Yao folk religion

Yao folk religion is the ethnic religion of the Yao people, a non-Sinitic ethnic group who reside in the Guangxi, Hunan and surrounding provinces of China. Their religion is profoundly intermingled with Taoism since the 13th century, so much that it is frequently defined as Yao Taoism (瑶族道教 Yáozú Dàojiào).[1]:1–3 In the 1980s it was found that the Yao clearly identified with the Chinese-language Taoist theological literature, seen as a prestigious statute of culture (文化 wénhuà).[2]:290

Yao folk religion was described by a Chinese scholar of the half of the 20th century as an example of deep "Taoisation" (道教化 Dàojiàohuà). Yao core theology and cosmology is Taoist; they worship the deities of canonical Taoism (above all the Three Pure Ones) as the principal deities, while lesser gods are those who pertain to their own indigenous pre-Taoisation religion.[1]:6–10

The reason of this tight identification of Yao religion and identity with Taoism is that in Yao society every male adult is initiated as a Taoist, and Yao Taoism is therefore a communal religion; this is in sharp contrast to Chinese Taoism, which is an order of priests disembedded from the common Chinese folk religion. A shared sense of Yao identity is based additionally on tracing their descent from the mythical ancestor Panhu.[2]:48–49

Social aspects

Yao Taoism has been seen as representing a conservative form of religious practice, exhibiting parallels with the communitarian Taoism that flourished with the earliest Taoist movements in China proper and the collective fasts of medieval China. although the Yao are speakers of non-Sinitic Mienic languages, their Taoist liturgical tradition is in Chinese language and writing.[3]

The strong identity of Yao society as a Taoist Church, and their high literacy, are seen as the factors of Southeast Asian Yaos' proud resistance to Christian missionary penetration of their communities in the 1960s and 1970s.[2]:51

Priesthood

Yao Taoist robes preserved at Yunnan Nationalities Museum.

Yao taoist priest costume - Yunnan Nationalities Museum - DSC04172
Yao taoist priest costume - Yunnan Nationalities Museum - DSC04176

In Yao religion all adult males are initiated to some degree into the Taoist clergy.[2]:48–49 The tsow say ong are high priests who perform rites for the higher gods of the pantheon ("above the sky") and officiate funerals. The Yao folk religion otherwise retains a class of lesser priests or shamans, the sip mien, who perform rituals for the lesser gods ("under the sky").

There are four levels of initiation into the Yao Taoist church, they are called:[3] "hanging the lamps" (kwa-tang), "ordination of the master" (tou-sai), after which ordinates are given a sigil and a certificate to perform a variety of rites, and the two additional levels of "adding duties" (chia-tse) and "enfeoffing liturgies" (pwang-ko).

The Sai nzung sou is the book of ceremonies for inviting the mienv zoux ziouv, good spirits who protect the location. The mienv morh are instead angry spirits who cause sickness and tragedy.

House altar

The mienv baaih is the Yao household altar of the gods, in a place easily visible from the main door. Its aim is welcoming the spirits (mienv). The mienv kuv is a tablet with the names of the ancestors of the family placed upon the altar; another custom is the use of pictures of the ancestors instead of the tablets.

Rituals and psychology

After the death of a person, the priests perform the zoux caeqv, a ceremony to deliver the person's body from sin. Then the priest perform a water ritual, the zoux sin, for purifying the person's dead body from evil spirits. Subsequently, the priest performs the doh dangh caeqv jaiv, a ceremony to purify the soul of the dead person from the influence of evil spirits.

The zoux sin-seix is an ending ritual to give the spirit a peaceful after-life and happiness in the new generation to come, since Yao Taoists believe in the hoz seix or reincarnation. Other practices involve spirit money and sacrifice.

See also

References

Citations

  1. ^ a b Alberts, Eli. A History of Daoism and the Yao People of South China. Cambria Press, 2006. ISBN 1934043141
  2. ^ a b c d Litzinger, Ralph A. Other Chinas: The Yao and the Politics of National Belonging. Duke University Press, 2000. ISBN 0822325497
  3. ^ a b Davis, 2005. p. 190

Sources

  • Edward L. Davis. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture. Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0415241294
  • Eli Alberts. A History of Daoism and the Yao People of South China. Cambria Press, 2006. ISBN 1934043141
  • Litzinger, Ralph A. Other Chinas: The Yao and the Politics of National Belonging. Duke University Press, 2000. ISBN 0822325497
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.

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.

Huazhaidao

Huazhaidao (华斋道 "Way of Flowers and Fasting") is a Chinese folk religious sect of Henan that as of the 1980s was a proscribed religion in China as testified by the arrest of various Communist Party members who joined the sect in those years.

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).

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.

Tianguangdao

Tianguangdao (天光道 "Way of the Heavenly Light") is a Chinese folk religious sect that as of the 1980s was a proscribed religion in China. Particularly active in Heilongjiang and Anhui, there are records of detentions of leaders and members easpecially from the former province.

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.

Xiezhi

The xiezhi (Chinese: 獬豸) or haetae (Korean: 해태, often spelled haitai or haechi) is a legendary creature in Chinese and Korean mythology.

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.

Zhongyongdao

Zhongyongdao (中庸道 "Way of the Golden Mean") is a Chinese folk religious sect that as of the 1980s was a proscribed religion in China as testified by the arrest of one of its leaders, Tang Tianxu, in Sichuan in 1981.

Major religions in China
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