1st Edition

Sacred Forests of Asia Spiritual Ecology and the Politics of Nature Conservation

Edited By Chris Coggins, Bixia Chen Copyright 2022
    348 Pages 38 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    348 Pages 38 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Presenting a thorough examination of the sacred forests of Asia, this volume engages with dynamic new scholarly dialogues on the nature of sacred space, place, landscape, and ecology in the context of the sharply contested ideas of the Anthropocene.

    Given the vast geographic range of sacred groves in Asia, this volume discusses the diversity of associated cosmologies, ecologies, traditional local resource management practices, and environmental governance systems developed during the pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial periods. Adopting theoretical perspectives from political ecology, the book views ecology and polity as constitutive elements interacting within local, regional, and global networks. Readers will find the very first systematic comparative analysis of sacred forests that include the karchall mabhuy of the Katu people of Central Vietnam, the leuweng kolot of the Baduy people of West Java, the fengshui forests of southern China, the groves to the goddess Sarna Mata worshiped by the Oraon people of Jharkhand India, the mauelsoop and bibosoop of Korea, and many more. Comprising in-depth, field-based case studies, each chapter shows how the forest’s sacrality must not be conceptually delinked from its roles in common property regimes, resource security, spiritual matters of ultimate concern, and cultural identity.

    This volume will be of great interest to students and scholars of indigenous studies, environmental anthropology, political ecology, geography, religion and heritage, nature conservation, environmental protection, and Asian studies.

    Introduction: Forests, Rivers, and Civilizations—The Oikos, Polis, and Cosmos of Asia’s Sacred Groves

    Chris Coggins and Bixia Chen

    Part 1 South Asia

    South Asia—Sacred Forests and Human-Environment Relations

    Krishna Gopal Saxena and Chris Coggins

    1 The Politics and Poetics of Forested Sacred Natural Sites in East-Central India

    Radhika Borde

    2 "Come Let Us All Play": Sacred Groves, Sarna, and "Green" Politics in Jharkhand, India

    Mukul Sharma

    3 Forest Gods and Forest Conservation: Local Perceptions of Village Sacred Forests in the Bhimashankar Region, Western India

    Shruti Mokashi

    4 Daikhos—Sacred Groves, Clan Rituals, and Gender Exclusion Among the Dimasas of Assam

    Prithibi Pratibha Gogoi

    5 Muslim Graveyard Groves: Plant Diversity, Ecosystem Services, and Species Conservation in Northwest Pakistan

    Abdullah, Shujaul Mulk Khan, Zahoor Ul Haq, and Zeeshan Ahmad

    6 Sacred Forests as Sites of Bio-Cultural Resistance and Resilience in Bhutan

    Elizabeth Allison

    Can Tamil Sacred Groves Survive Neoliberalism?

    Eliza F. Kent

    Part 2 East Asia

    East Asia—Sacred Forests and Human-Environment Relations

    Chris Coggins, Bixia Chen, and Dowon Lee

    7 China’s Fengshui Forests: The Fate of Lineage Wind-Water Polities Under Ecological Civilization

    Chris Coggins, Jesse Minor, and Bixia Chen

    8 Korea’s Sacred Groves—The Maeulsoop: Forest Types, Ecosystem Services, and Current Distribution

    Dowon Lee, GoWoon Kim, Wanmo Kang, Insu Koh, and Chan-Ryul Park

    9 Utaki and Ashagi Sacred Forests in the Ryukyu Islands: Vegetation Structure and Conservation Management Challenges

    Bixia Chen

    10 Nostalgia, Restoration, and Reinventions of Sacred Groves in Xishuangbanna, Southwest China

    Lily Zeng

    Shrine Forests in Honshu, Japan

    Naoya Furuta

    Part 3 Southeast Asia

    Southeast Asia—Sacred Forests and Human-Environment Relations

    Chris Coggins, Nikolas Arhem, Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono, Hoan Phan, Ha Le, and Ekoningtyas Margu Wardani

    11 Stories of the Trees: Understanding Traditions and Transitions in the Katu Peoples’ Perceptions of Forests in Central Vietnam

    Hoan Thi Phan and Ha Van Le

    12 The Katu Spirit Landscape: Forests, Ecology, and Cosmology in the Central Annamites

    Nikolas Arhem

    13 Roles and Importance of Sacred Forests for Biodiversity Conservation in Thailand

    Prasit Wangpakapattanawong and Auemporn Junsongduang

    14 The Role of Spirits in Indigenous Ontologies and Their Implications for Forest Conservation in Karen State, Myanmar

    Man Han Chit Htoo, Bram Steenhuisen, and Bas Verschuuren

    15 Sacred Forests, Sacred Natural Sites, Territorial Ownership, and Indigenous Community Conservation in Indonesia

    Yohanes Purwanto

    16 Governance Must Evolve to Meet New Needs of Indonesian Forest Communities

    Agni Klintuni Boedhihartono

    The Sacred Forest of the Orang Rimba Hunter-Gatherers of Sumatra

    Ekoningtyas Margu Wardani

    Part 4 Asian Sacred Forests in Global Perspective

    Conclusions and Preludes: The Many Lives of Sacred Forests

    Chris Coggins and Bas Verschuuren


    Shonil Bhagwat


    Chris Coggins is Professor of Geography and Asian Studies at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, USA. He is editor and author of Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands (2014, with Emily Ting Yeh); The Tiger and the Pangolin: Nature, Culture, and Conservation in China (2003); and The Primates of China: Biogeography and Conservation Status—Past, Present, and Future (2002).

    Bixia Chen is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of the Ryukyus, Japan. She is co-editor of Traditional Rural Landscapes in Island Topography in East Asia (2012, with Yuei Nakama).