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Goddess on the FrontierReligion, Ethnicity, and Gender in Southwest China$
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Megan Bryson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804799546

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804799546.001.0001

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Baijie the Benzhu

Baijie the Benzhu

Village Religion in Contemporary Dali

(p.137) 5 Baijie the Benzhu
Goddess on the Frontier

Megan Bryson

Stanford University Press

Baijie’s significance shifts again in the modern period with the adoption of the terms ethnicity and religion. In the reform era (1978-present) Baijie again represents difference from Chinese identity, but in this period the language of ethnicity demarcates Bai from Han. However, the use of this language differs within the Dali population: male Bai elites present Baijie as a symbol of Bai ethnic culture, while most people who worship Baijie as their village guardian use gendered terms instead of ethnic discourse. Male Bai elites claim a modern, rational identity similar to the image of the Han and displace tradition, religiosity, and ethnic difference onto rural populations and women. This chapter relies in part on ethnographic research that examines how people not involved in textual production represent Baijie, which offers a new perspective on how gender plays a role in demarcating Bai ethno-cultural identities.

Keywords:   Baijie, benzhu, ethnicity, religion, Bai, reform-era, gender

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