dmattwads

Chinese Folk Religion

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Is anybody here knowledgeable about Chinese folk religion? I'm sure it has influenced and been influenced by Taoism but I believe it predates Taoism as well. Are there any similarities to Hinduism in India with all the gods and goddesses and such? How is it actually practiced? I'm sure it varies from place to place within in China a lot, but what are some of the basic concepts, ideas, gods, and practices?  

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1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

I'm sure it has influenced and been influenced by Taoism but I believe it predates Taoism as well.

there is no hard and fast distinction between the 2

 

¬†institutional Taoism acts as a "liturgical framework" of local religions.[2]¬†Zhengyi Taoism¬†is especially intertwined with local cults, with Zhengyi¬†daoshi¬†(ťĀďŚ£ę, "masters of the Tao") often performing rituals for local temples and communities.¬†

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Chinese_folk_religion

 

The only tenuous line that one can draw is that the local religion is centered on a local deity, but even that is questionable. More info at the link.

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19 minutes ago, Taoist Texts said:

there is no hard and fast distinction between the 2

 

¬†institutional Taoism acts as a "liturgical framework" of local religions.[2]¬†Zhengyi Taoism¬†is especially intertwined with local cults, with Zhengyi¬†daoshi¬†(ťĀďŚ£ę, "masters of the Tao") often performing rituals for local temples and communities.¬†

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Chinese_folk_religion

 

The only tenuous line that one can draw is that the local religion is centered on a local deity, but even that is questionable. More info at the link.

Thank you for the information. Is there an end goal in this? Like in Hinduism in becoming one with Brahma, or does the Pantheon in Chinese folk religion have a different frame work? 

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Yes, there are goals. The pragmatic ones, like good harvest, commercial success, health, many sons, better rebirths, salvation in the afterlife and so on.

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6 hours ago, Taoist Texts said:

Yes, there are goals. The pragmatic ones, like good harvest, commercial success, health, many sons, better rebirths, salvation in the afterlife and so on.

How are these goals achieved in this system? 

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Hi both :)

 

I'd like to know a bit more about the origins of Taoism, because I've heard that it's been spoken of as a "folk religion" prior to the Tao Te Ching. Not that it was "Taoism", at that point, but many philosophical ideas from said religion were later highlighted by Lao Tzu. Please let me know if I may be wrong, or is this a common understanding...

 

Therefore, wouldn't the religion of Zhengyi Dao not be what @dmattwads is looking for, as this appears to have come about around the 7th Century? I would have thought that we would be looking at something from around 600 BCE. Apologies if I'm missing something here, history and dates have never been my strong points. I did drop that subject in school as early as I possibly could!

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1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

How are these goals achieved in this system? 

Well the main tenet of all religions is that our universe is split in 2 parts: a material and immaterial, populated by humans and spirits correspondingly.

The spirits control the material world, but are all the while being dependent on immaterial offerings  from the humans in the material world. Beneficial spirits are to be sacrificed to, while the evil spirits must be mollified or scared away.

Ergo this is what the chinese people do :

 

Happiness and good fortune: Spectacular pictures show hundreds of thousands of Chinese worshipers queuing to pray to the God of Wealth

  • February 1 marks the day of the God of Wealth which symbols happiness and good fortune
  • Over 600,000 people in Wuhan City, China's Hubei province visited Guiyuan Temple to pray for fortune
  • Another way the day is celebrated is by cleaning the house and setting off fireworks to scare away poverty¬†



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4184804/Images-worshipers-praying-God-Wealth.html#ixzz53KQWeZnz 
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

 

1 hour ago, Rara said:

Hi both :)

 

I'd like to know a bit more about the origins of Taoism, because I've heard that it's been spoken of as a "folk religion" prior to the Tao Te Ching.  ...

 

Therefore, wouldn't the religion of Zhengyi Dao not be what @dmattwads is looking for, as this appears to have come about around the 7th Century? I would have thought that we would be looking at something from around 600 BCE. 

Hello Rara. Yes the folk religion did evolve greatly, first being influenced by the imperial rites, then by Buddhism and organised taoism, even by communism in 20th century, coming to the syncretic mess it is now.

So this is an issue hinged on your definition of folk religion and a starting point thereof.

