The Spirits are Drunk

Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion

By Jordan Paper

Subjects: Chinese Religion And Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791423165, 336 pages, January 1995
Hardcover : 9780791423158, 336 pages, January 1995

Table of contents




1. Introduction: The Study of Chinese Religion

The Understanding of Religion in China
The Understanding of Chinese Religion in the West
Recent Trends in Western Studies of Chinese Religion
Traditional Chinese Elite Values and Marxism
Religion in Contemporary China
The Study of Religion in China
The Study of Religion in Taiwan

2. The Essence of Chinese Religion

Chinese Ritual and Cultural Continuity
Ritual and Religion in Chinese Culture
Ritual and Myth in Chinese Religion: Digression I
Protohistoric Clan Ritual
Early Historic Clan Ritual
Early Historic Family Ritual
Early Traditional Ritual
Religious and Secular Ritual: Digression II
Late Traditional Ritual
Food in Chinese Culture
Modern Transformations
The Ritual Core of Chinese Religion

3. Ecstatic Functionaries in Chinese Religion I: Shamans

Shamanism in Early Chinese Texts
The Roots of Late Zhou Shamanism: Shang Religion

4. Ecstatic Functionaries in Chinese Religion II: Mediums

Shamanism and Mediumism (Spirit Possession)
The Enigma of Protohistoric Chinese Mediumism
Historic Mediumism
Mediums in Modern China
Mediums in Modern China

5. The Mystic Experience in Chinese Religion I: Transformation

The Problem
From Shamanism to Mysticism in the Zhuangzi

From Shamn to Mystic in Anishnabe Religion
Causative Factors for the Transformation

6. The Mystic Experience in Chinese Religion II: Expression

Aesthetics and the Wenren

History of Aesthetic Expressions
Aesthetics and Religion
Contemporary China

7. The Fundament of Religio-Aesthetic Expression: Stones and Seals

A History of Seals in China
Religio-Aesthetics of Stones
Seal Stones
Contemporary China

8. Female Spirits and Spirituality in Chinese Religion

The Failure of Patriarchalization
The Variability of Patriarchality
Female and Male Religious Roles and Ideology
Comparative Cosmology and Values

9. Christianity from the Perspective of Chinese Religion

Hong Xiuquan
A Contemporary Chinese Interpretation

Comparative Approaches
Needed Studies
Expending the Notion of Religion

Appendix: Analysis of Bronze Vessels and Decor Relevant to Chapter 4



This is a comparative treatment of the religious beliefs and practices of Chinese traditional culture.


The Spirits are Drunk presents Chinese religion as a complex, singular construct that is the basis of Chinese culture and civilization from its inception to the present. It focuses on the development and role of ecstatic religious experience and on the importance of the feminine in religious perceptions.

Topics include the underlying structure of Chinese religion through the analysis of ritual; interpretations of the ritual decor of protohistoric sacrificial vessels in relation to ecstatic experience; the comparative study of myths and symbols; the development and interrelationships of shamanism, mediumism, and the mystic experience; the role of ecstatic religious experience in the arts and aesthetics; the importance of female deities; female roles in ritual; and the understanding of Christianity and Christian scriptures in China.

Jordan Paper is an Associate Professor in the Religious Studies, East Asian Studies, and Women's Studies Programs at York University, Toronto.


"Paper consistently deals with a coherent body of beliefs and practices, pointing out that traditional categories such as the 'three teachings' (Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism) obscure the degree to which a common system of belief and practice pervaded Chinese traditional culture.

"The approach taken here is comparative both across time and across cultures. For example, the author's deep understanding of shamanism and related phenomena in a variety of cultural and historical contexts allows him to write about Chinese religion in a particularly illuminating way.

"Even when I don't agree with Paper, he provides me with interesting material to grapple with. The world is full of safe, boring books; here is one that is adventurousand intellectually exciting. " — John S. Major