Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


The View of Life and Death in the Funeral Rite
and Sending-Back Rite of Dehong Tai Society:
A study of religious practice as means
and bodily experience

ITO, Satoru

(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies, Department of Regional Studies)

Key words:

Dehong Tai, rites of death, view of life and death, Theravada Buddhism, Shamanism

This paper attempts to explain how Tai people practice various religious choices as faith which is continuous and consistent, and to reconsider living religious practices in everyday life from the viewpoint of bodily experience.

Dehong Tai society in Yunnan Province, China, is located in the periphery of the Theravada Buddhism cultural area and the Han Chinese cultural area. Research on the particular religious practices of the Dehong Tai has been accumulated in recent years. However, thus far the research has tended to analyze their religious practices focusing mainly on their merit-making process within the context of Theravada Buddhist practices. Furthermore, some researches have explained and distinguished Theravada Buddhism and folk animism in their religious practices as different systems from a dualistic perspective.

In this article, I survey the case studies of funeral rites and shamanistic sending-back rites in Dehong Tai society, and argue that Theravada Buddhism and folk animism do not exist in opposition or as completely separate religions. Rather, both belief systems are continuous, complementary, and consistent with one another – people practice their religion as a means to face various problems and their future, and combine various alternative elements of both religions together, depending on the needs of the situation.