Friday, April 17, 2015

About Taoist Cults (传承启教)

Not only many foreigners are confused with Taoist religious cults, even the Chinese themselves are unclear about what Taoist cults are about. Many people just walked into a temple and thought it is a pure Taoist temple. Little had they aware that many temples in Southeast Asia has nothing to do with any of the Taoist cults as these temples are only run by mediums or otherwise known as “tangki” (童乩).

There are many Taoist cults around and it does not mean when one goes to a Taoist temple in mainland China and become a Taoist that he/she has learnt everything about Taoist magic. What one can learn now a day in a Taoist temple is perhaps ceremonial rituals with a fee of course.

Naturally, Taoist ceremonial rituals are only meant for the worship of standard Taoist deities, the constellations, the mother earth and ceremony of the death. There is no magic element in traditional Taoist practices sorry to say so and this can be a little boring and the more advance Taoist practice would be meditation and breathing exercises.

Perhaps if one ventures away from standard Taoist religion and enters into the realm of folk religions, then can one learnt about various magical rituals. There are many folk religions still prevalent in mainland China but each of these religious sects is set up with its own aims.

For example, lower Mao Shan sect (茅山) deals mainly with ghost magic, if you do not like to deal with ghosts; then you should not touch this magical system. Lupan (鲁班) cult is meant mainly for the artisans (工匠) and half of the teachings is on how to build a house and only half that are relevant to magic rituals. Likewise the Mei Shan (梅山) cult is mainly meant for hunting and gaming purpose. While the Raft cult (排教) that is getting extinct mainly deals with transporting of timber logs through rivers.

Other more popular Taoist cults that have spread overseas are the Liu Ren (六壬), Jin Ying (金英), Yin Shan (阴山) and Lu Shan (闾山). Also over the years some of the cults have merged and forms new cults under different names. This trend is especially obvious in Taiwan as many variants of the above Taoists emerged under different names and according to different regions.

Now that it is a little clear of what a standard Taoist practice and a Taoist cult looks like, perhaps it is clear at this point what your part of Taoism belongs to; or it is still as clear as mud still?

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