Exorcism and Money: The Symbolic World of the Five-Fury Spirits in Late Imperial China

By Qitao Guo | Go to book overview

4
Synopsis of
Huizhou Social History

The manipulation of Wuchang worship turned out to be even more crucial for local elites in Huizhou than for their counterparts in Guangde, in the effort to maintain traditional social order in the face of the rapid socioeconomic changes after the mid Ming. From the mid Ming onward, especially over the course of the sixteenth century, Huizhou emerged as a gentrified lineage stronghold and a major cradle of mercantile activities. At stake for Huizhou elites was not only control over their kinsfolk and bondservants, but also the relationships among different social groups within the lineage elite, mainly between the established gentry and rising merchants. This power negotiation was subtly mirrored in Wuchang imagery, which in turn further enriched the Huizhou version of the ambiguous deity. For its colorful social-cultural history, and especially given the rich sources of both elite writings and “popular” texts, Huizhou appears to be an ideal place to figure out the new identities of Wuchang and to analyze how they combined with the deity’s original character to form a pattern of popular symbolism. To reach a better understanding of this pattern and its social dimensions in Huizhou, this chapter first takes a brief look at the social fabric of the prefecture in late imperial times.


Gentrified Lineages, Merchants, and Bondservants

In the People’s Republic of China, so-called Huizhou scholarship (Huixue

) has been most productive and influential in the post-Mao historical literature. This is in part due to the existence of an enormously large amount of primary sources, including genealogies, other lineage

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