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Dr Fang-Long Shih
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On the Poetic Texts and Material Cultural Study of 'Seventh Eve' Customs

Presented by Dr Shuling Horng (Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University) 

Presented at the conference 'Cultural Heritage: tradition in dialogue with modernity'

Venue: Room AGWR (the Graham Wallas Room), Old Building,  London School of Economics (LSE)

Date: Thursday 11 July 2013, 10am-11.30am

Abstract

This paper is concerned with how immigration to Taiwan from mainland China led to the transformation of folk customs and classical poetical themes relating to the ‘Seventh Eve’ festival, using materials associated with the festival to make a material cultural study.

According to a legend derived from worship customs associated with the Weaver Goddess, the seventh day of the seventh lunar month is the meeting day of the Cowherd and the Girl Weaver. This love story of ‘Seventh Eve’ is a common theme in classical Chinese poetry, with lamentations over the theme of separation / lovesickness. With Chinese immigration to Taiwan, ‘Seventh Eve’ customs spread to the island, but the love story of the Cowherd and the Girl Weaver was gradually transformed: the Weaver Goddess came to have a new name, Qiniangma, meaning “motherhood”, and her worship was increasingly associated with the god Kuixing. An associated coming-of-age ritual for 16-year-olds also developed. The belief became maternal: the traditional theme of separation / lovesickness remained in Taiwanese classical poetry, but these emotions were adapted to a new situation.

The last part of this paper analyzes the festival materials of ‘Seventh Eve’, such as silk and face powder, and how these are presented and described in classical poetry texts. I hope to understand further the transformation of the “system of objects” that the festival materials constitute.

About the Speaker

Dr Shuling Horng is a Professor the Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University.

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