Insights into The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ and Ghost and Spirits in Chinese Culture: Activities of the Monumenta Serica Institute at the 23rd biennial conference of the European Association of Chinese Studies, organized by the Institute of East Asian Studies, Leipzig University, 24–27 August 2021

The Monumenta Serica Institute joined the online EACS conference with two events documenting the publication and research activities of the Institute, chaired by Dirk Kuhlmann and Anthony Hu respectively.

First was a well-received presentation of the book series The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ by Prof. Leopold Leeb, Renmin University, China, entitled “From the Embodiment of the Dao to the Embodiment of the Revolution: Reflections on Fr. Maleks Collection The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ” (26 August 2021). Leeb is very familiar with the work The Chinese Face of Jesus Christ (vols. 1, 2, 3 a-b, 4 a-b) because he translated the four text volumes into Chinese of the series, together with a Chinese collaborator. His talk outlined the main ideas connected with the representation of Jesus in China through different ages and in different contexts. It was enhanced with visual material on the topic.

Being an erudite Sinologist as well as a member of a Catholic missionary congregation, Fr. Roman Malek’s (1951–2019) interest in the ecclesiastical history of China was natural. When Fr. Malek became Director and Editor-in-chief of the Monumenta Serica Institute in 1992, he started to explore this history with conferences organized or co-organized by him, such as the conference on Adam Schall in summer 1992 or the conference on Jingjiao, the “Church of the East” in China held in Salzburg in 2003. Publications like a work on Guilio Aleni (1997) and the conference volumes on Adam Schall (1998) and Jingjiao (2006) made this part of Chinese history accessible to a wider audience. Thus, in a sense, the collection on the “face” of Jesus Christ in China (6 volumes published between 2002 and 2019) wrapped up many of the intellectual pursuits of Fr. Malek as well as his interest in visual images and religious art in China and gave them a focus.

The second event, the panel “Dancing with Ghosts and Spirits: Observations on Encounters with Supernatural Beings in Chinese Folk Religion and Literature” (27 August 2021), was met with an equally positive reaction. Organized and chaired by Anthony Hu in cooperation with Dirk Kuhlmann, the panel treated the folk religious and literary landscape of China. What makes this field so fascinating is the myriad ghosts and spirits including monsters and demons in the shape of animals, plants, birds, insects, and other living beings in heaven and on earth described in a wide range of materials, especially in literary accounts of the fantastic. Such accounts also include the social relations and interactions of ghost, spirits, and monsters with each other, in particular their interference in human mundane affairs. Therefore, these materials offer a significant glimpse into human lives, popular beliefs, customary regulations, and ritual practices. The supernatural in the Sinophone world constituted a popular topic at the EACS with two regular panels and one full-afternoon panel offering insights from various angles. The Monumenta Serica panel comprised the presentations by Anthony Hu on “A World of Ghost and Spirits in Ancient China: A Folk-Oriented Perspective,” by Yang Sheng on the “Chinese Intellectuals and Their Karmic Beliefs in the Anomaly World: As Shown in the Late Qing Collection Yeyu qiudeng lu,” by Daniela Murillo Castro on “The Souls of Zhongguancun: Ghosts from the Past, Stories of the Present,” and by Dirk Kuhlmann on “Getting the gui of the Land: On the Rediscovery of Taiwan’s Supernatural World.” In its scope the panel managed to encompass popular approaches to ghosts on a grassroots level in ancient China as well as in modern Beijing, and the treatment and function of ghosts, spirits, and monstrous beings in classical as well as modern literature. Further information on this panel and the participants can be found under:

In the following the contributions of the two Monumenta Serica participants are presented in more detail:

Anthony Hu, “A World of Ghost and Spirits in Ancient China: A Folk-Oriented Perspective”

The presentation focused on the religious landscape of ancient China mainly depicted both in the book of Mozi 墨子 and the manuscript of the Rishu 日書 (Daybook) excavated at Chengguan Shuihudi 城關睡虎地 in Hubei Province in 1975. Although the former presents a world of ghosts and spirits from a socio-political point of view and its orientation is primarily connected with the circle of the elite class and culture, the source of which it makes full use contains anomalous writings from the contemporary popular culture of that time. The latter obviously comprises the hemerological material circulating among common people of ancient China and its foremost concern is ordinary people’s daily life. A holistic approach is thus employed to illustrate the strong visual world of ancient Chinese popular culture and religious beliefs in terms of the authors’ intentions, their writing style and readership, ritual performances, and worldviews. My purpose is not only to present various ghosts and spirits, regardless of being named or unnamed, as well as plants, animals, or other forms of beings by their respective origin, but also to compare those pieces of strange writings in the Mozi and the Rishu in an attempt to obtain an overall understanding of religious culture of ancient China.

Dirk Kuhlmann, “Getting the gui of the Land: On the Rediscovery of Taiwan’s Supernatural World”

This paper introduced a fascinating motif within Taiwanese literature: The rediscovery of stories dealing with the supernatural, i.e., ghosts (gui), spirits (shen) and monsters (yaoguai), in a Taiwanese context as markers of a cultural identity. The focus of my analysis will be on novels with fantastic elements, two by indigenous authors of Taiwan, Neqou Soqluman’s Donggu shafei chuanqi (The Legend of Tongku Saveq) and Badai’s Wulü (The Journey of a Wu Practitioner), and one by the Hakka author Gan Yao-ming entitled Sha gui (Killing Ghosts). In addition, I will discuss several publications which are presented as modern “accounts of the strange” (zhiguai) or even catalogs of supernatural beings specific to the island. There is a close interrelation and overlapping between these publications and other subgenres, such as fantasy literature or Manga graphic novels, and some of these records are rather tongue-in-cheek. However, at the same time, the works mentioned above also manage to connect popular culture, literature, and the academic world by cooperating with renowned scholars in folk religion and indigenous culture of Taiwan. The novels, the “accounts of the strange” as well as the catalogues share the genuine motivation to showcase unique features of Taiwanese culture, in particular its diversity, and make the readers aware of Taiwan’s history as a confluence of several cultures.