 

As to the origins of taoism, you have to put a finger on what makes it notably distinct from the previously existing beliefs. And that something is the rejection of bloody sacrifice:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Way_of_the_Five_Pecks_of_Rice#Law

The¬†Way of the Five Pecks of Rice¬†(Chinese:¬†šļĒśĖóÁĪ≥ťĀď;¬†pinyin:¬†W«Ē D«íu M«ź D√†o) or the¬†Way of the Celestial Master, commonly abbreviated to simply¬†The Celestial Masters, was a¬†Chinese¬†Taoist¬†movement founded by the first¬†Celestial Master¬†Zhang Daoling¬†in 142¬†CE.[1]¬†¬†

 

 

Tianshi dao (Way of the Celestial Masters) - From The Encyclopedia of ...

The central feature of its teaching was a rejection of the blood sacrifice offered to the traditional gods 

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I had originally thought of replying to this when it first appeared, but I did not have time to compose a satisfactory post, and now what I see are well meaning oversimplifications of "Religious Daoism", and not much clarity on its relationship to Chinese "Popular Religion", of which it is almost impossible to avoid oversimplifications on anything less than a book length scale.  By the way for those interested in a book length scale, the classic text is Taoism and Chinese Religion by Henri Maspero, a book which since I bought it in the early 80s has been a great help, though having been basically written before the Second World War, is definitely not a guide to the developments in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

 

I don't have time today to post at any length, but I believe that a good starting point is a quote from Professor Jerry Alan Johnson's Daoist Internal Alchemy Neigong & Weigong, p. 329, posing the hypothetical question, ‚ÄúIf the main purpose of teaching a religious system is to bring people into the faith, why are the teachings of the Daoist Alchemical Texts so obscure, and the true teachings hidden from the public?‚Ä̬† His answer is simple and direct, "The answer is simple, true Daoism is a Magical Tradition, and not a Religion."¬† Obviously Professor Johnson has similar misgivings to the use of "religion" in relation to "Religious Daoism" as led me to my own preference as I noted here:

 

On 12/30/2017 at 7:12 PM, Zhongyongdaoist said:

I like to call Ritual Daoism, a term I use in preference to Religious Daoism because the terms religion and religious carry over a lot of excess baggage from the West which is very misleading in a Chinese context.

 

Fundamentally the "Daoist Priest" is not a priest in any way that modern usage makes clear.  A Daoshi is a "Scholar of the Way" and literally a "master of ceremonies", basically an initiated practitioner of a Magical Tradition that dates back around 2,000 years, and is  a synthesis of the original Heavenly Master movement, with the developments of the Shangqing and Linbao schools under the umbrella term Zhengyi Daoism, which he practices both on behalf of the community of which he is part, and for the sake of his own self development, both as a magician and practitioner of internal alchemy.  As I further noted, it was to this system that I was introduced when:

 

19 hours ago, Zhongyongdaoist said:

I read Michael Saso's Taoism and the Rite of Cosmic Renewal, which was my introduction to the "religious" Daoist system of ritual and meditative alchemy, which as I have said, I prefer to call ritual Daoism. (Emphasis added, ZYD)

 

and part of my intent in starting the thread in my PPD:

 

 
was to address some of the types of issues that have been raised here, with a more specific intent to focus on Ritual Daoism, than the Popular Religion, but to try to explicate the two, and how they are intertwined, but distinct, and based on some of the previous responses it is important to emphasize that there are clear demarcations between Ritual Daoism and, not merely the Religious, but also the popular magical traditions of China, and specifically that these differences focus on the close integration of Ritual and Alchemical practices in Ritual Daoism as I pointed out above as the "Daoist system of ritual and meditative alchemy", which is a unique system which unifies neigong and weigong, in a profound way that superficial discussion or study of the relevant texts cannot possibly convey.
 
I hope this is helpful.  It is all I have to time post right now.
 
 

 

 

Edit: I was rushed enough writing the above, and my browser was asking me to please close it for updates, so I posted the above and proceeded with the updates.  I have made one change which was to change "a profound system" to "a unique system" in the last paragraph, because of the use of "profound" again later in the sentence.

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1 hour ago, Zhongyongdaoist said:

¬†Professor Jerry Alan Johnson's Daoist Internal Alchemy Neigong & Weigong, p. 329, posing the hypothetical question, ‚ÄúIf the main purpose of teaching a religious system is to bring people into the faith, why are the teachings of the Daoist Alchemical Texts so obscure, and the true teachings hidden from the public?‚Ä̬† His answer is simple and direct, "The answer is simple, true Daoism is a Magical Tradition, and not a Religion."¬†¬†

 

 

I would amend this statement with a definition of what "magic" is to a classical taoist.  True taoism is a science.  Every science has its theoretical framework and its empirical/experimental work.  Taoist sciences are no exception.  Magical taoism is the work of a hands-on experimentalist, but it rests on a solid foundation of fundamental theory.  

