Shen

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Shen. Chinese word for spirits. In antiquity, it refers to the spirit of the ancestor who enjoys an afterlife because of the continuing and periodical sacrifices offered to him by the members of his offspring. Shen is not immortal; it is contingent upon the continuing offering of the sacrifices. Ancient China had a composite concept of the ‘soul’ in the body composed of hun and pʾo. After death, hun becomes shen and partakes of the ancestral offerings. Pʾo, after death, becomes kuei and goes to the Yellow Spring—the underworld. But in later times, shen and kuei refer to the two alternative designations of the spirit of the deceased: it is called shen when continuing sacrifices are offered to it, and it is called kuei when such sacrifices are denied to it. Shen blesses and kuei harms the family.