This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book is about the ritual violence and violent rituals in Chinese and Taiwanese popular religion. It is about the martial deity temples and shrine-altars that serve as physical, spatial extensions of shared cultural myths, local histories, and narratives of personal identity. It is about the lived experience of individuals, mostly working-class men who are often members of sworn brotherhoods and local gangs, who perform these rituals during temple festivals and processions. Finally and most centrally, it is an account of the ways that these men think of, speak of, and perform themselves as men. It is an ethnographic study intended to contribute to ongoing discussions in the study of Chinese ritual and religion, the history and sociology of the Chinese underworld, and the anthropological study of masculinity. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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