 

The difference between two types of classical practitioners is not unlike that between a theoretical physicist and an experimental physicist.  The theoretical physicist may require no equipment at all beyond a pen and a piece of paper -- sometimes not even that, even in our Western sciences the greatest discoveries have been made when some water spilled out of a bathtub while Archimedes was taking a bath, or when an apple fell from a tree for Newton to take a bite, or when Mendeleev had a dream, or when Watson and Crick dropped acid.  The experimental physicist's equipment is infinitely more complex -- tools which anyone uninitiated would be unable to distinguish from magic include telescopes, lasers, radiation monitors, satellites orbiting the Earth and other planets, humongous particle accelerators and what not. 

 

The difference between theoretical taoism and magical taoism is similar.  A theorist may know, understand, and discover laws that govern space, time and destiny without stepping out the door.  A magician steps out and then some. 

 

For the whole field to be efficient, the two must communicate, however.  A long time ago, taoists discovered that "peer reviewed" communication may not be as efficient as having both peers under one cranium -- being the theorist and the empiricist, the scientist and the lab mouse wrapped into one.  Einstein didn't have any particle accelerators at his disposal, but without him, or someone like him, none would have appeared.  Similarly, taoist scientific theory -- qi, yin-yang, wuxing, ganying, bagua, Hetu, Luoshu, I Ching -- made all magical experimentation possible.   It's just that taoists are far more likely to "see for themselves" than to "take someone's word for it" whether they engage in theory or practice, and therefore far more likely to engage in both simultaneously.  Taoists are the opposite of narrow specialists.  They are deep and wide generalists.  Depth is not sacrificed to breadth, and vice versa.   

 

So I would say that taoism is a scientific theoretical-experimental inquiry into the nature of space, time and destiny -- a unified theory with countless empirical, pragmatic applications.  "Magical" is in the eye of the beholder.  A taoist knowledgeable in the fundamental theory has no reason to think of anything she does as "supernatural."  Taoist magic is not a flight of fancy.  It's the experimental part of the scientific process resting on nature's fundamental laws.     

Edited by Taomeow
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7 minutes ago, Taomeow said:

 

I would amend this statement with a definition of what "magic" is to a classical taoist.  True taoism is a science.  Every science has its theoretical framework and its empirical/experimental work.  Taoist sciences are no exception.  Magical taoism is the work of a hands-on experimentalist, but it rests on a solid foundation of fundamental theory.  

 

The difference between two types of classical practitioners is not unlike that between a theoretical physicist and an experimental physicist.  The theoretical physicist may require no equipment at all beyond a pen and a piece of paper -- sometimes not even that, even in our Western sciences the greatest discoveries have been made when some water spilled out of a bathtub while Archimedes was taking a bath, or when an apple fell from a tree for Newton to take a bite, or when Mendeleev had a dream, or when Watson and Crick dropped acid.  The experimental physicist's equipment is infinitely more complex -- tools which anyone uninitiated would be unable to distinguish from magic include telescopes, lasers, radiation monitors, satellites orbiting the Earth and other planets, humongous particle accelerators and what not. 

 

The difference between theoretical taoism and magical taoism is similar.  A theorist may know, understand, and discover laws that govern space, time and destiny without stepping out of the door.  A magician steps out and then some. 

 

For the whole field to be efficient, the two must communicate, however.  A long time ago, taoists discovered that "peer reviewed" communication may not be as efficient as having both peers under one cranium -- being the theorist and the empiricist, the scientist and the lab mouse wrapped into one.  Einstein didn't have any particle accelerators at his disposal, but without him, or someone like him, none would have appeared.  Similarly, taoist scientific theory -- qi, yin-yang, wuxing, ganying, bagua, Hetu, Luoshu, I Ching -- made all magical experimentation possible.   It's just that taoists are far more likely to "see for themselves" than to "take someone's word for it" whether they engage in theory or practice, and therefore far more likely to engage in both simultaneously.  Taoists are the opposite of narrow specialists.  They are deep and wide generalists.  Depth is not sacrificed to breadth, and vice versa.   

 

So I would say that taoism is a scientific theoretical-experimental inquiry into the nature of space, time and destiny -- a unified theory with countless empirical, pragmatic applications.  "Magical" is in the eye of the beholder.  A taoist knowledgeable in the fundamental theory has no reason to think of anything she does as "supernatural."  Taoist magic is not a flight of fancy.  It's the experimental part of the scientific process resting on nature's fundamental laws.     

