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Lecture 7

Global Asia Studies – Lecture 7

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Global Asia Studies

Global Asia Studies – Lecture 7 o The Lecture is based on ‘home’ – what it is and what it feels like – and ‘away’ the insights people have on those from elsewhere who come to their home territory and of the places whence those outsiders have come. In the ‘home’ section will look at home from point of view of peoples from Laos, Tibet, China, South Asia, South East Asia and Korea. And will look at ‘away’ through the eyes of Japan, which, after a time of stricture, opened up to foreign trade and contact. o Houses are strong markers of ethnic identity. The ways in which different cultures organize space, relationships and the past demonstrate the differences and likenesses between them.  The house is a shelter, a point to travel out from and return to. It may be a permanent construction or one that can be dismantled and moved or changed.  Planning is done by principles that vary from society to society. But the fundamentals remain the same: spaces for kitchen, storage, washing, sleeping, formal gathering, entrance.  There may be a hierarchy / etiquette of placement in an extended family home – with a spread that may be vertical or horizontal.  The house is sometimes a part of the supernatural world too: we will see rituals for construction and emblems for protection.  Beyond the single house, one needs to think about the clustering of dwellings into villages, cities. In any society, how is this done and why? o Reading 7.1 The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.  Focus on a Hmong family from Laos to California  Husband was not allowed to view body of female when she was giving birth, and the birth was done by the woman by herself  Mother believed that moaning or screaming would thwart the baby thus she gave birth in absolute silence with occasional prayers to her ancestors  Had there been any complications during birth she would have recourse to a variety of remedies that were commonly used among the Hmong  If a Hmong couple failed to produce children, they could call in a rxiv neeb, a shaman who was believed to have the ability to enter a trance, summon a posse of helpful familiars, ride a winged horse over the twelve mountains between the eat and the sky, cross an ocean inhabited by dragons, and negotiate for his patients‘ health with the spirits who lived in the realm of the unseen  Might be able to cure infertility by asking the couple to sacrifice a dog, a cat, a chicken, or a sheep  Tie string onto bed and the malevolent spirit called a ‗dab,‘ could now freely travel to earth  No woman of childbearing age would ever think of setting food inside a cave, because a particularly unpleasant kind of ‗dab‘ sometimes lived there who liked to eat flesh and drink blood and could make his victim sterile by having sexual intercourse with her  Mother should always tend to her cravings as if she doesn‘t child may be born with deformities  Important for mother to reach own house in during the first pangs of labor because if she gave birth anywhere else a ‗dab‘ might injure her  Key boiled water should be drank in order to unlock the birth canal; must apologize to elders if they have been offended until apology is accepted  Soon after birth, while the mother and baby were still lying together next to the fire pit the father dug a hole at least 2 feet deep in the dirt floor and buried the placenta. If it was a girl, her placenta was buried under her parents‘ bed; if it was a boy, his placenta was buried in a place of greater honor, near the base of the house‘s central wooden pillar, in which a male spirit, a domestic guardian who held up the roof of the house and watched over its residents made his home  In the Hmong language, the word for placenta means ―jacket‖. It is considered one‘s first and finest garment. When a Hmong dies, his or her soul must travel back from place to place, retracing the path of its life geography, until it reaches the burial place of its placental jacket, and puts it on...If the soul cannot find its jacket, it is condemned to an eternity of wandering, naked and alone‖  Many doctors have refused to give the placenta to the woman in fear of them eating it and possible spread of hepatitis B, which is carried by at least 15% of the Hmong refugees in the US.  Birthdates are usually remembered using the seasonal change of the Laos  Cold water after birth makes the blood congeal in the womb instead of cleansing it by flowing freely, and that a woman who does not observe the taboo against them will develop itchy skin or diarrhea in her old age steamed rice, and chicken boiled in water with five special postpartum herbs  Foua never shared her meals with anyone, because there is a postpartum taboo against spilling grains of rice accidentally into chicken pot. IF that occurs, the newborn is likely to break out across the nose and cheeks with little white pimples whose name in Hmong language is the same as the word for rice.  Hmong believe that illness can be caused by a variety of sources – including eating the wrong food, drinking contaminated water, being affected by a change in the weather, failing to ejaculate completely during sexual intercourse, neglecting to make offerings to one‘s ancestors, being punished for one‘s ancestor‘s transgressions, being cursed, being hit by a whirlwind, having as stone implanted in one‘s body by an evil spirit master, having one‘s blood sucked by a ‗dab‘, bumping into a ‗dab‘ who lives in a tree or a stream, digging a well in a ‗dab‘s living place, catching site of a dwarf female ‗dab‘ who eats earthworms, having a ‗dab‘ sit on one‘s chest while one is leeping, doing one‘s laundry in a lake inhabited by a dragon, point one‘s finger at the full moon, touching a newborn mouse, killing a large snake, urinating on a rock that looks like a tiger, urinating on or kicking a benevolent house spirit, or having birth droppings fall on one‘s head – by far the most common cause of illness is soul loss.  1 to 32 estimates of souls that people have  A life-soul can become separated from its body through anger, grief, fear, curiosity, or wanderlust.  The life-souls of newborns are especially prone to disappearance, since they are so small, so vulnerable, and so precariously poised between the realm of the living  Babies souls may wander away, drawn by bright colors, sweet sounds, or fragrant smells; they may leave if a baby is sad, lonely, or insufficiently loved by its parents; they may be frightened away by a sudden loud noise; or may be stolen by a ‗dab‘  Babies dressed in hats which, when seen from a heavenly perspective, might fool a predatory ‗dab‘ into thinking the child was a flower  Babies spend much of their time swaddled against their mothers‘ backs in cloth carriers called nyias; may also wear silver necklaced fastened with soul-shackling locks  Proper soul-calling ritual must be completed—before meal, the soul- caller will brush hands of baby with a bundle of short white strings and say that they are sweeping away the ways of sickeness o Reading 7.2 Thus Spake the Sangha, Early Buddhist Leadership in T
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