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The Meeting with Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy: A Case Study of Syncretism in the Hmong System of Beliefs

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Author(s): Kao-Ly Yang

Journal: Hmong Studies Journal
ISSN 1091-1774

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2007;
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Keywords: Hmong Studies | Asian Studies | Asian Religion

ABSTRACT
The purpose of this case study is to shed light on the identity of the spirit of fertility called Lady Kaying –Niam Nkauj Kab Yeeb—, its religious origin and the general processes of borrowing her fromother cultures within the Hmong culture. Hmong popular beliefs pertaining to Kaying reveal that Kaying is in fact the Chinese Goddess of Mercy Guanyin. She was imported from MahayanaBuddhism by the Hmong people of China who had retained her roles of the “Bestower of Children", the “Guardian Angel” or the "Conductor of the Dead Children". An analysis of the process of borrowing of the Chinese deity into the Hmong pantheon shows that Lady Kaying overlaps with an ancient spirit, the “Ancestor Spirit of Fertility” or Niam Poj Dab Pog. This case study demonstrates that the processes of borrowing are selective, integrative and comprehensive: some traits or fragments were taken from Buddhism and incorporated into the Hmong beliefs through a superimposing of a Hmong pre-existing system of beliefs.
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