David J. Mozina

Oct 18, 2021

Knotting the Banner

Ritual and Relationship in Daoist Practice

University of Hawaii Press 2021

Mozina’s Knotting the Banner: Ritual and Relationship in Daoist Practice (U Hawaii Press, 2021) weaves together ethnography, textual analysis, photography, and film, inviting readers into the religious world of Daoist practice in today’s south China by exploring one particular ritual called the Banner Rite to Summon Sire Yin, as practiced in central Hunan province.

Performed as the first public ritual by a Daoist apprentice at his own ordination, the Banner Rite seeks to summon Celestial Lord Yin Jiao, the ferocious martial deity who supplies the exorcistic power to protect and heal bodies and spaces from illness and misfortune. A lot is at stake. If the apprentice cannot successfully summon the deity in front of his village community and the pantheon of gods in attendance, he would not be able to be ordained that day and would risk losing the confidence of villagers who might hire him in the future.

Through a close reading of the ritual in its social and historical contexts, Mozina shows that the efficacy of rituals like the Banner Rite is driven by the ability of a master to form an intimate relationship with exorcistic deities like Yin Jiao, which is far from guaranteed. Mozina reveals the ways in which such ritual claims are rooted in the great liturgical movements of the Song and Yuan dynasties (960–1368) and how they are performed these days amid the social and economic pressures of rural life in the post-Mao era.

Knotting the Banner will be of interest to students and scholars of Daoism and Chinese religion and will also appeal to historians of religion and anthropologists, especially those working on ritual.

Noelle Giuffrida is a professor and curator of Asian art at the School of Art and the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University. Her research focuses on Chinese art, particularly the history of collecting and exhibiting premodern works in American museums after World War II and the visual culture of Daoism in late imperial China. Her teaching and curatorial experience extend broadly both temporally—from Neolithic to contemporary—and cross-culturally to China, Korea, and Japan, as well as to South and Southeast Asia. Her book Separating Sheep from Goats: Sherman E. Lee’s Collecting of Chinese Art in Postwar America (University of California Press, 2018) uses American curator and museum director Sherman E. Lee (1918–2008) as a lens through which to investigate the history of collecting and exhibiting Chinese art. Email her at ngiuffrida@bsu.edu.

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Noelle Guiffrida

Noelle Giuffrida is a professor and curator of Asian art at the School of Art and the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University. Email: ngiuffrida@bsu.edu

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