SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Li Manshan: Portrait of a folk Daoist

Li Manshan
Dr Stephen Jones (SOAS, University of London)

Date: 11 October 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 11 October 2018Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT)

Type of Event: Film


This intimate 80-minute portrait film explores the life of eighth-generation household Daoist Li Manshan (b.1946), leader of a group of ritual specialists in the poor countryside of Yanggao county in north Shanxi, China. Dr Steve Jones will briefly introduce the film, and respond to any comments afterwards. He has known the group since 1991, and since 2005 has also taken them on several tours of Europe and the USA. 

Using footage mainly from the period since 2011 but also from as far back as 1987, the film shows both Li Manshan’s funerary practice as leader of his ritual group and his solo activities—determining the date for the burial, decorating coffins, and even his work in the fields. We are led into the vocal liturgy, percussion, and melodic instrumental music of their magnificent funeral rituals, learning how ritual practice has changed since the 1930s—and even since the 1990s, under challenges such as migration, the modern education system, and the competition at funerals from pop music. 

Complementing Steve’s new book Daoist priests of the Li family: ritual life in village China (Three Pines Press, 2016), this moving portrait of the diverse activities of Li Manshan and his group serving their local community in a rapidly changing rural China will fascinate anthropologists, scholars of Daoism and folk religion, world-music aficionados, and all those interested in Chinese society.

The film will be in Chinese with English subtitles.

No registration is required. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

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Contact Tel: 02078984823