According to legend, Zengcheng, Guangzhou is the hometown of the goddess “He Xiangu” (Immortal Maiden He), the only female deity among the “Eight Immortals.” This book adopts literature analysis and field research and focuses on the He Xiangu worship tradition in the Zengjiang River Basin of Guangdong Province from 960-1864. From an exclusive female deity in the Ruo-fu mountains to a well-known goddess in Zengcheng, from temples in the city center to widespread worship centers in the outskirts and suburbs, the popularization of this mythology discourse and worship tradition underwent “descension” (localization) and “egression” (temple territory expansion) through the process of creation, selection, and appropriation among different people. At the same time, the worship tradition gradually embedded into the organizational structure and cultural texture of the social region and became an important cultural resource to mold the communal historical memory and group relations.

This book unravels the mutual structurization between the He Xiangu cult and the local society in the Zengjiang River Basin for nearly ten decades. Through comparing and analyzing cases of female worship in different South China regions, a female role similar to He Xiangu is presented—the unmarried woman with multiple identities such as female deity, unmarried daughter, and ancestress in the long development of the South China society. In diverse religious discourses, shifting social systems, and different communal cultural strategies, they wandered back and forth between the margins and the center of the social structure and cultural symbolic system and exhibited an abundance of identity and meaning that mixes mundane and sacred images.

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Fabricating Divine Prestige: The Cult of He Xiangu and Local Society in Guangdong’s Zengjiang River Basin, 960-1864 has been published