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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Room LG18, Law Faculty (Sidgwick Site)
Event date: 
Thursday, 22 February, 2024 - 14:00
Event organiser: 

China Research Seminar event featuring a screening of the ethnographic film by Gennie Zhang.

The film is about 39 minutes long. The screening will be preceded by a brief introduction and followed by a discussion.

‘House of Goddesses: The Living Need Light, The Goddesses Need Meat’ takes viewers on a visual and musical journey into the ritual traditions of Chen Jinggu (陳靖姑, Lady of Linshui) in Wenzhou, a city situated in coastal southeastern China. The documentary delves into the village's rituals dedicated to the goddess and her maids. It initiates a dialogue on how the goddess statue at the Niangniang Palace (娘娘宮) ‘marries’ into the region through an eye-opening ritual where the goddess statue becomes imbued with the goddess’s essence, followed by a meat feast. The goddess then becomes the village’s protector and assumes two distinct personae and relationalities: the idol (偶像) of worship and the newly married deity (配偶). This ethnographic project challenges conventional notions of gender, family, and religion, transcending modern societal constructs. Such nonconformity sheds light on the limitations of present-day kinship categories in Chinese society, while also exploring the possibilities of relationships between and among humans and goddesses that extend beyond these fixed categories.

Gennie Zhang is a first-year Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. She received her MA in Anthropology at Columbia University. Her primary research centres around the vitality of Chinese goddesses along the coastal regions of contemporary China. Her scholarly interest extends to the intricate dynamics within goddess veneration, the interplay between performance, text, and context, as well as the interactions between ritual practitioners and kinship influences.

Professor Adam Yuet Chau: