Michael

School of Philosophy, Beijing Normal University, 19 Xinjiekou Outer St, BeiTaiPingZhuang, Haidian Qu, Beijing 100875, China
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Early Chinese Religions; Daoism; Shamanism
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Feng Qu

Arctic Studies Center, Liaocheng University, 1 Hunan Road, Dongchangfu Qu, Liaocheng, Shandong Province, 252000, China
Website | E-Mail
Interests: Eskimo Prehistory and Ethnology; Shamanism; Animist Ontology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Two of the more important traditions of global shamanism studies that have developed in the course of the 20th century include the Western tradition, which plays an important role in contemporary religious and anthropological studies, and the Chinese one, which plays an important role in contemporary sinological and Chinese ethnographic studies.

Given that Western scholarship has had more experience with shamanism in a globally comparative context, it continues to grapple with questions about the nature, definition, and applicability of the category, but the same cannot be equally said about Chinese scholarship on the topic, which has been more focused on ancient Chinese materials as well as on Chinese sectarian and minority studies. The result is that Western scholars of contemporary shamanism only sometimes are able to directly engage Chinese shamanistic materials, while Chinese scholars have had minimal exposure to the kinds of theoretical debates familiar in the West surrounding the shamanism category itself, rendering these two traditions somewhat alienated from each other.

The International Shaman and Arctic Anthropology Theory and Research Forum, “Explorations in the Practice and Theory of Shamanism: A Collaborative Project Between China and the West,” provides an important occasion for leading Chinese and Western scholars of shamanism to undertake collaborative conversations into contemporary theories of shamanism and to explore innovative avenues for applying their findings to the rich bodies of Chinese historical and ethnographic researches with great potential benefits for all.         

The journal Religions has taken an active interest in the Forum, and they desire to publish the papers in a special issue dedicated to the Forum. Participants are requested to finalize their papers in article manuscript format to undergo a blind review process, and accepted manuscripts will be published together in the special issue.

It is with great pleasure that Gilbert and I have agreed to serve as co-guest editors for this special issue, and we are sending this CFP to each of the Forum participants to request your willingness to work with us in its successful publication. We have absolute confidence that the special issue will not only break new ground in contemporary shamanism studies, but it will also serve as an important model for future endeavors of Chinese and Western academic collaboration.

We sincerely hope that you will consider this CFP and agree to submit your finalized manuscript by the October 1, 2018 deadline.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Michael
Prof. Dr. Feng Qu
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Shamanism
  • Anthropological Theory
  • China-West Collaboration

