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The Meaning of the Graph Yi and Its Implications for Shang Belief and Art

This book, an East Asia Journal monograph, uses a combination of written and graphic data to identify the meaning of the so-called taotie mask and the basis of Shang religion. By utilising paleographic and representational evidence, this book puts into perspective that Shang belief was not limited to the worship of royal dead ancestor spirits. Buy this book

About The Meaning of the Graph Yi…

In a departure from previous analyses, Dr Elizabeth Childs-Johnson uses a combination of written and graphic data to identify the meaning of the so-called taotie mask and the basis of Shang religion. Buy this book.

By utilising paleographic and representational evidence Childs-Johnson puts into perspective for the first time that Shang belief was not limited to the worship of royal dead ancestor spirits. She analyses the meaning of several pivotal oracle bone graphs, in particular yi, illustrating that Shang belief was founded on the concept of spirit metamorphosis.

Childs-Johnson identifies yi as meaning ‘to undergo metamorphosis of/by a spirit.’

This fundamental belief in metamorphosis, and the power associated with it, also underlies the meaning behind Shang ritual representations, which has been extensively examined in several previous studies. The significance of these analyses is monumental in explaining that early Chinese belief embraces more than the worship of dead ancestor spirits, that the setting for the birth of Chinese civilisation is more complex in incorporating the basic belief in the power to take on the power of another in the spirit realm.

Students and China watchers of all levels will benefit from reading this study, not only because it answers many questions about traditional Chinese belief but enriches our understanding of the earliest dynastic period and its art in China.

About the Author
Elizabeth Childs-Johnson, PhD, is Associate Research Professor, College of Arts and Sciences and Adjunct Associate Professor, Departments of Art History and Asian Studies, Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia. Author website | Chinese notice on this book | Indiana University note on this book and background on Shang religion

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Author: Editor

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