From the Field #4 12/11/2012
in a complex society with vast differences, did they share religious ideas?
No institution that would impose a shared interpretation on people
Geertz: Interpretation of Cultures (1973)
How to understand ritual, if they are shared
Ask people what it means, what do symbols mean?
Started with something easy, fill in with local details
Rural villages: each has an earth god, divide up territory
Temples are all small, no front door, inside there is a deity
People burn incense
In his village, 2 earth god temples Went door to door asking which earth god they go to, what is the other temple
People didn’t know what other temple was
Who is earth god?
Literature: some historical, local character that was deified
Wife of earth god: earth mother
Why doesn’t one have a wife?
Kept getting answer of I don’t know, I don’t care, but somebody knows (go talk to someone else)
Answer: movie about earth god
Reading Geertz, reading Turner: idea that informants will tell you everything
Not really true
Many symbols, but people may not have the answers
Worked in temple in small town
On the birthday of the god, offer pigs in front of temple
Space in front of temple was limited
Whoever grows the fattest pig will get to display them in front of temple
Told gov’t it wasn’t superstitious, it was agricultural competition
Victor Turner did analysis of symbols of pig, got a lot of answers, interpretation Optical illusion of pig: paint it, have to cover the pig so there is an illusion that it’s bigger
Asked people what’s with the fish, knife, etc.
People didn’t know or care
Seemed to think someone would know, but didn’t know who would know
Changed direction of dissertation
Two answers: looks prettier with knife, or we’re Chinese and that’s how we do it
Tradition, that’s why we do it
No theological reason, matter of doing it right rather than understanding why
Wouldn’t look right if they did it some other way
What are you praying to outside?
Emperor of heaven vs. ghosts
They had never thought about it, never asked themselves that questio