The Cat Demon, Gender, and Religious Practice Towards Reconstructing a Medieval Chinese Cultural Pattern

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Rebecca Doran



This paper examines and contextualizes rituals and beliefs surrounding the cat demon (maogui 貓鬼). While the demon has been briefly discussed or referenced in earlier scholarship, there as yet exists no systematic attempt to understand how it is treated in various sources. The paper approaches the complex of practices and ideas associated with the cat demon as a unique and richly informative cultural phenomenon that is suggestive of tensions relating to gender and class. The paper begins with a close examination of materials surrounding the most famous and well-documented case of cat demon practice, that involving Dugu Tuo, the half- brother of Empress Dugu of the Sui (Dugu Qieluo 獨孤伽羅, 544–602), before turning to medico-religious approaches and, finally, to transformations of the supernatural or demonic cat in post-Tang materials.

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