An example: Taiwanese and Korean shamans
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If ethnography across East Asia has tended to stress local differences at the expense of regional continuities, it is not surprising. Fieldwork as a methodology directs attention to very profound local differences which can exist in the midst of apparent similarity. In this respect it is interesting to consider two recent books about *shamanism in East Asia, by M.Wolf (1992) and L.Kendall (1988), which share very similar concerns. Each is an account of one woman’s life history and of her participation in local religion, but also a consideration of *gender, ethnographic methods, and of the way in which ‘tales’ of certain incidents are constructed. Kendall relates the story of ‘Yongsu’s mother’, a successful Korean shaman, while Wolf relates the story of Mrs Tan, a Taiwanese woman who seemed on the verge of becoming a shaman. Many of the folk religious practices in the communities of the two women seem rather similar, including the worship of Buddhist gods, the concerns which are addressed to shamans, the ways in which shamans establish credibility, the significance of gods and ancestors in accounts of misfortune, etc. Several direct Chinese influences are woven into Kendall’s account from Korea: the impact of Confucian ideals, the use of classical Chinese in household divination manuals, and the consumption of Chinese herbal tonics against illness.