Benzhuism

Benzhuism (Chinese: 本主教; pinyin: Běnzhǔjiào; literally: 'religion of the patrons') is the indigenous religion of the Bai people, an ethnic group of Yunnan, China. It consists in the worship of the ngel zex, the Bai word for "patrons" or "lords", rendered as benzhu (本主) in Chinese, that are local gods and deified ancestors of the Bai people. It is very similar to common Chinese religion.

While many of the Bai are Buddhists, the local government of China has recently helped the revival of the Benzhu ethnic religion, for example through the promotion of the Gwer Sa La festival.[1]

Benzhu Sanxing, Dali, Yunnan
The Sanxing (Three Star Gods) at a Benzhu temple on Jinsuo Island, in Dali, Yunnan.

The patrons

Local lords and ancestors

The benzhu are mainly deified ancestors, "patrons" or "lords" of the local communities. Every Bai village has its own pantheon of gods which has formed throughout its existence, incorporating its history in deifying virtuous leaders, warriors, and heroes.[2] These deities, who are tied to the immediate surroundings, protect the people against sickness and violence, foster local economy, and grant prosperity.[2]

Generally, one village enshrines one benzhu, and there are also cases of multiple villages consecrated to the same benzhu. In every village around Erhai Lake the local people have developed a peculiar mythology about their local lord, differing from that of neighboring villages.[2] This tradition is similar to that of the City God Temple of Chinese religion.[2]

Gods of nature

Other benzhu are gods of the generation of the local place.[2] These include the God of the Mountain, the God of the Crops, the God of the Hunt, the Dragon King or the Mother Goddess of the Dragon King.[2]

Features

Benzhu festivals

Benzhu Festivals in Dali City take place according to the lunar calendar, after Chinese New Year. During festivals, the benzhu shrine are taken from the temples and carried through the towns to a different location where they stay for a number of days. The villagers follow the gods to the designated place burning incense and worshiping with food and money.

Psychology and shamanism

The Bai believe that the soul does not die with the body, but it can go to the "Kingdom of the Shades" helped by complex ritual ceremonies performed by the living community.[2] Angry spirits can cause illness, but local gods can protect people against them. Illnesses are caused by the possession of evil spirits and they can be treated by female shamans.[2]

Cult of the white stones

The Nama branch of the Bai, residing near the Mekong River, preserves a cult of the white stones common to the ethnic groups descended from the Qiang people.[2] Some believe they represent the bones of the ancestors, others that they are a representation of the Fire God, a deity worshipped around China.[2]

See also

Bibliography

References

  1. ^ Liang Yongjia, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Cultural China, The Benzhu religion of the Bai. Archived November 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine

External links

Ali-Illahism

Ali Illahism (Persian: علی‌اللّهی‎) is a syncretic religion which has been practiced in parts of Iranian Luristan which combines elements of Shia Islam with older religions. It centers on the belief that there have been successive incarnations of the Deity throughout history, and Ali Ilahees reserve particular reverence for Ali, the son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who is considered one such incarnation. Various rites have been attributed as Ali Ilahian, similarly to the Yezidis, Ansaris, and all sects whose doctrine is unknown to the surrounding Muslim and Christian population. Observers have described it as an agglomeration of the customs and rites of several earlier religions, including Zoroastrianism, historically because travelogues were "evident that there is no definite code which can be described as Ali Illahism".Sometimes Ali-Illahism is used as a general term for the several denominations that venerate or deify Ali, like the Kaysanites, the Alawis or the Ahl-e Haqq/Yarsanis, others to mean the Ahl-e Haqq.

Bai people

The Bai, Pai, or Baip (Bai language: Baipho /pɛ̰˦˨xo̰˦/ (白和); Chinese: 白族; pinyin: Báizú; Wade–Giles: Pai-tsu; endonym pronounced [pɛ̀tsī]) are an East Asian ethnic group. They constitute one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. They numbered 1,933,510 as of 2010.

Baojuan

Baojuan (宝卷 bǎojuǎn), literally precious scrolls, are a genre of prosimetric texts (texts written in an alternation of prose and verse) of a religious or mystical nature, produced within the context of Chinese folk religion and individual Chinese folk religious sects. They are often written in vernacular Chinese and recount the mythology surrounding a deity or a hero, or constitute the theological and philosophical scriptures of organised folk sects.

Bimoism

Bimoism (Chinese: 毕摩教; pinyin: Bìmójiào, Yi:ꀘꂾ) is the indigenous religion of the Yi people, the largest ethnic group in Yunnan after the Han Chinese. It takes its name from the bimo, shaman-priests who are also masters of Yi language and scriptures, wearing distinctive black robes and large hats.