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle A Study on the Xiuxing of Contemporary Horchin Mongolian Shamanism
Religions 2019, 10(2), 112; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020112
Received: 8 December 2018 / Revised: 1 February 2019 / Accepted: 12 February 2019 / Published: 15 February 2019
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Abstract
Research has been carried out on the procedures for recruiting and training shamans among the Horchin (mainly in Tongliao City, China). This well-known problem is crucial to the development of Horchin shamanism. If a potential shaman wants to complete the transition from an [...] Read more.
Research has been carried out on the procedures for recruiting and training shamans among the Horchin (mainly in Tongliao City, China). This well-known problem is crucial to the development of Horchin shamanism. If a potential shaman wants to complete the transition from an ordinary person to a shaman, they need to repeat religious practices, progress spiritually, learn, and deal well with the role between their daily life and religious life. This process of Xiuxing is full of hardship. However, the issues surrounding the requirements, influencing factors, and evaluation criteria has received little attention. We have been conducting fieldwork in the Horchin area since 2013, have continuously tracked and interviewed more than 100 shamans and prospective shamans, and have obtained much fieldwork data. Through the collation, induction, and comparative study of these materials, we found that Horchin shamans are required to study the knowledge and skills of shamanism, respect their teacher, obey their principles, fulfill the duties and obligations of a shaman, and devote their lives to serving the local community. We also found that Horchin shamans are struggling to adapt their religious practices to the belief systems of the contemporary Chinese world. We also found that it is believed that, in the region, a successful shamanic career presupposes not only knowledge of rituals but also compassionate and principled behavior with respect to the clients and the community. Full article
Open AccessArticle Metamorphosis and the Shang State: Yi 異and the Yi ding[fang]
Religions 2019, 10(2), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020095
Received: 1 January 2019 / Revised: 28 January 2019 / Accepted: 29 January 2019 / Published: 3 February 2019
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Abstract
Despite a long tradition of scholarship on Shang religion, a clear and comprehensive account of that religion has proven elusive. Many scholars have relied on written accounts from the much later Warring States and Han eras purporting to describe Shang beliefs and practices, [...] Read more.
Despite a long tradition of scholarship on Shang religion, a clear and comprehensive account of that religion has proven elusive. Many scholars have relied on written accounts from the much later Warring States and Han eras purporting to describe Shang beliefs and practices, and have been misled into describing the Shang religion as bureaucratically institutionalized and characterized by tension between inner court and outer court worship of ancestral and nature deities. Other scholars have generalized about the nature of divinity in Shang time and have recognized the position of the king who as one with Di was divine. Rather than act as an intermediary between the living and dead, the Shang king was divine and equivalent to Di. The present study follows research recognizing that the Shang king ruled over a state system which I label “institutionalized metamorphism”. By “institutionalized metamorphism” a belief is implied in the metamorphic power of the Shang king that allowed him identification with and to a certain extent control over numinous spirits. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Symbols and Function of the Zhang Clan Han Army Sacrificial Rite
Religions 2019, 10(2), 90; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020090
Received: 6 December 2018 / Revised: 21 January 2019 / Accepted: 21 January 2019 / Published: 1 February 2019
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Abstract
The Eight Banners System is the social organizational structure of the bannerman (qiren, 旗人) from the Qing dynasty and the fundamental system of the country under Qing rule. It is divided into three types: the Manchu Eight Banners, Mongolian Eight Banners, [...] Read more.
The Eight Banners System is the social organizational structure of the bannerman (qiren, 旗人) from the Qing dynasty and the fundamental system of the country under Qing rule. It is divided into three types: the Manchu Eight Banners, Mongolian Eight Banners, and Han Army Eight Banners. The Han Army was a special group in the Qing dynasty between the bannerman and the commoners (minren, 民人). The sacrificial rite of the Han Army is a form of comprehensive shamanic ritual based on the traditional ancestor worship of the Han people. However, it is influenced, to some extent, by the shamanic ritual of the Manchus involving trance-dance. It finally took shape as a unique sacrificial form different from both the Manchu shamanic rite and the traditional ancestor worship of the Han minren. As a special system of symbolic rituals, the Han qiren’s sacrificial form embodies shamanic concepts and serves two functions: (1) dispelling evil and bringing in good fortune for the community; and (2) unifying the Han bannermen’s clans and strengthening the culture, identity, and tradition of the Han people, who were living under Manchu rule during the Qing dynasty. Full article
Open AccessArticle Literate Shamanism: The Priests Called Then among the Tày in Guangxi and Northern Vietnam
Religions 2019, 10(1), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010064
Received: 30 November 2018 / Revised: 8 January 2019 / Accepted: 9 January 2019 / Published: 18 January 2019
