Kiln God Research

Pathways of Transmission: Investigating the Influence of Chinese Kiln God Worship and Mythology on Kiln God Concepts and Rituals as Observed by American Ceramists

Dissertation Abstract by Dr. Martie Geiger-Ho, 2003

Designed to be an inquiry into both the past and living traditions and mythology of Chinese kiln god worship, this study investigates the manner by which these folk traditions and means of worship have been viewed and dealt with by Western historians and ceramic potters in the United States. Furthermore, by examining this research from the assumption that Western discourse on Chinese kiln gods has been recorded with a bias known as Orientalism that presents a prejudiced view of the Far East, this study endeavors to present new insights into the possible motivations for why American potters would appropriate and engage in various aspects of Chinese kiln god worship.  

This study discusses issues concerning the control of Chinese cultural material by Western scholars, through research gathered from discourse, interviews and my own ethnographic field observations of Chinese kiln god practices. Collectively the outcome of this research has yielded a comprehensively oriented study of Chinese kiln gods with a strong focus on the kiln god deity, Feng Huo Hsien, or Genius of the Fire-Blast, who is still worshipped today in the city of Jingdezhen, China. The legend of how Feng Huo Hsien lived his life as T'ung Bun, a Jingdezhen potter, and then earned his immortal namesake through the incredible act of sacrificing his body and soul in the fire of the kiln in order to ensure a positive outcome of the Emperor's porcelain ware, which in turn saved his fellow workers from sever retribution at the hands of the Emperor's eunuchs, is a tale that is central to the religious beliefs and practices of those persons who are economically dependent on the well being of Jingdezhen's ceramics industry.