International Journal of Sino-Western Studies | 2021

Ancestors or Ghosts: the Cult of the Dead in a Bai Village in Southwest China



When it comes to ancestor worship> the basic belief is that the spirit of the dead would affect their living family. However> the cult of the dead in a Bai village in southwest China shows deconstruction and moral reflection of ancestors. From the perspective of social relationships? people separate their ancestors from other families ancestors who arc also recognised as ghosts or uninvited guests. Besides?they divided their deceased relatives into ancestors and ghosts through cultural definition of a good death and bad death>thus they need a bridge rite to help the spirit of the dead in a bad death to be an ancestor. In regard to the netherworld, people wish their deceased relatives go to western heaven at the same time they regard them as suffering ghosts in hell because of their guilty during their lifetime. Moreover>the living family have an obligation to provide and help their dead release from suffering. By examining the attitudes and acts of distinguishing? transforming, and equating between ancestors and ghosts>this article further argues that the cult of the dead in Bai is not only an ethical act of obeisance but also an expression of ideal person hood and a belief in living family as the salvation of the dead.

Volume None
Pages None
DOI 10.37819/IJSWS.20.115
Language English
Journal International Journal of Sino-Western Studies

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