Gender and Religion Research Centre Seminar
Department of the Study of Religions
School of Oriental and African Studies
Rm 336, 1:00-2:30 pm
Friday 9th March 2001
Orthodox Ancestral Practices of Maiden-Death in the Holo-Chinese Religious
Culture of Taiwan
Fang-Long SHIH, Department of the Study of Religions, SOAS
This paper examines orthodox ancestral practices of maiden-death and
their cultural implications among the Holo-Chinese speaking population of
Taiwan. Maiden-death practices are very rarely discussed, either by
Taiwanese people or by the scholars who study Chinese religious culture.
Indeed, within Chinese religious culture, talking about death is problematic
because it may invite ‘misfortune’, and, maiden-death is one of the most
‘polluting’ forms of death.
Insertion into a lineage and ancestor-hood – as the means by which a
person receives a family-name – has been understood as essential to the
process of identity formation in Chinese culture. Deceased maidens are
however, denied any place within a family’s ancestral lineage, and the lack
of literature devoted to maiden-death practices would seem to reveal that
maidens constitute a lack or absence of identity. In this paper, I will
argue that maiden-death practices represent the other side of ancestral
orthodoxy which constitute maidens as un or non- Chinese persons.
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