Symposium: Spirits in Asian Popular Religious Traditions
Talk / Lecture
10:00 to 4:30
Sat, October 28, 2017

Spirits and spirit mediums are central within the practices and rich visual cultures of many Asian religious traditions. With the use of paintings, costumes, musical instruments, and other elaborately detailed objects, priests and shamans manifest spirits that influence and guide human fortune. This one-day symposium gathers national and international experts to examine multiple traditions from Vietnam, Korea, Laos, India, China, and Myanmar, as well as the ways contemporary cultures and diasporic movements are transforming and sustaining spirit practices.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition How to Make the Universe Right: The Art of Priests and Shamans from Vietnam and Southern China, at the Fowler Museum from July 30, 2017 – January 7, 2018. All works on view are part of the Barry and Jill Kitnick Collection generously donated to the Fowler Museum in 2015. The symposium is co-sponsored by the UCLA Confucius Institute.

Parking available in UCLA Lot 4, 221 Westwood Plaza, directly off Sunset Blvd | $12/day

Register here


Symposium Schedule | Click here to view as PDF

Morning Session

Welcome and Introduction
Terri Geis, Fowler Museum Director of Education and Interpretation

Yao Shaman Priest Robes: Symbols of Mysterious Powers, Cosmic Order and Traditional Values
Trian Nguyen, Associate Professor of Art & Visual Culture, Bates College, Maine

In the Country of Gods, Demons, and Heroes: Documenting Theyyam Rituals in Kerala, India
Neelima Jeychandran, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Africana Research Center, Pennsylvania State University

Dongba Ritual and Art in Southwest China
Charles McKhann, Professor of Anthropology, Whitman College, Washington

Q&A with speakers

Lunch break

Afternoon Session

Things Fall Apart: Temple Statues, Shaman Paintings, and the Problem of Decay
Laurel Kendall, Chair of Anthropology Division and Curator of Asian Ethnographic Collections, American Museum of Natural History, New York

Vietnamese Spirits in Exile: Worshipping the Mother Goddess and the Left Eye of God in Southern California
Janet Hoskins, Professor of Anthropology and Religion, University of Southern California

Splendour and Sacrifice: Documenting Taoism in Northern Laos
Tara Gujadhur, Co-Director, Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center, Laos

Q&A with speakers

Reception in Fowler Museum Art Council Amphitheatre


Co-sponsored by the Confucius Institute


About the Exhibition
How to Make the Universe Right (July 30, 2017–January 7, 2018) presents a large selection of rare religious scrolls, ceremonial clothing, and ritual objects of the Yao, Tày, Sán Dìu, Cao Lan, Sán Chay, Nùng, and other populations of northern Vietnam and southern China. Each group has their own traditions of educating and initiating priests and shamans, who serve as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds and between the community and deities, in order to make the universe right through healing, balancing the forces of nature, and communicating with ancestors.