Departmental Seminar

The Blood Lake Complex: History and Present

Asia/Hong_KongThe Blood Lake Complex: History and Present
    Asia/Hong_KongThe Blood Lake Complex: History and Present


      The Blood Lake Complex: History and Present


      Dr. Der-Ruey Yang (Institute of Social Anthropology, Nanjing University)


      March 22, 2017


      4:30 pm


      Room 201, 2/F, May Hall, The University of Hong Kong (Map)




      (Tel) (852) 3917-5772


      The “Blood Lake complex” refers to all the relevant myths concerning the “Blood Lake/Blood Bowl Hell” and the whole genre of death rite for deceased women derived from those myths. The core idea of the complex is simply that women are destined to be punished in Blood Lake/Blood Bowl Hell after death because they could not avoid polluting water and earth with their blood, either through menses or lochia, while they were living. Therefore, Buddhism and Daoism began to design new rites for rescuing women’s souls from the Blood Lake/Blood Bowl Hell since the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries onward. Later, the more and more elaborate and diversified ritual genre had gradually become one of the most often-used constituting parts of women’s death ritual in China. Now, relevant rites are still widely practiced by ritual specialists in many rural communities in south-eastern China.

      This paper will briefly outline the trajectory through which this Buddhists-invented complex was adopted and actively developed by Daoism. Then, it will go on to delineate how the Blood Lake rites are practiced by Daoist priests in the southern Yangtze River delta region today. By so doing, the author attempts to suggest that the popularity of the Blood Lake complex maybe not caused by some entrenched sexism against women. Contrarily, it can be better explained by the moral authority actually commanded by mother, especially the mother of sons, in Chinese family.

      About the Speaker

      Yang Der-Ruey got his PhD in anthropology from London School of Economics and Political Sciences in 2003. Then, he affiliated to National University of Singapore as a post-doc fellow for one year. Since 2005 onward, he worked in the Institute of Social Anthropology, Nanjing University, China as an associate professor. His research interest mainly concerns the transmission and transformation of religions, especially Daoism and relevant folk religious practices, in modern and contemporary China. His main publications include The Changing Economy of Temple Daoism in Shanghai (2005), From Crafts to Discursive Knowledge: How Modern Schooling Changes the Learning/Knowledge Style of Daoist Priests in Contemporary China (2010), Revolution of Temporality: The Modern Schooling for Daoist Priests in Contemporary Shanghai (2012), New Agents and New Ethos of Daoism in China Today (2012).