A Daoist of the Southern Marchmount in the Construction of Chinese Modernity: Wang Xi’nan

Submitted by James Miller on Tue, 04/20/2010 - 14:25
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TitleA Daoist of the Southern Marchmount in the Construction of Chinese Modernity: Wang Xi’nan
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsFavraud, G.
Conference NameSixth International Conference on Daoist Studies: Daoism Today: Science, Health, Ecology
Date Published2010/06/02/
KeywordsSixth International Daoist Studies Conference

Master Wang Xinan (1918-1992), known for his practice of meditation and medicine, was the leader of the Daoist community of the Southern Marchmount (Nanyue), during the turbulent period of the latter part of the 20th century (1949-1992). By examining different versions of his personal life, my aim is to show on a more global level how different emblems and institutions of modernity were superscripted on the imperial ones, consequently transforming the identities of today’s local Daoist communities. In the early 1950s, he was appointed vice-director of the Buddhist-Daoist Production Brigade of the Southern Marchmount, created to cultivate the sacred mountain. Just before the Great Leap Forward, however, he was judged a “rightist” and deprived of his responsibilities. During the Cultural Revolution, he was authorized to use Daoist knowledge as a “barefoot doctor” in his native village. In 1985 he became president of the Hunan Daoist Association, and from there managed the restoration of temples (opened to tourism), and organized the federation of numerous provincial worship communities. Several official biographies and hagiographic texts describe this famous figure of modern Daoism. I also gathered on the field oral accounts from some of his disciples, which come to enhance my narrative of his life.