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Abstract
Then is the designation in Vietnamese and Tày given to shamanic practitioners of the Tày ethnicity, who reside mainly in the northern provinces of Vietnam. Scholars are long aware that the predominantly female spirit mediums among the Zhuang in Guangxi, variously called mehmoed [...] Read more.
Then is the designation in Vietnamese and Tày given to shamanic practitioners of the Tày ethnicity, who reside mainly in the northern provinces of Vietnam. Scholars are long aware that the predominantly female spirit mediums among the Zhuang in Guangxi, variously called mehmoed or mehgimq, had a ritual repertoire which included shamanic journeys up to the sky as their essential element. The ritual songs of the mehmoed are orally transmitted, unlike the rituals of male religious practitioners in Guangxi such as Taoist priests, Ritual Masters, and mogong, all of which are text-based. One was led rather easily to posit a dichotomy in which male performers had texts, and female performers had repertoires which were orally transmitted. This division also seemed to hold true for certain seasonal song genres, at least in Guangxi. For that matter, shamanic traditions cross-culturally are seen as predominantly or exclusively oral traditions. Recent research among the Tày-speaking communities in northern Vietnam has confounded this tidy picture. Religious practitioners among the Tày include the Pt, who in many cases have texts which incorporate segments of shamanic sky journeys and may be either male or female; and the Then, also both male and female, who have extensive repertoires of shamanic rituals which are performed and transmitted textually. The Then have a performance style that is recognisably based on shamanic journeying, but elaborated as a form of art song, complete with instrumental accompaniment (two- or three-stringed lutes), ritual dances, and flamboyant costumes. Apart from individual performances, there are large-scale rituals conducted by as many as a dozen priests. The present paper gives an overview of the practices and rituals of the Then, based on recent fieldwork in Vietnam and Guangxi, and discusses the implications these have for our conventional understandings of shamanism, literacy, gender, and the cultural geography of the border regions. Full article
Open AccessArticle Art and Shamanism: From Cave Painting to the White Cube
Religions 2019, 10(1), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010054
Received: 15 December 2018 / Revised: 8 January 2019 / Accepted: 8 January 2019 / Published: 16 January 2019
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Abstract
Art and shamanism are often represented as timeless, universal features of human experience, with an apparently immutable relationship. Shamanism is frequently held to represent the origin of religion and shamans are characterized as the first artists, leaving their infamous mark in the cave [...] Read more.
Art and shamanism are often represented as timeless, universal features of human experience, with an apparently immutable relationship. Shamanism is frequently held to represent the origin of religion and shamans are characterized as the first artists, leaving their infamous mark in the cave art of Upper Palaeolithic Europe. Despite a disconnect of several millennia, modern artists too, from Wassily Kandinsky and Vincent van Gogh, to Joseph Beuys and Marcus Coates, have been labelled as inspired visionaries who access the trance-like states of shamans, and these artists of the ‘white cube’ or gallery setting are cited as the inheritors of an enduring tradition of shamanic art. But critical engagement with the history of thinking on art and shamanism, drawing on discourse analysis, shows these concepts are not unchanging, timeless ‘elective affinities’; they are constructed, historically situated and contentious. In this paper, I examine how art and shamanism have been conceived and their relationship entangled from the Renaissance to the present, focussing on the interpretation of Upper Palaeolithic cave art in the first half of the twentieth century—a key moment in this trajectory—to illustrate my case. Full article
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Open AccessArticle The Inheritance and Change of the Contemporary Daur Shaman
Religions 2019, 10(1), 52; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010052
Received: 4 December 2018 / Revised: 9 January 2019 / Accepted: 10 January 2019 / Published: 15 January 2019
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Abstract
The Daur people are a minority living in Northeast China. They have adhered to a form of shamanism since ancient times. They believe that all things are spiritual. The Daur call an intermediary or messenger between the human world and the spirit worlds [...] Read more.
The Daur people are a minority living in Northeast China. They have adhered to a form of shamanism since ancient times. They believe that all things are spiritual. The Daur call an intermediary or messenger between the human world and the spirit worlds jad’ən (shaman). In addition, there are also different types of priests and healers, such as baɡʧi (healer and priest), barʃ (bone-setter), ʊtʊʃi (healer of child) and baræʧen (midwife), but only the jad’ən is a real shaman. The Daur’s system of deities is huge, complex, and diverse, mainly including təŋɡər (God of Heaven), xʊʤʊr barkən (ancestral spirit), njaŋnjaŋ barkən (Niang Niang Goddess), aʊləi barkən (spirit of mountain), nuʤir barkən (spirit of snake), ɡali barkən (God of Fire), etc. Among them, ancestral spirit is the most noble and important deity of the Daur, called xʊʤʊr barkən (spirit of ancestors). In the past, the social structure of the Daurs was based on the equal clan xal and its branches mokun. Xʊʤʊr barkən is the ancestral spirit of the mokun family. The shaman with xʊʤʊr barkən as the main patron is called xʊʤʊr jad’ən, that is, mokun shaman. The inheritance of the Daur shaman is very complicated. The xʊʤʊr jad’ən is strictly inherited along the patrilineal line, while the ordinary jad’ən can also inherit according to the maternal lineage. The inheritance rites of other types of shamans are also based mainly on the patrilineal lineage and occasionally the maternal lineage. The complexity of the Daur shaman inheritance is first and foremost related to the variety of the gods and spirits, secondly to their belief of polytheism, and finally to the constant split of the traditional clans and families, namely, the xal-mokun social structure. Full article
