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Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 113–177 | Cite as

Religion, Violence, and Emotion: Modes of Religiosity in the Neolithic and Bronze Age of Northern China

  • Katrinka Reinhart
Article

Abstract

This paper explores the development of religious traditions in the Neolithic and Bronze Age of northern China. It applies the cognitive anthropological theory of Divergent Modes of Religiosity (DMR) for the first time in this part of the world. DMR theory frames ritual behavior in two distinct modes, one that is more traumatic/emotional and occurs less frequently (imagistic rituals) and another that is more placid and occurs more frequently (doctrinal rituals). Various archaeological and historic sources indicate that violent imagistic rituals involving human sacrifice and feasting began deep in the Neolithic; but religion did not become more tame when societies entered the Bronze Age, as predicted by DMR theory. Instead, violent imagistic rituals continued and became arguably more brutal. The application of DMR theory here is a useful means to explore the challenging topic of religious violence and to reveal biases in the treatment of ritual and religion in Shang studies.

Keywords

Religion Ritual China Divergent Modes of Religiosity theory Violence Sacrifice Memory 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Laura Jones, Francis Allard, David Greenberg, and two anonymous reviewers for offering insight, constructive critique, and raising penetrating questions. And special thanks to Ian Hodder for thought-provoking conversations about this topic and for comments on an early draft of this paper.

References

Note on abbreviations. IA: Institute of Archaeology; CASS: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology DepartmentSan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA

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