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From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao: The Essential Guide to Chinese Deities Paperback – 12 Jul 2018
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"I have yet to be as pleased or as excited as I am at the opportunity to join in the celebration of Xueting Christine Ni's debut, From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao. If you seek a primer text on the Chinese pantheon of divinities, then look no further. Luminous and detailed, this is an encyclopedic treasure trove that now renders the gods and goddesses of Eastern lore accessible to the West. Edifying, scholarly, and yet a sparkling, mesmerizing read, From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is a personal favorite in my library." --Benebell Wen, author of The Tao of Craft: Fu Talismans and Casting Sigils in the Eastern Esoteric Tradition<br \><br \>"From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is a must-read book for anyone who is interested in China. Xueting Christine Ni has woven history, society, religion, beliefs and most importantly a perspective into the Chinese mind set. A fascinating book that gives all of us a better understanding of today's China." --Ken Hom, OBE, chef, author, and BBC presenter<br \><br \>
"What a marvelous book! From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is essential reading for anyone who has stood in bewildered delight in the midst of a Chinese temple wondering at the meaning and importance of the statuary that surrounds the visitor. Xueting Christine Ni's beautifully written guide to the Chinese pantheon is the sort of book that should be in the hands of any visitor to Hong Kong or Mainland China, explaining as it does the history, meaning and continued relevance of the various deities the traveler encounters. And not just in temples - Ni explains how for the most part these figures are all a part of a living tradition that have significant afterlives in popular culture, from movies and TV shows to video games and comics. Part of what makes this book so interesting - and so important - is her incredible knowledge, not just of the mystical past but the very vibrant present in which Chinese populations all over the world continue to practice and expand their rich spiritual traditions.
From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao book opens up the full complexity of Chinese religious life, explaining not just the three religious traditions usually attributed to the Chinese (Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism) but also the next level of popular religion which embraces a whole cast of generals, courtesans and wise governors who have all been elevated to important positions in the Chinese hierarchy of gods and spirits. Constantly fascinating, always surprising and immensely helpful, this is the book many travelers, occultists and pilgrims have been waiting for." --Walter Mason, author of Destination Saigon and Destination Cambodia
"Xueting Christine Ni has created some enthralling profiles of China's sprawling cast of deities, from their mythical origins to their manifestations in 21st century pop culture. If you want to learn about China's rambunctious spiritual life, From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is a first-class guide." --Ben Chu, Economics Editor of The Independent and author of Chinese Whispers
"I used to think 'Chinese mythology is extremely complicated--who would be crazy enough to write a book trying to explain it?' Despite common misconception, China is not a monolithic entity with a singular belief system across the vast country, let alone the diaspora. Depending on who you ask, the stories, mythology, even the gods themselves can vary across regions and even families. Explaining the Chinese gods has always been difficult for Chinese people, and even more difficult for Westerners to understand. Xueting Christine Ni has accomplished what very few have done for the common English-speaking audience, providing enough depth to provide insight and deep understanding into the gods, but not so much that the information is bogged down amidst potentially conflicting legends. Moreover, she is not afraid to present information that is controversial, that would create heated friction between Chinese people themselves. From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao is perhaps the best book for unfamiliar readers to begin gaining familiarity with the spiritual complexities of the Chinese gods." --David Borji Shi, author of North Asian Magic: Spellcraft from Manchuria, Mongolia, and Siberia
About the Author
Xueting Christine Ni was born in Guangzhou, during China's "re-opening to the West". Having lived in cities across China, she emigrated with her family to Britain at the age of 11, where she continued to be immersed in Chinese culture, alongside her British education, realising ultimately that this gave her a unique a cultural perspective, bridging her Eastern and Western experiences. After graduating in English Literature from the University of London, she began a career in the publishing industry, whilst also translating original works of Chinese fiction. She returned to China in 2008 to continue her research at Central University of Nationalities, Beijing. Since 2010, Xueting has written extensively on Chinese culture and China's place in Western pop media, presenting publicly in collaboration with companies, theatres, institutions and festivals. Having worked on manhua, poetry, documentaries and science fiction, she continues her literary translation of China to the West, with a mission to help improve understanding of Chinese heritage, culture and innovation, and introduce its wonders to new audiences. Xueting currently lives in the suburbs of London with her partner and their cat, both of whom are learning Chinese. You can find out more about her work from her website: snowpavilion.co.uk
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I've read hundreds of books on Chinese religions, mythologies, folklores, and cultures. This might top them all, in every way.
The writing is clear, crisp, and memorable, easily understood by the general reader... yet underneath the smooth flow of her prose is a foundation of phenomenal scholarship. Most academic texts tend to focus on one single element of the cultural and religious representations; most general texts tend to force the subject matter to conform to some preexisting notions of "mythology." This is, this is SOMETHING ELSE.
I maybe should wait to write this review until I regain my eloquence. Because I'm stunned.
The scope of this project, its breadth, depth, and its ambition, are unlike anything I've seen before. Xueting Christine Ni has left no angle unexplored: when discussing a deity, she goes into the classical texts that first described it, its changing roles throughout history, the deity's presence in sacred scriptures and performative rituals, their representation in folk tales, their influence upon festivals that are still celebrated today, as well as pop culture elements like comic books, movies, tv shows, and video games.
This alone would make for a brilliant, amazing book. But she doesn't stop there, because all of this, this tremendous scholarship, this knowledge and erudition, is driven by a personal quest for understanding, and the book is made more meaningful for the personal nature of the writing; we not only see the distanced, studious, scholarly view of a deity, but also the role it played in the author's own upbringing and family history. This makes the deities COME ALIVE; readers will see so much more than the thin representations of some glossary, because through the author's eyes and personal experience and her grandmother's role and her evocative descriptions, we come to understand the real, significant place these deities occupy in contemporary life. And beyond the personal element there is also a constant revisiting of the ways these deific figures are being incorporated into the lives of people in the Chinas who are seeking to rediscover a cultural heritage. This makes the book political, not in a polemic manner, but in personal, subversive ways.
It's also worth mentioning that throughout the book, there is a commitment to drawing attention to female power. The author aims to rediscover goddesses as images of strength and capability. This makes an already-gorgeous book into something so much more.
What she has done here is phenomenal. The quantity of research is stellar. The way she has wrapped all these profound, fascinating, disparate elements together and made it her personal tale yet still a superb, accessible, general guidebook for people looking to learn, makes it so much MORE than any one thing it could be described as:
* a guide to Chinese mythological and religious figures;
* a far-ranging introduction to aspects of Chinese cultures which have rarely been made so accessible;
* an exploration of the ways in which contemporary Chinese comics, games, movies, and tv have drawn upon sacred traditions to find fresh material in the ancient lore;
* a personal journey into the author's own heritage and her relationship to that heritage;
* a consistently enjoyable read for general audiences who like learning about mythologies;
* a deep, stunningly researched look at an array of Chinese deities and their presence in Chinese lives from ancient times to the present;
* a work of genius.