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Book: The Religious Body Imagined

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

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.39652


This chapter draws 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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