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Making the Gods Speak

Making the Gods Speak

The Ritual Production of Revelation in Chinese Religious History

Vincent Goossaert

ISBN 9780674270947

Publication date: 07/05/2022

For two millennia, Chinese society has been producing divine revelations on an unparalleled scale, in multifarious genres and formats. This book is the first comprehensive attempt at accounting for the processes of such production. It builds a typology of the various ritual techniques used to make gods present and allow them to speak or write, and it follows the historical development of these types and the revealed teachings they made possible. Within the large array of visionary, mediumistic, and mystical techniques, Vincent Goossaert devotes the bulk of his analysis to spirit-writing, a family of rites that appeared around the eleventh century and gradually came to account for the largest numbers of books and tracts ascribed to the gods. In doing so, he shows that the practice of spirit-writing must be placed within the framework of techniques used by ritual specialists to control human communications with gods and spirits for healing, divining, and self-divinization, among other purposes. Making the Gods Speak thus offers a ritual-centered framework to study revelation in Chinese cultural history and comparatively with the revelatory practices of other religious traditions.


  • Goossaert offers a compelling narrative about how spirit-writing and revealed texts were significant forces shaping the religious life of late imperial China…Excellent.

    —Natasha Heller, Material Religion


  • Vincent Goossaert is Research Professor in the Religious Studies Department at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris.

Book Details

  • 368 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center

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