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Political Uses of Wugu Sorcery in Imperial China: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

From: Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft
Volume 8, Number 2, Winter 2013
pp. 132-161 | 10.1353/mrw.2013.0018



Wugu is a compound term than can loosely be rendered as “black magic.” Numerous wugu related incidents are recorded in the official history of China, and many of them concern political uses of sorcery charges. Since the 1970s, much research has been done on the political aspects of sorcery and witchcraft in medieval and early modern Europe, but treatments of wugu sorcery as a political instrument in imperial China are few and scattered. This paper carries forward the descriptive strengths of earlier studies on Chinese sorcery, using a cross-cultural perspective to bring the Chinese studies into conversation with approaches current in European history. It focuses on the uses and charges of wugu as a political instrument for power struggle and social control in imperial China.

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