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PENG Mu, Beijing Normal University

Jianghu, Masters, and Apprenticeship: Embodiment and Esoteric Knowledge in Rural Hunan



Based upon my fieldwork in Chaling county, Hunan province, my paper provides a case study on the significance of local ritual specialists in religious knowledge production and transmission in rural China. In examining apprentice tradition of specialists as well as reflecting upon my field experiences, I delineate a profile of their esoteric world, the so-called jianghu (江湖), where invisible yet sensible boundaries with the outside are constantly in the making. Highlighting nishi(拟师), meaning imitating (ni拟) masters, as well as relevant qingshi (请师), meaning inviting (qing请) masters, I explore the inseparable ties between masters and disciples, manifested as deeply incorporated and shared knowledge. Local religious knowledge especially that transmitted through apprenticeship, I argue, is not only undetachable from bodies that embody them, but play a key role in forming their identity and securing boundaries of their guarded professions.

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Dr. Sigrun Abels
Center for Cultural Studies on Science and Technology in China (CCST)
sec. KAI 1-4
Room KAI 1.114
104-106/10553 Berlin

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