For a while I was obsessed with a story coming from the research done by J.G. Frazer (one of the of the founding fathers of the study of anthropology) that can be found in a book called ‘The Golden Bough’:
“A register of al the incarnate gods in the Chinese Empire is kept in the Li Fan Yüan or Colonial Office at Peking. The number of gods who have thus taken out a license is one hundred and sixty. Tibet is blessed with thirty of them, Northern Mongolia rejoices in nineteen and Southern Mongolia basks in the sunshine of no less than fifty-seven. The Chinese government with a paternal solicitude for the welfare of its subjects, forbids the gods on the register to be reborn anywhere but in Tibet.”
Based on the time of publication of the book this must have existed around the end of the 19th century. But even then: how on earth did humans do that? Why oh why do you create a bureaucracy for gods who are supposedly living in our midst? It beats me. Even Kafka – or even Terry Gilliam for that matter – could not have envisioned something that. Live truly is stranger than fiction.
I have been raised an atheist – my family was atheist for at least 3 generations. Maybe that is why it is so hard for me to grasp this.