The Great Temple Festivals of Southeastern Shanxi in Late Imperial Times


ACLS Fellowship Program




Annual temple festivals, with their processions, rituals, and operas performed on temple stages, were the heart of village religious life in pre-modern China. In southeastern Shanxi province they were unusually large and complex, mobilizing entire villages and drawing thousands of spectators. The officiants were not Buddhist or Taoist clerics but local ritual masters who were closely related to diviners and feng-shui masters. The performers in the operas were a debased hereditary group who nonetheless were ritually indispensable. I reconstruct the form and analyse the content of these festivals’ rituals and operas, still virtually unknown, using unique, recently discovered liturgical manuscripts and other rare materials together with data derived from fieldwork.