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    • PRESENT ANCESTORS: relations between the living and the dead in Chinese Buddhism

      Animated by Leandro Durazzo

      PhD student in Social Anthropology

      Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte – Brazil

      Abstract: When we refer to death and reverence to ancestors in Chinese Buddhist tradition, we immediately outline an imaginary that references not only the traditional filial piety in such cults, as well as the mediating link between the living and the dead, which is played in this context by ceremonial apparatus and home altars. This text seeks to articulate an understanding of such popular cult with the relational dimension that is established, as we suggest, based on the household altars for the deceased. As our own ethnographic experience might already indicate, the presence of such votive devices in the homes of devotees updates a virtual presence in the home space. The dead thereby are represented but also presented by small votive tablets that show their names, the aura and ambience composed and maintained by the altar. Thus, it is suggested that there may be, in dealing with the dead, a concern of offspring with the good rebirth of such ancestors, through practices of merit dedication or other rituals. Ultimately, such presences and performing/cosmological concerns can play a key role in the daily organization of the descendants themselves, both in their domestic space and in its mental space, making the concept of family ties expand greatly according to Buddhist cosmology of rebirth in different realms of existence. Furthermore, these Buddhist practices and understandings seems to have analogous dynamics with Viveiros de Castro’s perspectivism and its developments by others scholars, notably with Inner and East Asia’s perspectivisms, as we try to point out.

      Keywords: Chinese Buddhism; Ancestor worship; Absence and representation; Perspectivism; Buddhist Cosmology.

      About the author: Leandro Durazzo is PhD student in Social Anthropology in the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), Brazil. Currently, he studies indigenous poetics, territoriality and cosmologies in Northeast region of Brazil. During a previous doctorate course on History and Culture of Religions, in Lisbon, Portugal, he has developed researches with Chinese Buddhist communities, especially in diasporic contexts such as Portuguese and Brazilian ones. There are several papers and chapters already published from his previous researches on Buddhism. E-mail:

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