Getting to Know the Gods of Taiwan: Children’s Literature and Identity Formation

Colloquium | October 18 | 4-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Natasha Heller, Associate Professor of Chinese Religions, University of Virginia

 Center for Chinese Studies (CCS)

In secular children’s books, gods are often part of history and culture—but what roles are they expected to play in the lives of contemporary children? Focusing on picture books and early readers about the goddess Mazu 媽祖 and the earth god (tudi gong 土地公), I will argue that they represent different strategies of incorporating religion in the creation of Taiwanese identity. Mazu has become a national symbol, but it is her pilgrimage and the community around it that forms the site of identity formation, more than the goddess herself. Stories about the earth god, in contrast, provide room for narrative explorations of the role of religion in everyday life, and for how children might interact with supernatural beings.