Sung Shih Hsiang

March 21, 2014 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Sungh Shih-Hsiang, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology

March 21, 2 pm, 3106 WWPH (Anthropology Lounge)

"The Flowing Materiality of Crystal: a Global Commodity Chain of Fengshui Objects from Brazil, China to Taiwan"

After the 1990s, one type of fengshui object became extremely popular in Taiwan: crystals. A diversity of crystal products, including crystal points, crystal balls, and amethyst geodes, became hot commodities and earned their fengshui meanings. However, these fengshui objects did not exist in Taiwan before the 1990s, and they are all from Latin America, Africa, India or other foreign sources.

Inspired by Appadurai’s “the social life of things” (1986) and Kopytoff’s “the biography of things” (1986), this talk will reveal the cultural and historical meaning of the Taiwanese crystal fengshui objects embedded in a network of global commodity chains. First, the decline of Taiwan’s jewelry processing industry led businessmen to turn to invest in China and search for potentially beneficial minerals from around the globe. For example, the buyers purchased crystal materials in Brazil, processed them in China, and sold them in Taiwan.  At the same time, this global commodity chain turned Taiwan’s role from jewelry processing and factory production to jewelry consumption. Second, the talk focuses on the modernization of Taiwan’s society in relation to this commodity chain.  Modern scientific education has drawn scientific conceptions into Taiwanese folk cosmology. This challenges the traditional concept of qi, and forces Taiwanese fengshui consultants to reinterpret the core concept of their professional knowledge and absorb crystals into their materials. 

In summary, crystal fengshui commodities not only indicate globalization’s impacts on Taiwanese folk beliefs, they also embody the adapting process of “glocalization” and the flowing materiality of crystals.

Location and Address

3106 WWPH Anthropology Lounge