 

Thanks Taomeow, I could have hardly said it better myself, and yes it is absolutely a necessary clarification, but one which I did not have time to make today, but I have tried to make clear in my discussions on Western magic, and to a certain extent on Chinese magic.  Though the misunderstanding of what "supernatural" originally meant, and the relation between supernatural in that sense and paranormal as a replacement for it, is not going to go away easily, nor is the prejudice agains magic, whether Chinese or Western, going to be easy to over come, but thanks again for your valiant effort to do so.

 

ZYD

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@Taoist Texts Thanks. It would seem that this is a different Daoism - I forget that the dogmas and rituals are unrelated to the early philosophies.

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Something interesting to consider world wide is that Chinese folk religion, as well as other religions of antiquity had as a large part of their focus the gods. Then around 500 b.c.e around the world with the Greek philosophers, the Buddha, Lao Zu, Confucius, ect. changed the focus from the gods, to humanity. 

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35 minutes ago, dmattwads said:

Something interesting to consider world wide is that Chinese folk religion, as well as other religions of antiquity had as a large part of their focus the gods. Then around 500 b.c.e around the world with the Greek philosophers, the Buddha, Lao Zu, Confucius, ect. changed the focus from the gods, to humanity. 

I discovered a fascinating anthropology documentary on Chinese alchemy as folk religion

https://elixirfield.blogspot.com/2018/08/gary-seaman-and-emperor-of-dark-heavens.html

 

Blood, Bones and Spirits (36 minutes)

1974
Blood, Bones and Spirits (36 minutes) The daughter-in-law of this family is childless. A spirit seance reveals that her barrenness is the result of the curse of an uncle who died with no offspring of his own. The uncle's grave must be renovated and a grandson of the family adopted out to him. This is done under the direction of a shaman, possessed by a god called the Emperor of the Dark Heavens.

 

Only Half-Way to Godhead: The Chinese Geomancer As Alchemist and Cosmic Pivot

Gary Seaman
Asian Folklore Studies
Vol. 45, No. 1 (1986), pp. 1-18
 
spirits of ghosts are drawn out into a ritual chair, then the bones of the person whose determined to be offended are dug up, the body restored in clay, and a shaman performs other rituals to appease the spirit.

This is a "po Soul" ritual - from Daoist Neidan alchemy.

 

more details on my blog - just scroll down from link above.

 

 

 

 

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38 minutes ago, dmattwads said:

Something interesting to consider world wide is that Chinese folk religion, as well as other religions of antiquity had as a large part of their focus the gods. Then around 500 b.c.e around the world with the Greek philosophers, the Buddha, Lao Zu, Confucius, ect. changed the focus from the gods, to humanity. 

 

What Chinese sources are you referring to here?

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So this ended in a book-shopping spree, thanks and curse you for that. Its not like i have a few hundred kgs of books already but these were hard to pass.

 

Edit: Taoism and the Rites of Cosmic Renewal is available in 2nd hand paperback, but for a whopping 625$(!?) i’m going to look for a pdf copy. Sheesh!

 

Loved the video of the ritual, the chair bouncing was a real treat besides Xuan Wu showing up to resolve the matter. Wish there was audio or narration.

 

 

Edited by Rocky Lionmouth

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13 minutes ago, Rocky Lionmouth said:

So this ended in a book-shopping spree, thanks and curse you for that. Its not like i have a few hundred kgs of books already but these were hard to pass.

 

Edit: Taoism and the Rites of Cosmic Renewal is available in 2nd hand paperback, but for a whopping 625$(!?) i’m going to look for a pdf copy. Sheesh!

 

Loved the video of the ritual, the chair bouncing was a real treat besides Xuan Wu showing up to resolve the matter. Wish there was audio or narration.

 

 

So if all the reading came up with some interesting insights you'd like to share I'm all ears! :-)

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3 minutes ago, dmattwads said:

So if all the reading came up with some interesting insights you'd like to share I'm all ears! :-)

 

It’d be my pleasure but dont wait up, it might take quite some time :) 

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Shang Di.

 

This is the beginning from ancient times. It is fascinating to see how the Chinese have influenced the modern bible as well as invented countless things much earlier then in the west. It is worth some research there are so many links to early western religion.

 

The speculation is did the Chinese influence the west developing their own religions or was it pure coincidence. 

 

 

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