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In traditional China, ritual activity—indeed, public appearance altogether—appears to be male-dominated. But the role of women in religious life is significant—as worshippers, as members of amateur sects, and notably as spirit mediums. Nuns hardly threatened the patrilineal traditions of ritual and instrumental music before the 1950s, but they make an interesting sub-plot.
Moving south from Beijing and Fangshan to Laishui county, this article goes on to gives vignettes (based on brief chats in 1994) on the ritual life of two elderly former nuns in a village in Renqiu county, near the Baiyangdian lake, half a century earlier. Such absorbing glimpses into the world of rural nuns before Liberation deserve including in our picture of local cultures.