Since the 1980s, with the loosening of religion restrictions in China, Bimoism has undergone a revitalisation. In 1996, the Bimo Culture Research Center was founded. In the early 2010s, the government of China has helped the revival of the Bimoist faith through the construction of large temples and ceremonial complexes.

Chinese shamanism

Chinese shamanism, alternatively called Wuism (Chinese: 巫教; pinyin: wū jiào; literally: 'wu religion, shamanism, witchcraft'; alternatively 巫觋宗教 wū xí zōngjiào), refers to the shamanic religious tradition of China. Its features are especially connected to the ancient Neolithic cultures such as the Hongshan culture. Chinese shamanic traditions are intrinsic to Chinese folk religion, an overarching term for all the indigenous religions of China. Wu masters remain important in contemporary Chinese culture.

Various ritual traditions are rooted in original Chinese shamanism: contemporary Chinese ritual masters are sometimes identified as wu by outsiders, though most orders don't self-identify as such. Also Taoism has some of its origins from Chinese shamanism: it developed around the pursuit of long life (shou 壽/寿), or the status of a xian (仙, "mountain man", "holy man").

Chinese spirit possession

Chinese spirit possession is a practice performed by specialists called jitong (a type of shamans) in Chinese folk religion, involving the channelling of Chinese deities who take control of the specialist's body, resulting in noticeable changes in body functions and behaviour. The most famous Chinese spirit possession practitioners took part in the Boxer Rebellion in the 1900s, when boxers claimed to be invulnerable to the cut of a sharp knife, gunshots, and even cannon fire.

De teaching

The De teaching (Chinese: 德教 Dejiao, "teaching of virtue", the concept of De), whose corporate name is the Church of Virtue (德教会 Déjiàohuì), is a sect rooted in Taoism, that was founded in 1945 in Chaozhou, Guangdong. It is popular both in China and amongst expatriate Chinese populations.

Fenxiang

Fenxiang (分香), literally the incense division, is a term that defines both hierarchical networks of temples dedicated to a god in Chinese folk religion, and the ritual process by which these networks form.

Jiugongdao

Jiugongdao (九宫道 "Way of the Nine Palaces") is a Chinese folk religious sect centered in the Wutai County of the province of Shanxi. The name of the sect is based on the jiugong diagram of esoteric cosmology.

Flourishing in the Qing dynasty, but rooted in earlier times, the Jiugongdao developed greatly on Mount Wutai thanks to the efforts of Li Xiangshan, also known as Puji, his name as a Buddhist monk who was close to the Manchu court. With his contribution, Jiugongdao took over more than twenty run down former Buddhist monasteries on Mount Wutai and rebuilt them thanks to the donations of its strong following, especially concentrated in northeast China. The monasteries were reformed into Chinese temples dedicated to indigenous deities and the cosmological Lords of the Five Peaks. The sect also gathered a following among Khorchin Mongols.The Jiugongdao declined on Mount Wutai in the 1940s, as a Han Chinese-acquired tradition of Tibetan Buddhism took power. With the campaigns against religion in the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution, Jiugongdao and other folk religious sects focused on Mount Wutai, Huanxiangdao and Houtiandao, were persecuted and went underground. They have revived since the 1980s.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Maitreya teachings

The Maitreya teachings or Maitreyanism (Chinese: 弥勒教; pinyin: Mílèjiào; literally: 'Maitreya teachings'), also called Mile teachings, refers to the beliefs related to Maitreya (彌勒 Mílè in Chinese) that penetrated China together with Buddhism and Manichaeism, and were developed in different ways both in the Chinese Buddhist schools and in the sect salvationist traditions of the Chinese folk religion.

Maitreya was the central deity worshipped by the first folk salvation religions, but in later developments of the sects he was gradually replaced by the Limitless Ancient Mother (無生老母 Wúshēng Lǎomǔ), although Maitreyan eschatology continued to have a place in their doctrines.

Folk Buddhist movements that worshipped and awaited Maitreya are recorded at least back to the years between 509 and 515 (6th century). A notorious event was the rebellion led by monk Faqing from Jizhou City, then Northern Wei, in the name of a "new Buddha". Later, Maitreyan beliefs developed conspicuously outside the boundaries of Buddhism. By 715, as testified by an edict, wearing white clothes, that was originally a practice common to lay Buddhist congregations, had become a distinctive feature of Maitreyan sects.

