UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Zhenwu : the cult of a Chinese warrior deity from the Song to the Ming dynasties (960-1644) Chao, Shin-Yi


This study explores the interaction between Daoism and popular religion in China by focusing on the development and evolution of a cult that centered on a deity called the Perfected Warrior (Zhenwu 3!S£)- His cult has flourished across China since the eleventh century and is still alive in mainland China, Taiwan and overseas Chinese communities. To explore the diversity and complexity of this cult, I employ a wide range of primary sources in my study including religious scriptures, stone inscriptions, official documents, private anecdotes, local gazetteers, and vernacular literature; many of them have never been introduced to the English-speaking world. In this study, I argue that the popularity of the Zhenwu cult is a result of a combined process of canonization and localization that transformed a deity of warrior origin into a multi-faceted and multi-functional god. This thesis is divided into two parts. Part I gives a general framework of the Zhenwu cult from ancient to late imperial times. In Chapter One, I trace the Zhenwu cult to his predecessor, Xuanwu (section 1), and outline the development of the Zhenwu cult among the people (section 2) as well as the imperial patronage bestowed on the deity from the Song to Ming dynasties (section 3). Chapter Two portrays Daoist images of Zhenwu presented in liturgical instruction manuals for Offering rituals (jiao HI), exorcism, inner alchemy, and military rituals. The chief mountain of the Zhenwu cult, Wudang shan, is discussed in section 2. Part II contains textual studies and case studies. In Chapter Three, I closely examine two "precious volumes" or baojuan ff # (section 1) and one hagiographic fictional account of Zhenwu from the late sixteenth century, the Journey to the North (section 2). Chapter Four presents three case studies: the Zhenwu cult in Fujian Foshan (in Guangdong MM), and Taiwan. These three case studies will demonstrate that the popularity of Zhenwu was not simply a result of a wide geographic spread of the cult but, more importantly, of an enduring existence that resulted from successful localization. [NOTE: Author has requested removal of PDF copy of dissertation]

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.

Usage Statistics