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Gods, Ghosts, and GangstersRitual Violence, Martial Arts, and Masculinity on the Margins of Chinese Society$
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Avron Boretz

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780824833770

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824833770.001.0001

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Tales from the Jianghu

Tales from the Jianghu

Chapter:
(p.115) Chapter 5 Tales from the Jianghu
Source:
Gods, Ghosts, and Gangsters
Author(s):

Avron Boretz

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824833770.003.0005

This chapter examines the jianghu and martial ritual performance troupes, and the critical importance of their historical and cultural affinity to the broader efficacy and meaning of Chinese popular religion. It first considers the Military Retainers (Jiajiang), a ritual form unique to Taiwan. Starting in the 1980s, the Military Retainers became notorious in their association with juvenile delinquency, blood spectacle, and other unsavory elements comprising the “dark” (hei) side of popular religion. Closely linked to the Military Retainers, and in recent years increasingly marketed as coordinated performance packages, are groups of possessed, entranced spirit mediums (tangki), who provide the most dramatic and unnerving ritual spectacle of all. In fits of real or feigned trance, these mediums vigorously and skillfully strike their heads and backs with edged and spiked weapons, slice their tongues with knives and ice saws, and pierce their bodies with a variety of sharp-pointed metal rods and needles. The chapter aims to present the perspective and reconstruct the lived experience of the performers themselves, these socially and often economically liminal men who are the dedicated mainstays of, the essential labor pool for, and the ritually indispensable participants in martial ritual performance troupes.

Keywords:   jianghu, martial ritual performance troupes, Chinese popular religion, Military Retainers, spirit mediums

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