Novels and the Work of the Gods
This book examines how the categories “literature,” “religion,” and “community” intersect in the seventeenth-century vernacular novel, Fengshen yanyi (Canonization of the Gods). It situates Canonization of the Gods within the specific history of Daoist martial ritual and explains how it is built upon Daoist ritual and religious theater from various locales in late imperial China. It also considers what it calls “demonic warfare”—martial methods that ritually construct the actual battles of mortal warriors as events that are paralleled by simultaneous battles of demon warriors. This introduction discusses broader issues of ritual and of the sacred in relation to literature and martial theater; juxtaposes Canonization (and similar novels that are also based on ritual models) with other late imperial novels that are self-consciously written as literary fiction (xiaoshuo); and looks at mainstream theories of Chinese local religion suggesting that the clerical traditions of Buddhism and Daoism (and sometimes Confucianism) are not relevant for understanding local “popular religion.”
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