After recent excursions further afield, it’s high time for another update on the Li family Daoists in Yanggao.
The venerable Li Manshan, now 74 sui, may have been taking a back seat to his son Li Bin in the family’s ritual services over the last couple of years, but he’s still busy zooming around on his motor-bike, as I now learn from his recent diary.
He has been meaning to limit his work to the immediate vicinity, and focus on determining the date; whereas for funeral consultations he has to visit the bereaved family, for other requests (weddings, timing of journeys, siting of houses, and so on) he can just await patrons at home. But since he has served most of these villages frequently over the last four decades, such as Pansi, Luotun, Wujiahe, Houying, Sibaihu, Shizitun, he still often has to lead the band for lengthy and tiring funerals, and not always so nearby.
2019 (dates in lunar calendar)
- 1 and 2: to Wujiahe to determine date for burial
- 5–6: funeral at Wujiahe
- 7–8: another funeral at Wujiahe
- 8–9: funeral at Luotun
- 10: major snowfall—made paper artefacts at home
- 13–14: funeral at Anzao
- 18: ritual for third day after death at Qiaojiafang
- 19–20: funeral at Qiangjiaying
- 21: funeral in Tianzhen; determined date for burial at Pansi
- 22–24: 3-day funeral at Qiaojiafang
- 24–25 funerals at Yaogou (Tianzhen) and West Zhanjiawa (Gucheng district, can’t find on map)
- 1: funerals at Pansi, West Yaoquan, and Luotun
- 5–6: funerals at Houying and Zanniangcheng
- 8–9: funeral at Wujiahe; determined date at Tiantun
- 13–14: funerals at South Renyao and Zhaojiagou
- 14–15: funeral at Tiantun
- 18–19: funeral at Upper Liangyuan (his home village)
- 21–22: funerals at Yangheta (Tianzhen) and Anzao
- 23: funeral in southern suburbs of Datong
- 24–25: funeral at Xingyuan
- 26–27: funeral at Pansi
- 1: funerals at Pansi and Yangyuan
- 3–4: funeral at Wujiahe
- 5–6: funeral at Yaogou
- 8–9: funeral at Anzao
- 11–12: funeral at Balitai
- 15–16: funeral at Shizitun
- 18–19: funeral at Qiangjiaying
- 21–22: funeral at Yaozhuang (Yangyuan)
- 23–24: funeral at Sibaihu
- 24th–25th: funeral at Shizitun
- 2–3: funeral at Houying
- 4–5: funeral at Wujiawa (Datong)
- 6–7: funeral at Taishan village in Datong suburbs
- 8–9: funeral in Yituquan [good village name, this: “One-spit stream”] (Yangyuan)
- 13–14: funeral for the wife of our wonderful friend Li Jin in Yanggao town
For some of these funerals Li Manshan works together with Li Bin, but the latter also often has to lead a separate band, as well as doing his own consultations to determine the date. As with Li Bin’s diary from 2017, we can see that improved transport has enabled them to perform funerals in different villages concurrently—never an option before the 1980s when they had to walk everywhere.
So while Old Lord Li deserves to take things easy, he still can’t easily turn down requests. I can understand why he longs for the contemplative life of the temple priest. Belief endures in the powers of the Daoists to deliver the soul, and for now they are still much in demand, as they have been for the last forty years—but with the rural population continuing to dwindle, this can’t last.
For the busy schedules of Li Manshan and Li Bin even during the Coronavirus, see here.