Newly-discovered manuscripts of a northern-Chinese horse king temple association

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Written documents from rural north China are rare. This essay examines the newlydiscovered records of a Shanxi village association, which was dedicated to the cult of the Horse King. The manuscripts detail the activities, revenues, and expenditures of the Horse King temple association over a hundred-year period (from 1852 until 1956). The essay examines them from social, cultural, and religious perspectives. The manuscripts reveal the internal workings and communal values of a late imperial village association. They unravel the social and economic structure of the village and the centrality of theater in rural culture. Furthermore, the manuscripts bring to the fore a forgotten cult and its ecological background: the Horse King was among the most widely worshiped deities of late imperial China, his flourishing cult reflecting the significance of his protégés - horses, donkeys, and mules - in the agrarian economy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-228
Number of pages46
JournalT'oung Pao
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2019


  • Animals and religion
  • Chinese religion
  • Horse King
  • North China villages
  • Shanxi province
  • Temple associations


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