Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Schlutter, Morten

First Committee Member

Curley, Melissa A M

Second Committee Member

Smith, Frederick M


The People's Republic of China is home to numerous beliefs, practices, and customs dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years. In the time since the death of Mao Zedong, many practices have been revived, including the practice of spirit possession. Through careful examination of books, articles, videos, and other sources, I have come to the conclusion that individuals now capable of being possessed in China are a break from previously documented spirit-mediums, nor do they fit into the category termed `shamans' best defined by Mircea Eliade and I.M. Lewis. These individual are heirs to a long history, but have innovated as well as revived previous practices. They now embody a new category, one I have termed spirit-worker. Spirit-workers incorporate aspects of both traditional spirit-mediumship as well as what has been termed shamanism. Although I did not have a chance to do my own fieldwork, through looking at the various sources, we can come to understand how spirit-workers have begun to emerge in China, and what the future may hold for these individuals.

Public Abstract

Possession is among the most powerful experiences in the religious world, regardless of the religion practiced. This paper is an examination of the lives of contemporary individuals in the People’s Republic of China who engage in possession practices on a professional level. Through articles, books, and videos I hope to show that the category of spirit-medium in China is a changing one, and may no longer be applicable. Instead, there is a new category, that of spirit-worker. Spirit-workers, as compared to those who came before them, embody a combination of both traditional spirit-mediums and figures that had previously been identified as shamans.


publicabstract, China, Possession, Shamanism, Spirit-Mediums


iv, 75 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 73-75).


Copyright 2015 David Armstrong Pantaleoni

Included in

Religion Commons