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Evaluating Threats to Religious Freedom in China

Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password. New Password. Password Changed Successfully Your password has been changed. Returning user. Request Username Can't sign in? Forgot your username? In the 5 th century, the relations among these corpora and the other traditions of Jiangnan were formally defined in the system of the Three Caverns sandong , which is traditionally attributed to Lu Xiujing but clearly reflects the perspectives of the Daoist community as a whole Schipper and Verellen 14— In this system, the main Daoist traditions and scriptural corpora of southeastern China are arranged into three hierarchical groups, namely 1 Shangqing, 2 Lingbao, and 3 Sanhuang Three Sovereigns, understood as the Sanhuang wen and related materials.

The Three Caverns also provided a model for other aspects of doctrine and practice, including the ranks of priestly ordination and the classification of scriptures in the future Daoist Canons id.

Religious Daoism

The founding of the Tang dynasty — was accompanied by millenarian prophecies about a sage-emperor surnamed Li Bokenkamp Their rise to the throne was supported by representatives of the Shangqing lineage. Li Yuan finally founded the Tang dynasty as Emperor Gaozu. The support of the court culminated in ca. While the disastrous An Lushan rebellion of —63 put an end to the glory of the Tang dynasty, for Daoism as a whole the Tang was an age of consolidation, but also of major changes and innovations.

With regard to ritual, the Tang period and the successive decades of the Five Dynasties —60 were marked by two important new codifications, respectively owed to Zhang Wanfu fl. Intersections of Daoist and Buddhist thought and religion are visible in doctrines Robinet , cults with several shared deities, e. After China was reunified by the Song dynasty — , major changes in society—in particular urbanization, the creation of a market economy, and the rise to prominence of new classes, especially in the southeastern regions—led to major transformations in religion.

The Way of the Celestial Masters then based at Mount Longhu, in present-day Jiangxi was officially assigned the task of ordaining priests, but a series of revelations resulted in the creation of lineages that, in several cases, claimed to have been originated by Zhang Daoling himself. All of them were based on different codifications of ritual—including exorcist rites—but with little variation in basic practices Boltz 26—49; Skar In , the Jurchen Jin dynasty — captured Kaifeng, and the Song dynasty was obliged to move its capital to Hangzhou, establishing the Southern Song dynasty — This monastic order is, with the Way of the Celestial Masters, the main branch of present-day Daoism.

Controversies with Buddhism led to proscriptions in the second half of the 13 th century, which included the burning of a Daoist Canon recently compiled by Quanzhen representatives.

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Quanzhen, however, maintained a strong local presence, and after the reunification of China under the Yuan dynasty it again obtained the favor of the court. While the Ming dynasty — gave priority to the Celestial Masters, Wang Changyue — gained the support of the newly-established Manchu Qing dynasty — Unlike Tianshi dao, whose priests are married and live with their families, Quanzhen is a celibate monastic order, and under this form it has mainly propagated in northern China.

In addition to certain forms of ritual, the main practices of Quanzhen monks include meditation and Internal Alchemy Eskildson However, the overall image of Quanzhen and Longmen is complex, as it also includes non-institutional and non-monastic forms. At their origins lies the fact that Wang Zhe and his seven disciples are also identified as the so-called Beizong, or Northern Lineage, of Neidan; and especially the fact that Longmen as a whole traces its origins to the above-mentioned Qiu Chuji, who is traditionally known as a Neidan practitioner.

This and the following three sections are concerned with subjects that are relevant to Daoism as a whole: cosmology, gods and rituals, soteriology, and the views of the human being and the human body. In different ways and to different extents, all of them have contributed to frame doctrines and practices of several Daoist schools or lineages. Discussing the main points of doctrine before approaching their particular subjects is—in addition to references to Laozi and the Daode jing , already noted above—the other main way used in Daoist texts to declare their affiliation to Daoism.

In the first sense, the Dao is devoid of definition, determination, form, name, attributes, and qualities. Yet, it comprises all definitions, determinations, forms, etc. This Unity, or Oneness, is meant as the transcendent unity both beyond multiplicity 1 as the origin of numbers, but itself not a number and as the origin of the many 1 as the first number. With its self-manifestation, the Dao gives birth to the three main components of the cosmos.

The same three components are also seen as the foundations of the human being. In certain cases, Original Breath yuanqi is also seen as a principle prior to the emergence of Essence, Breath, and Spirit; when it is used in this sense, it is also called Ancestral Breath zuqi and is equated to the Dao itself. In the manifested world, the three components take on different aspects. The vertical arrangement of the stages illustrates the process of descent from the Dao to the cosmos, but also implies—and often explicitly outlines—a corresponding process of ascent from the cosmos to the Dao, to be performed with the support of suitable practices.

When this hierarchical arrangement is represented as a sequence of temporal stages, the discourse shifts from ontology to cosmogony. In addition to the one mentioned above, Daoism has elaborated several other accounts of cosmogony during its history Robinet a. As his body had no openings, the Emperors of the North and of the South decided to make him look similar to a human.

The Way of the Celestial Masters Bokenkamp —92; Seidel 79—84 and Lingbao Daoism Lagerwey ; Bokenkamp —81; Robinet —55 also created their own cosmogonies.

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After the cosmos is generated, it is subject to the laws of cosmology. Among the main emblems are the following:.


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In addition to those mentioned above, Daoist traditions draw several other images, concepts, and terms from the standard Chinese cosmological system, but one point requires mention. Cosmology provides Daoism with tools to represent the unfolding of Unity into multiplicity; to express the relation between Dao, cosmos, and human being; and to frame practices supported by microcosmic frameworks—the ritual area, the alchemical laboratory, or the human body itself.

To give one example, alchemists often represent the return to Unity as the reduction of the five agents to three and then to one. In China, the boundaries among Daoism, Buddhism, and the common religion are much less marked compared to those among monotheistic religions. According to individual needs and circumstances, lay persons may perform cults and address prayers and petitions indifferently to Daoist, Buddhist, or popular deities.

This has placed Daoism in close touch with the common religion, but has also been the reason for a controversial relation. Daoism attempts to undertake the dual task—by no means always successful—of drawing people closer to the deities that represent the Dao, while at the same time responding to their immediate religious demands. As a consequence, in the words of Peter Nickerson ,. Taoists, precisely because they relied upon traditions of practice they claimed to have superseded, were compelled to try to distinguish themselves from their popular predecessors and competitors.

Demonizing the gods of popular religion was one of the options Mollier : in the course of its history Daoism has prohibited cults to minor deities and spirits, just like it has proscribed acupuncture healing is supposed to occur by confession of sins or other ritual means overseen by a Daoist officiant and divination performed by lay specialists who do not belong to Daoist schools or lineages.

Yet, plenty of examples show that the opposite attitude was also applied: to quote Nickerson again,. Nickerson, id. One reason at the basis of these divergent—more precisely, contradictory—attitudes may be the intent of exploiting the popularity of certain cults and the demand for certain basic religious services; another reason may be the attempt of not alienating lay persons and of paying tribute to local religious traditions. In any of these cases, Daoism incorporates certain practices of common religion into its rites and includes certain gods of common religion into its pantheon.

As has been noted, the first competitor of the Daoist priest within local communities, in past and present times, is not the Buddhist monk or the Confucian officer, but the spirit-medium Seidel 62; see Lagerwey —18, for an amusing but revealing episode. In several cases, these domains are not only the residences of deities, but also correspond to degrees of priestly ordination and to inner spiritual states, and are associated with revelations of teachings and textual corpora. The existence of multiple systems reflects the development of the religion. Different traditions created their own systems in order to demonstrate that the respective methods derive from a superior celestial domain compared to those of other traditions, and therefore are more effective or grant access to a higher spiritual state.

The thirty-two heavens of Lingbao are arranged horizontally, with each heaven occupying one sector of an imaginary circle. At their center is the Grand Veil Daluo , the highest celestial domain.

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The thirty-six heavens of Shangqing, instead, are arranged vertically. This system was created after the Lingbao model and draws in part from it.

The Journal of the American Oriental Society 2010, April-June, 130, 2

In one of several lists, the highest heaven is again the Grand Veil. Further below there are four heavens of Formlessness, eighteen of Form, and six of Desire.

The term itself defines both the three highest deities and the heavens in which they reside. While this became the classic Daoist model of the celestial realms, it could be modified in several ways. Different systems were devised in later times; these include the Shenxiao cosmography, which places the eponymous Divine Empyrean shenxiao at the center of nine celestial realms Boltz 26—33; Despeux They are associated with different pre-cosmic eras and are deemed to be at the origins of the textual corpora associated with the Three Caverns.

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Most important among them are Taiyi, or Great One, who represents the fundamental Unity of the cosmos in a deified form; and Yuhuang, or Jade Sovereign, the highest god of popular religion before his incorporation in the Daoist pantheon in the Song period. In addition, a multitude of deities, most of which originate from local cults and are shared with the common religion, contribute to form a pantheon that is impossible to describe in full, as it takes different forms in different places and times Lagerwey 19—55; iconography in Little , Delacour et al.

The highest gods reveal texts, teachings, and methods either directly or through their representatives. For instance, the Shangqing and Lingbao scriptures are deemed to have taken shape from self-generated graphs coagulated from Original Breath Robinet 21—24 , or from sounds generated by its vibration Bokenkamp —87 , in the early stages of the formation of the cosmos. The so-called talismans fu , a word almost exactly corresponding to the original meaning of Greek symbolon are traced on paper or other supports in graphs hardly comprehensible to humans but intelligible to the gods Despeux ; Mollier Like the revealed scriptures—some of which, in fact, are deemed to have evolved from them—talismans have counterparts in Heaven, and thus serve to identify and authenticate their possessors in front of the gods.

The two main Daoist ceremonies in the present day are the Offering jiao and the Merit gongde rituals. On their history and on earlier forms of ritual see Benn ; Andersen ; Lagerwey 58— The Offering Lagerwey 51—; Schipper 72—99; Dean —77 is performed to renovate the bond between a community—from the village to the empire—and its gods. The Merit ritual Lagerwey — is a funerary ceremony performed to ensure that the deceased is not kept in the netherworld but may ascend to Heaven.


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The main officiant is the Daoist priest, or daoshi lit. When he receives a request to celebrate an Offering, the daoshi convenes his assistants to perform the ritual.