Though often portrayed in Western media as a monolithic, atheistic monoculture, China has one of the most complex histories of religion and spirituality among the world’s civilizations. Understanding the histories, myths, and enduring spiritual and pop-cultural appeal of China’s long list of deities is essential to understanding the country as it exists today, says Xueting Christine Ni, who has a book on the subject out on Friday (June 1).
Ni, also somewhat of an authority on Chinese pop culture (she wrote about ghosts and ghouls for us around Halloween), has put together a “shortlist” of 60 beings — gods and goddesses, along with “spirits, immortals, heroes, elementals, sages, guardians and so forth” — showing the connective tissue of deep-seated spirituality connecting figures From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao as the book’s title has it, to Chinese society and culture.
Ahead of the book’s release, RADII caught up with Ni for a dive into China’s complex canon of mytho-historical legends, and to hear why she thinks getting a handle on them can help anyone hoping to understand the country’s role in the world today.
Posted in Blog and tagged belief, books, Buddhism, china, Chinese culture, Confucianism, culture, Daoism, deities, gods, immortals, interview, literature, mythology, pantheon, RADII, religion, sinology, spirits, tradition
This last season, London’s theatres, galleries and museums have rolled out a fantastically full programme of exhibitions and plays on China and its culture. Many of those I have reviewed for other publications, but have yet to post anything here. A few of them continue into 2014, but if, in these few days between Christmas and New Year, you have time to visit the V&A, you can still catch “Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700-1900”
Posted in Blog and tagged art, Buddhism, china, comics, culture, Daoism, dragons, Gongbi, landscape painting, london, manhua, painting, Qing Dynasty, Suzhou, Tang Dynasty, V & A, Xu Bing