China and Inner Asia
Recent scholarship on Ming-Dynasty China (1368–1644) has shown the central place of Daoism in the lived experience of people at all levels of society, from local villages to the imperial court. In contrast to the official recorded history, which has largely downplayed the role of Daoism or cast it in a negative light, Richard Wang and Mark Meulenbeld draw upon broad textual sources to advance a revisionist history of the Ming. Luk Yu-ping and Maggie Wan likewise call into question the official Ming narrative through an examination of material culture. This panel builds upon such work by focusing on the use and production of objects pertaining to the practice of Thunder Ritual (leifa). A collective name for exorcistic ritual methods that became integrated into Daoism from the twelfth century onward, Thunder Ritual invokes martial deities to eradicate maleficent spirits, a process aimed at effecting benefits, the prevention of epidemics, for example, and the correction of harmful weather patterns. By Ming times, this form of ritual reached across social strata and contributed to Daoism’s rise to prominence during the period. Emperors and their families, officials at court, and commoners alike looked to Thunder Ritual for protection and prosperity. In examining the intersection between Thunder Ritual and material culture, this panel not only further redresses the overlooked role of Daoism during the Ming, but it also presents research methods relevant to the broader field of Asian religions, each paper combining visual analysis with a close reading of contemporaneous ritual manuals.
Paper Presenter: Zhenpeng Zhan – Sun Yat-Sen University
Paper Presenter: Michael E. Naparstek – University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Paper Presenter: Noelle Giuffrida – Ball State University
Paper Presenter: Aaron K. Reich – Saint Joseph’s University