Religion and Beliefs
Material manifestations of the Chinese popular deities, Guanyin and Guan Gong, are ubiquitous in Cantonese-Chinese restaurants globally. Yet studies of popular Chinese religion among overseas Chinese have seldom focused on the diverse significance of these deities to Chinese migrants, nor the use of restaurant-spaces to house these deities. This article examines the presence and powers of such deities in Chinese restaurants of Santiago de Chile. We seek to understand how the presence or absence of Guanyin and Guan Gong figures specifically shapes migrant Chinese restauranteurs and workers’ experience of the restaurants as particular kinds of protected, sacred/profane spaces, and how these deities might also affectively shape the restauranteurs’ ways of being and inhabiting the restaurants. Based on semi-structured interviews with Chinese shopkeepers and workers, observation and photography of the spatial organization of 26 restaurants and the aesthetics of their deities, we argue that these restaurants are more than just their primary sources of livelihood. They are also spaces which mediate their interactions with the city and its other residents, and may sometimes mediate relationships between humans in the earthly world and deities in the ‘other’ parallel world.