Asian Ethnology 82-2 | article Performing Sacrificial Texts and Reenacting the “Imperial Metaphor” in Rituals of Ancestor Worship in Qimen County, Huizhou, China

Wei Liu

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sacrificial text ritual performance ancestor worship keying device imperial metaphor Huizhou

Through the lens of performance study, this article analyzes five sacrificial texts that are read or sung in ritual performances worshipping ancestors (and deities) organized by the Chen and Wang lineages in Qimen County, Huangshan City, traditionally known as part of Huizhou area. Viewing these texts in a communicative process rather than as static and isolated items, I firstly entextualize them and find them to be structured in a set of distinctive communicative means or keying devices such as special formulae, parallelism, and archaism, which aim at the arousal and fulfillment of formal expectations to evoke the resonant associations among audiences. The sacrificial texts are then recontextualized in different communicative events to endow the aesthetic forms with social meanings. I find that the keying devices of sacrificial texts and their interactive processes within the ritual performances establish the ancestral authority in an imperial metaphor that both reflects and shapes current social and political realities. This article aims to facilitate a better understanding of generic flexibility, form-function relationship, and text-ritual interplay in theoretical concerns across disciplines such as folklore, anthropology, history, and literature.