Bloody Shovel 3

We will drown and nobody shall save us


So the slowest year on record for this blog is over. If you think this is just the beginning of the decline, you might be right. I'm not blogging as frequently as I used to, and there are good reasons for that. One being my recently started family. Another being that my comment threads aren't as rewarding as they used to. Another that I'm going through a reverse Dunning-Kruger effect: the more I know the less I think I know. It's starting to get harder to write a post that I can be proud of, and I just don't have the time or energy to do the necessary research to write really good posts.

This may just be me being too hard to myself; substandard content doesn't seem to bother a lot of bloggers out there, even fairly famous ones with academic careers. I should probably just loosen up and just go on writing, maybe on a fixed schedule. Thing is I'm very bad at fixed schedules; my brain just doesn't do self-discipline. My ego always pairs up with my id. Or I'm just very bad at fooling myself, which might not be a bad thing.

I can do monthly though, if only to avoid gaps in the archive list in the right sidebar. So here goes a light post for December 2014.

A lot gets written around about religion, the importance of tradition, rituals, all that. There's the old debate on whether religion is either something you believe in, or something you do. These are likely to be different things. Religion is often treated as a gestalt, but that is fallacious. Religion is a composite of different things, and the different components behave and evolve differently.

Last week, while most of the West woke up hungover from drinking too much during Christmas, some people in Hunan province, China, were celebrating something different.


Yes, that's old Mao. And December 26 is his birthday, so people gathered at his birthplace of Shaoshan to celebrate it.


Those flags say "Long live the Communist Party", "Chairman Mao the most (something), and "Chinese Dream", which is the trademark bullshit from the new chairman Xi Jinping.


The Mao worshippers all clad with bright-red scarfs sing communist songs from their childhood.

Right now you'd think, so what? Some commies go to celebrate Mao's birthday on a state-paid trip, and take a lot of well posed pictures to post in the state-owned newspaper. Big deal.

But wait, look at this.


Shaoshan villagers sacrifice a pig. Yep, a pig.


Nice scarf



And they offer the blood to a bronze statue of Mao. Yes, they are offering pig blood to a statue of Mao.

You may have noticed that this is Christmas we're talking about. Early winter is slaughter season everywhere in the world, basically because it's the first time in the year when it's cold enough that meat won't spoil easily, so you have time to process it into sausages and other stuff for the winter. And while you're at it, you have a feast.

Slaughter season is often turned into a religious festival, with offerings from the slaughtered beast given to the local gods. The Chinese have been offering pig blood to the local gods for millennia; most likely well into prehistory. Let's say 8,000 years.

Mao is both the great communist who rescued the proletariat and made great contributions to Marxist theory. And he's also the new incarnation of a local neolithic god. It's certainly convenient that he was born during slaughter season.


Leave a Reply
  • Ritual -- how does it work?

    There's no shame in writing short posts of observations like this one. It's a blog, not an academic journal!

    I wish you a happy new year in any case.

  • I've always considered your blog an oasis of quality over quantity, so I'm surprised to read of the fretting over the quantity side of the quality/quantity ratio. I hope in 2015 you will stop worrying about these things. You fill an important niche in the spectrum - the non-egomaniacal, well-thought out, nuanced and introspective POV. An intelligent writer for the intelligent reader, who still, as it is, writes in a manner communicable to all.

  • The Chinese seem to have a thing for pigs. I noticed that the character for house/family was a pig under a roof.

    I think your blog is definitely one of the better ones out there. You have a lot of historical and literary knowledge. Most bloggers don't have much historical or literary knowledge and don't have specialized scientific training. So a lot of their blogging amounts to applying or trying to fit pop evo-psych theories on a weak grasp of history. Cochran is the rare blogger who has both historical knowledge and scientific training.

  • 80% of what anyone produces is crap, so I wouldn't worry about writing quality posts every time you sit down to write. Just write, and every now and again, you'll produce something of quality.

    I'm having a hard time keeping "Dark Matter" going because everyone decided to quit writing long posts.

  • That's very kind of you people. I do feel I need to read more and write less though, but I'll try to strike a balance.

    Happy new year to everyone.

  • Happy new year. I never blog because of just what you described. I lurk though and enjoy what you do write. Doesn't have to be perfect, what appeals to me here is what etype identified.

  • If China's rebound from Communism is straight into idolatry, bad things are on the way.

    • You shouldn't necessarily impute a monotheistic attitude to the Mao worshipers. The Chinese religious outlook is pagan and polytheistic. There is a landscape of myriad gods, spirits, ancestors, etc. Praying, worshiping, performing rites to one or many of them, at different times or places, is entirely consistent with this outlook. Worshiping a particular god does not necessarily imply the sort of comprehensive commitment that the monotheistic outlook tends to demand. Of course some of these Mao worshipers might be more extreme, but some of them could just as easily be praying to the god of wealth or Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, next wekk.

      • Yeah, that's the point of idolatry-you worship a whole bunch of deities which you are projecting various of your own desires upon.

        Interestingly, the few times I've tried to read Chinese lit (in translation, obviously,) I was struck by the complete lack of an overriding morality, or much of a plot arc for that matter. Just a bunch of people doing bad things to gain power....

        • "Idolatry" only has meaning in a monotheistic context. Directing worship towards a particular image or object contravenes monotheism because the very particularity of the distinct image or object can suggest polytheism. Mere particularity, regardless of whether or not the object or image itself is a god, spirit, sacred, etc., or just represents one, can undermine monotheism. Of course some Christians, such as the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, allow for images and physical objects as objects or directions of worship provided they are regarded as mere representations, with the Orthodox Church only allowing for two-dimensional images or icons as such. Some Protestants regard any and all such objects and images as idolatrous. Islam of course does as well. Protestants tend to emphasize that idolatry includes regarding anything as greater or more important than God. Ultimately idolatry is to think or behave in ways which contravene or undermine monotheism. Any and all paganism or polytheism can be regarded as idolatrous.

          There's Chinese lit that's concerned with morality and even obsessed with it and quite moralistic and pedantic about it.

  • "Yeah, that’s the point of idolatry-you worship a whole bunch of deities which you are projecting various of your own desires upon."

    Whereas the point of monotheism/iconoclastic-ism is to worship a single deity which you are projecting various of your own desires upon.

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