Saturated Ghosts and Social Change in Taiwan
The Eighteen Lords (Shiba Wanggong) temple innovates, but only as bricolage — a creative recombination of elements already at hand. A trip to the temple offers a disorienting reformulation of old ideas, but no new worlds. Even though every ritual offering and every architectural detail can conjure up a wealth of old associations for people, the combination is fresh and complexly evocative, a view of the world through a kaleidoscope. I begin by tracing out some of the lines of evocation to suggest plausible potentials for explicit interpretation, while illustrating the rich surplus of meaning at the temple. The chapter concludes with an examination of the intimate ties between these cultural changes and Taiwan’s economic growth. The Eighteen Lords delineate a world of individualistic, utilitarian and amoral competition, easily adapting to changing social relations of interpretation. The rich evocations of the temple stir up a host of possible interpretations, but as we shall see, none has come to dominate thinking about the temple. Certainly the implied critique of Taiwen’s economy and polity, comparable to what other authors have seen in some ritual elsewhere in the world, has never been brought to the surface.
KeywordsBurning Recombination Income Smoke Pyramid
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