Miaohui

Miaohui (庙会), literally temple gatherings or translated as temple fairs, also called yíngshén sàihuì (迎神赛会 "collective rituals to greet the gods"), are Chinese religious gatherings held by folk temples for the worship of the Chinese gods and immortals. Large-scale miaohui are usually held around the time of the Chinese New Year, or in specific temples at the birthday of the god enshrined in the temple itself. Activities usually include rituals celebrated in the temple, opera on a stage facing the temple, processions of the gods' images on carts throughout villages and cities, performance of musical and ritual troupes (of Taoists, sects and Confucian ritualists), blessing of offerings brought to the temple by families, and various economic activities.Geography and local customs lead to great differences in the nature of festivals dedicated to the gods. In northern China miaohui are usually week-long, with ceremonies held in large temples, and attended by tens of thousands of people; while in southern China they are a much more local practice, organised by village temples or clusters of temples of different villages.

Ming yun

Ming yun (Chinese: 命運; pinyin: mìng yùn) is a concept of the personal life and destiny in the Chinese folk religion. Ming is "life" or "right", the given status of life, and yùn defines "circumstance" and "individual choice"; mìng is given and influenced by the transcendent force Tiān (天), that is the same as the "divine right" (tiān mìng) of ancient rulers as identified by Mencius. Personal destiny (mìng yùn) is thus perceived as both fixed (the status of life) and flexible, open-ended (the individual choice in matters of bào yìng).

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

Taigu school

The Taigu school (太谷学派 Tàigǔ xuépài), also Great Perfection (大成教 Dàchéng jiào) or Yellow Cliff teaching (黄崖教 Huángyá jiào), is a mystical folk religious sect of Confucianism spread especially in Jiangsu, Anhui and Shandong. It was founded by Zhou Xingyuan, a man with shamanic skills entitled Taigu (太谷 "Great Valley") by followers.The purpose of the school is to help those who practice it to develop a clear and enlightened state of mind, in which man apprehends his true nature and recovers original simplicity.

Tianxian miaodao

The Tianxian miaodao (天仙庙道 "Way of the Temple of the Heavenly Immortals"), incorporated as the Church of the Way of the Temple of the Heavenly Immortals (天仙庙道会 Tiānxiān miàodào huì) is a Chinese salvationist religious sect centered in Henan. It was founded in the mid-19th century and flourished in the early republic and was known for its rebellious aptitude towards the state. Despite systematic efforts of the later communist republic to suppress it in the 1950s and 1960s, it has persisted to the present day.

Wu (awareness)

Wu (Chinese: 悟) is a concept of awareness, consciousness, or spiritual enlightenment in the Chinese folk religion. According to scholarly studies, many practitioners recently "reverted" to the Chinese traditional religion speak of a "new awareness" (kāi wù 開悟 or jué wù 覺悟) of the interconnectedness of reality in terms of the cosmic-moral harmony—mìng yùn, bào yìng, yuán fèn. This spiritual awareness works as an engine that moves these themes from being mere ideas to be motivating forces in one's life: awareness of mìng yùn ignites responsibility towards life; awareness of yuan fen stirs to respond to events rather than resigning. Awareness is a dynamic factor and appears in two guises: a realisation that arrives as a gift, often unbidden; then it evolves into a practice that the person intentionally follows.In Latin alphabetical transliteration of the Chinese, it's a homograph of the wu-shaman.

Xuanyuan teaching

Xuanyuandao (軒轅道 "Way of Xuanyuan"), also known as Xuanyuanism (軒轅教) or Huangdiism (黄帝教), is a Confucian folk religion of China which was founded in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1952. The founder was Wang Hansheng (王寒生) (1899–1989), a legislator. The Church of Xuanyuan aims to restore the "national religion" of archaic (pre-Han dynasty) China, with Huangdi as the universal God.

Yellow Dragon

The Yellow Dragon (traditional Chinese: 黃龍; simplified Chinese: 黄龙; pinyin: Huánglóng; Cantonese Yale: Wong4 Lung4 Japanese: Kōryū or Ōryū Korean: Hwang-Ryong Vietnamese: Hoàng Long) is the zoomorphic incarnation of the Yellow Emperor of the centre of the universe in Chinese religion and mythology.The Yellow Emperor or Yellow Deity was conceived by a virgin mother, Fubao, who became pregnant after seeing a yellow ray of light turning around the Northern Dipper (in Chinese theology the principal symbol of God). Twenty four months later the Yellow Emperor was born and was associated to the colour yellow because it is the colour of the Earth (Dì 地), the material substance, in which he incarnated.

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