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The Cult of the Fox: Power, Gender, and Popular Religion in Late Imperial and Modern China

by Xiaofei Kang

The shamanistic fox cult has flourished in China from the late 16th century up to the present. It was and is an "illicit" cult in late Imperial and modern China, yet it flourished among a wide range of social classes. The fox is a marginal figure for the Chinese in a number of senses: it cannot be domesticated, yet it preys on domestic animals; it can appear in the guise of a man or a woman; it can act as ghost or ancestor; it can ensure fertility or provide moral guidance. The fox cult bypassed state and elite control and flourished in private and at a local level. Kang looks at the fox cult as a vibrant Chinese popular religion, where issues of power and gender were challenged and reshaped. It is the first book to consider the cult (Robert Hymes calls it "the work on fox spirits in China"), and it does so through informal historical writings, popular literature, and ethnography. Finally, the book discusses the role of the cult in the study of Chinese religion and how it compares to fox spirits in other cultures. The book makes an important contribution to the study of Chinese religion, history, and culture. It can be used in courses on popular religion, East Asian studies, ethnography of China, and related areas.

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