This summer I visited Mianning County (Liangshan Yizu Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, S.W. China, only 80 kilometers outside of Xichang, the capital of the Prefecture). On a beautiful mountain, called Lingshan (灵山 or Magic Mountain), one finds a huge temple visited by tens of thousands of devotees during the pilgrimage season. To get to the temple one has to climb the mountain or travel on a mule. As is typical in China, during the climb one passes several temples in a row. The first displays a huge statue of the fat, laughing Budai; there are several other Buddhist temples until one comes to the highest level where there is only a simple shrine with a little statue and the portrait of a Daoist Saint who lived there in the eighteenth century. This is Master Yang (杨祖师爷) who was born in 1748 and died in 1804, and whose body was once kept there in a mummified state until Red Guards removed and destroyed it during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.
Peter van der Veer
Peter van der Veer is Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity at Göttingen. He is also a University Professor at Large at Utrecht University. Professor van der Veer’s research focuses on religion and nationalism in Asia and Europe. He has just finished a monograph on the comparative study of religion and nationalism in India and China. His major publications include Gods on Earth (LSE Monographs, 1988), Religious Nationalism (University of California Press, 1994), and Imperial Encounters (Princeton University Press, 2001). Professor van der Veer serves on the Advisory Board of Public Culture, Contributions to Indian Sociology, Nations and Nationalism, Culture and Religion, Domains, Cultural Dynamics, and China in Comparative Perspective. Van der Veer is a member of the SSRC Advisory Committee for New Directions in the Study of Prayer.
Posts by Peter van der Veer
On 23 December 2012 we visited the Mother Goddess Shrine adjunct to the Great Kneeling Elephant temple, one of the four spiritual gates of the ancient citadel in Hanoi, in the company of Mr. Thien, a successful businessman and chairman of a group doing research on what they called “telepathy.” He had arranged for me to see some spirit mediums who would try to contact the spirits of my deceased family members.