Open AccessArticle Shamanism, Eroticism, and Death: The Ritual Structures of the Nine Songs in Comparative Context
Religions 2019, 10(1), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10010017
Received: 24 October 2018 / Revised: 17 December 2018 / Accepted: 25 December 2018 / Published: 28 December 2018
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Abstract
Eroticism is an independent feature of human life that influences many areas of experience, including death and religion. While eroticism has received a good deal of scholarly attention in religious studies, the present study takes the Nine Songs as the starting point for [...] Read more.
Eroticism is an independent feature of human life that influences many areas of experience, including death and religion. While eroticism has received a good deal of scholarly attention in religious studies, the present study takes the Nine Songs as the starting point for a discussion of eroticism as a frequent element in the world of shamanism. These songs provide the earliest linguistic corpus in East Asia that allows us a glimpse into the world of the shaman, and they constitute one of the earliest sources of this type preserved anywhere in the world by giving depictions of eroticized gender relations between shamans and spirits. This study comparatively situates the ritual structures expressed in the Nine Songs to uncover deeper affinities between shamanism, eroticism, violence, and death. Full article
Open AccessArticle Did the Imperially Commissioned Manchu Rites for Sacrifices to the Spirits and to Heaven Standardize Manchu Shamanism?
Religions 2018, 9(12), 400; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120400
Received: 26 October 2018 / Revised: 4 December 2018 / Accepted: 4 December 2018 / Published: 5 December 2018
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Abstract
The Imperially Commissioned Manchu Rites for Sacrifices to the Spirits and to Heaven (Manzhou jishen jitian dianli), the only canon on shamanism compiled under the auspices of the Qing dynasty, has attracted considerable attention from a number of scholars. One view [...] Read more.
The Imperially Commissioned Manchu Rites for Sacrifices to the Spirits and to Heaven (Manzhou jishen jitian dianli), the only canon on shamanism compiled under the auspices of the Qing dynasty, has attracted considerable attention from a number of scholars. One view that is held by a vast majority of these scholars is that the promulgation of the Manchu Rites by the Qing court helped standardize shamanic rituals, which resulted in a decline of wild ritual practiced then and brought about a similarity of domestic rituals. However, an in-depth analysis of the textual context of the Manchu Rites, as well as a close inspection of its various editions reveal that the Qing court had no intention to formalize shamanism and did not enforce the Manchu Rites nationwide. In fact, the decline of the Manchu wild ritual can be traced to the preconquest period, while the domestic ritual had been formed before the Manchu Rites was prepared and were not unified even at the end of the Qing dynasty. With regard to the ritual differences among the various Manchu clans, the Qing rulers took a more benign view and it was unnecessary to standardize them. The incorporation of the Chinese version of the Manchu Rites into Siku quanshu demonstrates the Qing court’s struggles to promote its cultural status and legitimize its rule of China. Full article
Open AccessArticle The Evolution of Chinese Shamanism: A Case Study from Northwest China
Religions 2018, 9(12), 397; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120397
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
Open AccessArticle Two Faces of the Manchu Shaman: “Participatory Observation” in Western and Chinese Contexts
Religions 2018, 9(12), 388; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120388
Received: 25 October 2018 / Revised: 23 November 2018 / Accepted: 23 November 2018 / Published: 26 November 2018
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Abstract
Russian anthropologist Shirokogoroff and Chinese ethnographers have provided different understandings of Manchu shamanism. The former approach is centered in the psychological dimension based on the Western context while the latter approach focuses on the ritual and sacrificial systems based on a non-Western Chinese [...] Read more.
Russian anthropologist Shirokogoroff and Chinese ethnographers have provided different understandings of Manchu shamanism. The former approach is centered in the psychological dimension based on the Western context while the latter approach focuses on the ritual and sacrificial systems based on a non-Western Chinese context. However, an in-depth analysis of Chinese ethnographic writings shows that the Chinese context also embodies aspects of existing Western concepts. Due to the fact that both approaches have problems in writing cultures, the author suggests that a constructive dialogue between the Western experience and Chinese experience should be conducted in reconstruction of shamanism theories. Full article
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