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The Shi 'Corpse/Personator' Ceremony in Early China

Michael Carr
In Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes's Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited (Julian Jaynes Society, 2006).


... After a corpse had decayed, a bicameral individual might still have heard voices from a shi 'corpse; effigy' (perhaps a muzhu 'wooden spirit tablet'). Third, a borderline bicameral/conscious person, who rarely or never hallucinated voices, could have relied upon a ceremonial shi 'corpse; personator' to transmit them. Fourth, rational people would realize that ancestral spirits were not actually speaking through either personators or effigies. Increasing skepticism and criticism led to the rejection of both practices, which were replaced by wholly symbolic shi 'corpse; ancestral/spirit tablet', usually made of wood or stone. Thus, the answer is affirmative; bicamerality aptly explains personation of the dead. ...