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China is an immense land with a history spanning thousands of years, and its needs and problems are perhaps too many for a single deity to watch over. This book begins to explore the veritable army of gods, immortals, and deities to whom the Chinese have turned for help, support, and intervention--not just in the annals of history but also in the bustling modern world.
From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao offers fascinating insight into the complex interweaving of China's main religions and folklore and the way the gods themselves have evolved to meet changing challenges, finding their way from scriptures and statues to vouchers and videogames. Author Xueting Christine Ni recounts the stories of 60 Chinese gods and goddesses, selected from across the spectrum of China's mythical beings, deified heroes, gods, goddesses, and immortals. They derive from Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and folklore, as well as revered sages and protective deities from other traditions. Get to know Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy; Zhong Ku, the demon slayer; Tian Hou, the goddess of the sea; the beloved Monkey King, and a host of other Chinese deities, both ancient and modern.
In addition to exploring the origins and rituals of this eclectic pantheon, this book also looks at how, in a country that has undergone a myriad of changes and upheavals, its gods and goddesses have never been more than a whisper away.
About the Author
Xueting Christine Ni was born in Guangzhou, during China's "re-opening to the West". Having lived in cities across China, she emigrated with her family to Britain at the age of 11, where she continued to be immersed in Chinese culture, alongside her British education, realising ultimately that this gave her a unique a cultural perspective, bridging her Eastern and Western experiences. After graduating in English Literature from the University of London, she began a career in the publishing industry, whilst also translating original works of Chinese fiction. She returned to China in 2008 to continue her research at Central University of Nationalities, Beijing. Since 2010, Xueting has written extensively on Chinese culture and China's place in Western pop media, presenting publicly in collaboration with companies, theatres, institutions and festivals. Having worked on manhua, poetry, documentaries and science fiction, she continues her literary translation of China to the West, with a mission to help improve understanding of Chinese heritage, culture and innovation, and introduce its wonders to new audiences. Xueting currently lives in the suburbs of London with her partner and their cat, both of whom are learning Chinese. You can find out more about her work from her website: snowpavilion.co.uk
"I have yet to be as pleased or as excited as I am at the opportunity to join in the celebration of Xueting Christine Ni's debut, From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao. If you seek a primer text on the Chinese pantheon of divinities, then look no further. Luminous and detailed, this is an encyclopedic treasure trove that now renders the gods and goddesses of Eastern lore accessible to the West. Edifying, scholarly, and yet a sparkling, mesmerizing read, From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is a personal favorite in my library."
— Benebell Wen, author of The Tao of Craft: Fu Talismans and Casting Sigils in the Eastern Esoteric Tradition
"From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is a must-read book for anyone who is interested in China. Xueting Christine Ni has woven history, society, religion, beliefs and most importantly a perspective into the Chinese mind set. A fascinating book that gives all of us a better understanding of today's China."
— Ken Hom, OBE, chef, author, and BBC presenter
"What a marvelous book! From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is essential reading for anyone who has stood in bewildered delight in the midst of a Chinese temple wondering at the meaning and importance of the statuary that surrounds the visitor. Xueting Christine Ni's beautifully written guide to the Chinese pantheon is the sort of book that should be in the hands of any visitor to Hong Kong or Mainland China, explaining as it does the history, meaning and continued relevance of the various deities the traveler encounters. And not just in temples - Ni explains how for the most part these figures are all a part of a living tradition that have significant afterlives in popular culture, from movies and TV shows to video games and comics. Part of what makes this book so interesting - and so important - is her incredible knowledge, not just of the mystical past but the very vibrant present in which Chinese populations all over the world continue to practice and expand their rich spiritual traditions.
From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao book opens up the full complexity of Chinese religious life, explaining not just the three religious traditions usually attributed to the Chinese (Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism) but also the next level of popular religion which embraces a whole cast of generals, courtesans and wise governors who have all been elevated to important positions in the Chinese hierarchy of gods and spirits. Constantly fascinating, always surprising and immensely helpful, this is the book many travelers, occultists and pilgrims have been waiting for."
— Walter Mason, author of Destination Saigon and Destination Cambodia
"Xueting Christine Ni has created some enthralling profiles of China's sprawling cast of deities, from their mythical origins to their manifestations in 21st century pop culture. If you want to learn about China's rambunctious spiritual life, From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is a first-class guide."
— Ben Chu, Economics Editor of The Independent and author of Chinese Whispers
"I used to think 'Chinese mythology is extremely complicated--who would be crazy enough to write a book trying to explain it?' Despite common misconception, China is not a monolithic entity with a singular belief system across the vast country, let alone the diaspora. Depending on who you ask, the stories, mythology, even the gods themselves can vary across regions and even families. Explaining the Chinese gods has always been difficult for Chinese people, and even more difficult for Westerners to understand. Xueting Christine Ni has accomplished what very few have done for the common English-speaking audience, providing enough depth to provide insight and deep understanding into the gods, but not so much that the information is bogged down amidst potentially conflicting legends. Moreover, she is not afraid to present information that is controversial, that would create heated friction between Chinese people themselves. From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is perhaps the best book for unfamiliar readers to begin gaining familiarity with the spiritual complexities of the Chinese gods."
— David Borji Shi, author of North Asian Magic: Spellcraft from Manchuria, Mongolia, and Siberia