Tag Archives: Cultural Appropriation

TWH Book Review: The Tao of Craft

tao-of-craft-promo-imageMy column for The Wild Hunt this month is a book review of Benebell Wen’s The Tao of Craft, which is about designing and using Chinese 符 (fú) sigils. My review largely focuses on Wen’s nuanced approach to cultural context (and thus the question of appropriation, which she deals with well), working with spirits, and magic as a craft.


Cultural Appropriation Has Consequences

The point of talking about cultural appropriation isn’t to tell people what they can’t and can’t do (often a futile effort anyways), but to remind people that their actions have consequences. Guan Sheng Di said:

However, if your heart is full of evil and you do not do good things, lust after other people’s wives and daughters, break up their marriages, destroy their purity, ruin their skills, scheme for their wealth, instigate lawsuits, harm others in order to benefit yourself, rail against Heaven and Earth, slander the wise and virtuous, destroy statues of the gods, cheat the gods, wantonly kill living things, destroy good books, rely on force, slander the good, use wealth to oppress the poor, separate people from their relatives and brother from brother, not believe in the true path, lust, steal, go whoring, swindle others, act extravagantly, waste grain, are ungrateful, go against your conscience, use crooked weights and measures, set up false teachings, lead on the simpleminded, falsely say that someone has died, extort goods, cheat others, talk obliquely, curse people in broad daylight, scheme to hurt others behind their backs, not follow Heaven’s way, not make others happy, refuse to believe in karma, entice others to do evil, and do not even a bit of good yourself — Those who do such things will have reason to regret it. They will suffer fire, flood, and bandits. They will suffer plague, give birth to idiots, be destroyed themselves, and have their family line extinguished. Their sons will become thieves and their daughters whores. Retribution will fall upon them, their sons, and their grandsons. The gods see everything and don’t miss things even as tiny as a hair. Good and evil are two paths. Disaster and fortune are separate things. If you do good, you will have good fortune; if you do evil you will suffer misfortune. I tell you this to encourage you to act. Although my words are simple they are of great benefit. Those who make fun of my words will be destroyed. [Emphasis added].

Guan Di is “the protector of the Chinese ecumene” (Duara 789), the Chinese people and their world.

Don’t fuck with our shit.

Feng shui isn’t housecleaning tips for bored suburban housewives, it’s a system for finding auspicious locations to bury one’s ancestors and build one’s house, and to mitigate the effects of not having access to the most auspicious locations. As Chief Seattle said, however, “You [Christian white people] wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret […] Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being.” Feng shui led Chinese people to topple telegraph poles and rip up railroad tracks. Don’t fuck with what you don’t understand.

Qi gong isn’t for New Agers, it’s for warriors.

Shaolin monks perform qigong, a type of traditional Chinese martial arts, during the opening ceremony of the fourth Southern Shaolin Martial Arts Cultural Festival in Putian city

Shaolin monk practicing qi gong. Credit: Ripleys.