8. Surveilled, Harmonized, Purified: The Body in Chinese Religious Culture

The Religious Body Imagined - Pamela D. Winfield

Ori Tavor [+-]
University of Pennsylvania
Ori Tavor (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania) is a lecturer in Chinese Studies and the Director of the MA Program at the department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the history of Confucianism and Daoism, the relationship between religion, medicine, and self-cultivation, and the role of excavated manuscripts in reshaping the study of early Chinese religious culture. His work has featured in Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy, Studies in Chinese Religions, and Body and Religion.


This chapter will draw on Thomas Csordas’ theory of embodiment and ritual healing to offer an analysis of the relationship between demon quelling, sin, and personal wellbeing in religious Daoism. Current scholarship on the Daoist body tends to focus on individual meditative practices that involve the visualization of a pantheon of personal gods that reside within the inner geography of the body. In this chapter, however, I would like to shift the focus from individual elite practitioners to the early communities of organized Daoism known as the Celestial Masters. Drawing primarily on a scripture titled The Demon Statutes of Lady Blue, which combines an apocalyptic narrative with detailed descriptions of specific demons and the rituals needed to expel them, I will show that in these communities, the human body functioned not only as a symbol for the battle between gods and demons, but as the actual arena in which the fight takes place.

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Tavor, Ori. 8. Surveilled, Harmonized, Purified: The Body in Chinese Religious Culture. The Religious Body Imagined. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Nov 2021. ISBN 9781781799727. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=39652. Date accessed: 20 Sep 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.39652. Nov 2021

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