This book is a major contribution to the study of Daoist ritual, focused on the notion of relationships: between human and divine beings, masters and disciples, and among the people of communities that rely on the services of Daoist priests for dealing with problems related to the otherworld. In this way, it breaks new ground and will be deeply appreciated by anybody interested in the study of Daoism as a ritual tradition.


––Poul Andersen, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa



Based on original fieldwork and wide reading in the field, Knotting the Banner adds richly not only to our understanding of the unique form of Daoism still thriving in central Hunan today, but to the entire fashi tradition that rose to prominence in the Song―Yuan. Canonical sources are put to excellent use by the author in explaining the liturgical work of married Hunan Daoists, and his fieldwork furnishes insight into the centrality of their liturgical lineages. By conjugating fieldwork and historical analysis, this book makes a major contribution to our understanding of modern ritual traditions, especially in South China.


––John Lagerwey, Chinese University of Hong Kong




The emerging field of Daoist ritual is essential to our understanding of Chinese culture and society, but much of the work being done is technical and not easily accessed by non-specialists. David Mozina’s highly readable and engaging book is a breakthrough. He explains the fundamental logic of Daoist ritual and the worldview it stages in a way that both makes immediate sense and does full justice to the complexity of historical developments, regional variations, and diversity of ritual traditions. He starts from a detailed, exemplary ethnography, focusing on one young priest’s ordination ritual in central Hunan, then he explains how this ritual ‘works’ based on his thorough command of the deep textual heritage it draws on. His book’s fundamental insights will nurture scholarship for many years to come.


––Vincent Goossaert, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris



David Mozina’s book is a first-hand report on Daoism in contemporary China based on fieldwork in the nearly unknown Anhua district of Hunan province. In spite of the torments Chinese religious specialists suffered during the twentieth century, they survive and continue a long liturgical tradition flowing from the religious movements of the eleventh through fourteenth centuries. Their story is told through an exploration of the Banner Rite, one of the most mysterious rituals in the entire repertoire of these Daoists. This wonderful book, full of data about religion and society, is a major contribution and should attract new researchers to the burgeoning field of Hunan Daoist studies.


––Patrice Fava, École française d’Extrême-Orient; Renmin University, Beijing


This book is not intended for those whose certainties are settled, nor for those who see things from afar and from above. Marrying rigor and honesty, historical anthropology and meticulous ethnology, David Mozina examines the ordination of a young apprentice hoping to enter a lineage of ritual masters in the neglected region of central Hunan. His attention to that moment allows us to see the recent and distant history of this lineage, which maintains a dual Daoist-Buddhist tradition that both worships the Daoist martial deity Yin Jiao and practices a Buddhist exorcistic tradition claiming to originate in the Song-dynasty monk Pu’an. With precision, Mozina analyzes the Banner Rite, a crucial moment in the ordination ceremony. He shows how much this particular ritual and the liturgical traditions on which it draws reflect the idea that ritual is about communication between initiates and deities, and the establishment of a constantly renewed contract binding men and gods. This book is intended for all those, specialists or not, who wish to understand what “religion” and “religious practice” mean in China


––Alain Arrault, École française d’Extrême-Orient; École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris