Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Chinese Folk Cults (民間秘密教門)

A Once Through Cult (一貫道) membership card
When we are trying to look into magic practices amongst the Chinese folks, we need also look into folk cults or folk religions as these groups of people play important parts in the conservation of magic rituals other than the standard Taoists and Buddhists. Some of the groups survived until today are:


The Once Through Dao (一貫道), The Cult of White Lotus (白蓮教), The Cult Of Green Lotus (青蓮教) etc.


Chinese folk cults have rooted back in time since the Song and Yuan Dynasty in mainland China. However, these beliefs were brought to Southeast Asia by Chinese migrants mainly during WWII. Basically these cults operate under the disguise of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. It is not a surprise that the cult teachings are just cut and paste jobs from Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism doctrines; also in addition new theories pertaining to the cult ideologies were added.


These cult groups touted themselves as ‘the union of 3 religions’ (三教合一), ‘the union of 5 religions’ (五教同堂) or even ‘the union of all religions’ (萬教歸一). There is no standard nomenclature for these cults, while they are known as ‘folk cults’ by scholars, their names vary: group (), taoist (), gate (), society (), sect () etc.


Members of these cults normally belong to the working class; they can hardly differentiate between an orthodox religion and folk cults. There are three reasons that gave birth to these folk cults:


·         Hierarchical

o   Folk cults give ordinary people a chance to climb up in group hierarchy and hence accumulate power and wealth. Many of these cult groups were once feared by the Chinese Emperors as they have caused outburst of civil wars.

·         Historical

o   Folk cults took shape when slaves revolt against the rich Buddhists who were royal patron. In order to unite those slaves, folk cults use religion as a disguise. For example: “new Buddha will be born to take over the kingdom…”

·         Social

o   General people looking for spiritual comfort and assurances that Buddhism and Taoist failed to provide. Please remember that these two religions had royal patronage, so they were a little farfetched in the eyes of general public.


Due to the educational and cultural background, general public are prone to be taken in by the preaching and promises of folk cult followers. For example, people are asked to join the cult groups if they want to be freed from all disasters or anyone who wanted to be bestow with boon; some even promise of guaranteeing a place in the heaven.


There is a practice from the ‘Once Through Cult’ that empowers the followers’ third eye area. There is a saying that goes:



(Once the 3rd eye is empowered, the Lord of Death is startled!)


However, one of the cult’s masters died in a car accident, so people jokingly change the above sentence to:



(Once the 3rd eye is empowered, the Lord of Death still accepts!)


However, it is not my intention to say which the rightful path is as my only concern is in the magic practices.


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