A History of Cultic Images in China

The Domestic Statuary of Hunan

Alain Arrault. Translated by Lina Verchery

The Chinese University Press

A History of Cultic Images in China

Pub Date: June 2019

ISBN: 9789882371057

260 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $55.00

A History of Cultic Images in China

The Domestic Statuary of Hunan

Alain Arrault. Translated by Lina Verchery

The Chinese University Press

In the past twenty years, work on the local culture of central Hunan has been one of the most exciting sources for rethinking the nature and variety of Chinese local society. At the heart of this society is a kind of statuary found nowhere else in China—sculpted images of local people, primarily religious specialists of a wide range, but also parents and ancestors who, according to Confucian orthodoxy, should be represented by tablets, not statues. While the consecration ceremonies of these statues include rites that are common to all China, they are embedded in unique local ritual traditions. Based on two decades of international collaborative research, Alain Arrault focuses on some 4,000 of these statues and studies them on the basis of consecration certificates inserted in the statues, the earliest of which date to the sixteenth century.
Arrault’s comprehensive investigation of central Hunan religious and social practices is the first devoted entirely to the unique statuary and represents a major contribution to our understanding of local Chinese society. John Lagerwey, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
This is a significant contribution to the study of religion and local society in China. The main focus of this book is a large collection of small wooden statues that had originally been installed on domestic altars throughout central Hunan province. This new vantage point helps to fill out our picture of the Chinese religious landscape and at the same time challenges many scholarly assumptions about the nature of Chinese religions—and the ways they have been conceptualized and categorized—from the sixteenth century to the present day. James Robson, Harvard University

About the Author

Alain Arrault is a professor at the École française d’Extrême-Orient (French School of Asian Studies), attached to the Research Center on Modern and Contemporary China.

Lina Verchery graduated from Harvard Divinity School and studies contemporary Chinese Buddhist monastic life in China and worldwide. She is also a documentary filmmaker.