Ritual life of Beijing temples

ZHS 1992

The Qujiaying recruits, and me, learning from former monk Benxing, summer 1992.

Ritual transmission is supposed to have gone from the Zhihua temple to Qujiaying; or rather, from the many temples of Beijing and Tianjin to the many villages on the plain south. But the Zhihua temple tradition has only been maintained since the 1990s through the initiative of Lin Zhongshu in sending a group of teenage boys from Qujiaying to the temple to learn from the elderly former monks.

And actually this kind of thing was also common before 1949—villagers might spend extended periods based in Beijing or Tianjin temples, performing ritual business with the monks among the folk; later they would return home, now able to use this experience in their own village association. Locally, Buddhist monks like Haibo and Daoist priests like Yang Yuanheng also taught many associations.

And just as Qujiaying needs to be seen in the context of ritual associations throughout the plain, the musicological furore surrounding the instrumental music of the Zhihua temple should be expanded to the ritual practice of its monks—which in turn should be considered within the changing social context of Beijing before 1949 (and indeed since). I outlined this scene in Appendix 1 of my In Search of the folk Daoists of north China.

One Beijing researcher who does this well is Ju Xi 鞠熙 (and here). Along with brilliant Daoist scholars Vincent Goossaert and Tao Jin 陶金, we are all inspired in part by the detailed recollections of former Beijing ritual specialist Chang Renchun 常人春, such as

  • Hongbai xishi: jiujing hunsang lisu 红白喜事——旧京婚丧礼俗 [Weddings and funerals: wedding and funeral customs of old Beijing] (Beijing: Yanshan chubanshe, 1993).
  • Jinshi mingren da chubin 今世名人大出殡 [Grand funerals of famous people in modern times] (Beijing: Yanshan chubanshe, 1997).

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