UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unpacking the latrine goddess : the evolution of Zigu invitations from the fifth century to the fifteenth century Zhang, Meng


This thesis aims to unpack the evolution of Zigu belief from the fifth century to the fifteenth century from multiple aspects, with a specific focus on the gender factor. In this thesis, by examining the geographical and cultural background of Zigu, I will propose a thorough explanation of Zigu belief and the invitation ritual of Zigu. A detailed textual analysis will be given to lay a foundation for tracing the evolution of and changes in Zigu belief. The Zigu story in Yiyuan (A Garden of Marvels), which is the earliest extant Zigu record, indicates that Zigu belief could be dated back to some time much earlier than the fifth century. Unfortunately, no earlier record is extant. Even the sources recorded in the Northern and Southern dynasties (420-589) are rather scarce now. This scarce source situation did not change until the Song dynasty (960-1279). Fortunately, some Zigu records in the Song dynasty were handed down to us. Moreover, the Song dynasty “witnessed” significant changes in the evolution of Zigu belief (see Chapter Five): the worship date of Zigu was no longer limited to a fixed date (on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month); the designation “Zigu” changed from an individual name to a category name of all the supernatural beings who descended in Zigu invitations; and the changes in the gender and the purpose of main practitioners of Zigu invitations. Besides, Zigu belief is not merely a unilateral worship from believers towards the deity. Zigu’s alleged abilities in prediction lay a solid foundation for the establishment of Zigu belief. However, what motivates the evolution and transmission of Zigu belief is the dynamic and interactive relationship among the protagonist, the practitioner, and the writer, which are the three indispensable components in Zigu belief.

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