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Posted December 23, 2012
This is a great sampling of cultural creativity by local people in recent centuries. Below the rather boring mask of official culture and religion, we have a seething ferment of arts and myths. The authors show how how new movements spread through popular art, how social movements take politicized form as secret society networks, and how local heroes evolve into new gods and goddesses. This book reinforces Joseph Campbell's insights in showing mythology as a furiously mutating, rapidly evolving thing--not a static inheritance from long ago. I was especially fascinated by James Watson's great investigation of the rising cult of Mazu, or T'ien Hou, Queen of the Seas and Empress of Heaven--who rose from a fishing-village girl in the 900s CE to a goddess with a around a hundred million devotees.
--author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization