Daoists of Shuozhou, Shanxi

If you recall, it was my film and book on the household Daoists of the Li family in Yanggao who were my original inspiration for this whole blog. Just in case anyone supposes that they are an isolated case, I keep meaning to write a lengthy, detailed article about Daoist ritual activity elsewhere in north Shanxi—but for now, here’s a little introduction to the Shuozhou scene, to whet your appetite (or not). While provisional, it will serve mainly to hint at the riches of Daoist lineages, ritual life, and manuals in this region. [1] Since these notes are based on what John Lagerwey has aptly called “hit-and-run” missions, there is always room for more fieldwork.

Introduction: Complete Perfection and Orthodox Unity.
1 The Shuocheng region: 1.1 The Zhou lineage of Gengzhuang; 1.2 The Wang lineage of Muzhai; 1.3 Wang Huarong; 1.4 The Zhang lineage of Shentou.
2 The Pinglu region: 2.1 The Li lineage of Front Anjialing; 2.2 The Yang lineage of Hancun.
3 Yingxian: the Qinglongshan Daoists.
4 Rituals and ritual segments: 4.1 A village funeral; 4.2 Another funerary Hoisting the Pennant; 4.3 Other funerary rituals; 4.4 Rituals for the living.
5 Ritual soundscape.
6 Ritual manuals.
7 Preliminary hypotheses.

Complete Perfection and Orthodox Unity
The Shuozhou 朔州 region makes a classic instance of how household Complete Perfection (Quanzhen) Daoists may be active within a region, alongside household Orthodox Unity (Zhengyi) Daoists; and here at last we have some clear instances of how household and temple Complete Perfection Daoists overlapped before the 1950s.

To repeat yet again, we mustn’t confuse “household” with “Orthodox Unity”!

Household ritual specialists of both Orthodox Unity and Complete Perfection denominations were common in north China, and remain so today. Dipping into my book In search of the folk Daoists of north China, apart from the Orthodox Unity traditions of north Shanxi, west Shaanxi, and Gansu, I also introduced household Complete Perfection Daoist ritual in areas like south Hebei and south Shanxi.

Throughout north Shanxi, besides the Li family and other Daoist bands in Yanggao, many other household groups are active. I began to introduce the Daoist ritual scene there in Part Two of In search of the folk Daoists—before I had got to grips with Shuozhou—and Chen Yu gives further details. But while Chinese musicologists document Daoist rituals rather well, they tend to blur over social details.

I have observed that scholars’ neat delineation of Orthodox Unity (“household”) Daoists in north China and Complete Perfection (“temple”) Daoists in the south is far too simple. Even in north Shanxi the picture is complex. As early as 1992, master Daoist Li Qing told me that the Lü lineage in a Tianzhen village just east were Longmen Complete Perfection Daoists, unlike the Yanggao groups. Not until 2011 did I find the time to visit them—and I soon realized that household Complete Perfection Daoists might also be common elsewhere.

In the counties of Shuozhou and Yingxian (as well as Tianzhen) we found only household Complete Perfection Daoists, no Orthodox Unity Daoists. But at least until the 1950s both Complete Perfection and Orthodox Unity Daoists might be either temple- or household-based, and in late imperial times the relation between the two was fluid; often a single lineage contained both temple and household priests, as we see below.

In south China, scholars basically find only household Orthodox Unity Daoists—with some exceptions in Guangdong. And for the latter, as well as the Jiangnan area, we should note the interchange between temple and household Daoists.

Still, as I have observed (my book, p.14), it doesn’t matter! In north Shanxi, ritual variation is rather slight; with a few minor exceptions, differences appear to be local—and not based on Complete Perfection or Orthodox Unity styles. Ritual sequences, ritual segments, and the vocal, percussion, and melodic instrumental items within them, all have much in common. I often feel the only clear difference between the two notional branches is in their differently shaped hats, and their lineage names.

Around Shuozhou, as among the Orthodox Unity Daoists further north in Shanxi, the term yinyang is used, but the term daoshi also seems common. As elsewhere in north Shanxi, ritual bands generally have around six or seven members.

1 The Shuocheng region

Once the county of Shuoxian, Shuozhou became a municipality (shi) in 1989, comprising the two regions (qu) of Shuocheng and Pinglu, as well as the four counties of Yingxian, Youyu, Huairen, and Shanyin.

We have mainly found Daoists in the vicinity of the towns of Shuozhou and Pinglu; no-one has yet suggested any leads in the north of the Shuozhou region, or further to the northwest. We have some notes on Yingxian (§3 below), but Youyu and Huairen appear to yield slim pickings, and Chen Yu only found one group in Shanyin. As I suggested in my In search of the folk Daoists of north China, Daoist ritual specialists may be concentrated nearer the imperial centres of culture on the plains, rather than in more remote mountainous areas where there are fewer patrons for their services, but a complex combination of factors is relevant.

Daoist ritual can flourish in unlikely places where economic modernization grows apace, as we learn from the thriving ritual scene in Shanghai’s Pudong development zone, or Ken Dean’s film on the vibrant ritual life of Putian in Fujian. Whereas Yanggao county remains poor in industry, today the city of Shuozhou is rather like a mid-west oil town, with wide boulevards. By day it is bustling; by night its restaurants are packed but the streets are empty. In this seemingly unpromising municipality, after leaving the motorways flanked by enormous industrial complexes, one finds that many distinguished Complete Perfection households with long ancestry are still active. Even in town there are over twenty funeral shops along Westgate road (Xiguanjie), some run by Daoists or their relatives, including Wang Erdan and Wang Huarong.

We visited several groups in Shuozhou county, and heard of yet more. But as elsewhere, most young men now tend to find work in the local mining and industrial sectors.

1.1 The Zhou lineage of Gengzhuang

Zhou Yishan 周义山 (b.1955), known as Zhou Erdan 周二旦, is an eighth-generation household Longmen Complete Perfection Daoist. Here we found a conclusive temple link. He has a fine collection of ritual manuals (§6, Table 1) and artefacts—including a lineage chart that he has compiled, helping to give a rather detailed history of their tradition, although its dates contain some inconsistencies.

Zhou Erdan belongs to the yong 永 generation (18th character in the Longmen generational poem, beginning dao de tong xuan jing 道德通玄静: In search of the folk Daoists, p.131 and n.3). The following account is compiled from his own research into his family history.

Zhou Erdan

Zhou Erdan.

They trace the lineage right back to the founding ancestor of the Longmen lineage itself, Qiu Chuji, giving details of his birthplace and honorific titles:

Changchun Perfected One, from Qiujiazhuang village in Qixia county of Dengzhou fu in Shandong.


The first Daoist in the Zhou lineage was notionally a disciple of Qiu Chuji, and so was part of the de 德 generation, second character in the Longmen generational poem.

The lineage lived in Shandong for around 250 years until they moved to Zhoujiaxiang 周家巷 village in Daixian county, Shanxi. But their first clearly documented ancestor was Zhou Yicai 周一彩, a temple Daoist who moved from Daixian to the Chenghuang miao temple in Shuozhou—perhaps around 1700. Yi is the eleventh character in the poem, so he was the tenth generation in the Zhou lineage; below I shall follow their habitual terminology today, starting with him as first generation.

Of the third generation, probably active from the late 18th century, Zhou Laifeng 周来凤 was a temple Daoist, his younger brother Zhou Lailong 周来龙 a household Daoist. An important manuscript Yuhuang shangdi beiji 玉皇上帝碑記 kept by Zhou Erdan, which he thinks may have been copied by his uncle Zhou Fusheng, reproduces an 1813 stele of the Yuhuang miao temple in Shuozhou town, mentioning the brothers’ fine calligraphy.

Yuhuang shangdi beiji

Yuhuang shangdi beiji, opening.

When Zhou Laifeng died, his younger brother Lailong took over the temple from him.

Zhou Erdan believes that both brothers were taught by a Daoist priest whom they invited from the White Cloud Temple (Baiyunguan) in Beijing. When the priest died he was buried in the Zhou ancestral graveland, off the road from the county-town to Caoshahui 曹沙會 (there was another Zhou lineage graveland west of Xiaocun 小村, north of the town). Below we see that ritual manuals from the White Cloud Temple may have been handed down in the Zhou lineage.

In the next generation, Zhou Laifeng’s son Zhou Tianxiang 周天相 learnt, but later moved to Qilihe 七里河 village and became a carpenter. It was Zhou Lailong’s son, also called Zhou Tianxiang but with a different xiang character 周天祥, who took over the Yuhuang miao.

Some time in the Guangxu era (1875–1908), Zhou Erdan’s great-grandfather Zhou Shancai 周善财, of the ben generation (oldest son of Zhou Tianxiang 周天祥) moved to Liujiakou 刘家口 village to be resident priest in a temple there; they were suffering from hailstones from the west of the village, so he was invited to “suppress evil” (zhenxie). Meanwhile his younger brother Zhou Shanfu 周善富 was at first a household Daoist, but became a carpenter and moved to Qiusiyuan 秋寺院 village just west of Gengzhuang. Just as two generations earlier, here we have a temple–household Daoist pair of brothers.

Zhou Shancai had five sons; after he died, his fifth son Zhou Huguo 周护国 (Zhou Erdan’s grandfather) moved to Gengzhuang to occupy the temple there; it was 1948, and Gengzhuang was suffering from locusts—Zhou Huguo was an accomplished Chinese doctor, so the villagers asked him to find suitable folk pesticides; for the ritual he made an arena delineated by flags of five colours. Of Zhou Shancai’s other sons, the second, Zhou Zhiguo 周治国, had the daohao Heyi 和义; Zhou Erdan still preserves manuals copied by him in 1890 (Guangxu 16th year). The third son, Zhou Dingguo 周定国, fled to Moshigou 磨石沟 around 1941 or 1942 to escape the fighting.

That was the last generation with temple priests. But nine men from the following jiao generation were household Daoists—including one Jiaoxiu 教修, copyist of the Xijiangyue xietu nianjing wenshen lianyiben (see also §6, Table 1).

Jiaoxiu manual

Zhou Zhiguo’s five sons were all household Daoists: Zhou Xisheng 周希胜, Zhou Zongsheng 周宗胜 (who died in his 30s), Zhou Shusheng 周述胜, Zhou Cunsheng 周存胜 (d.c1970), and Zhou Fusheng 周福胜 (d.1981). With their father they made up a band of six Daoists. Zhou Dingguo’s two sons were also Daoists: Zhou Changsheng 周长胜 (c1918–81) and Zhou Mingsheng 周明胜 (c1925–97), who also served for some time in the army of Yan Xishan. And both of Zhou Huguo’s sons were Daoists: Zhou Desheng 周德胜 (1912–82, Zhou Erdan’s father) learnt with his father from young, but was also in Yan Xishan’s army from the age of 20 to 30 sui, and later in the 8th Route Army, retiring due to ill-health; he destroyed his retirement permit on the way home, afraid that the Japanese would discover it. He taught his sons, including Zhou Erdan. Zhou Huguo’s second son Zhou Yinsheng 周银胜 (c1933–95) was also a Daoist.

Of Zhou Desheng’s four sons —the current generation—three became Daoists. The oldest, Zhou Cunshan 周存山, died in his thirties, but Zhou Erdan (Zhou Yishan, b.1955) and the third brother Zhou Wanshan 周万善 (b.1957) continued. Zhou Erdan himself began learning in 1976, aged 22 sui, studying the shengguan from his father, the vocal ritual from his grandfather Huguo. Zhou Wanshan began learning with his father in 1981, playing guanzi, and now works mainly with Wang Huarong. The fourth brother Zhou Fushan got a PhD and has lived in the USA and South Korea!

Zhou Yinsheng’s oldest son Zhou Haishan 周海山 (b. 1960) learnt from around 1978 (they began performing openly around 1980), playing with Zhou Erdan’s band; around 1995 or 1996 he changed trades to become a photographer, grazing camels for his business. Another cousin, Zhou Weishan 周卫山, was also a Daoist.

Zhou Zongsheng’s oldest son Zhou Qishan 周岐山 committed suicide in 1968 after severe torture, in his 60s. Zhou Baoshan 周宝山 (oldest son of Zhou Changsheng) had been learning for four or five years when he joined the army in 1966, and after a dozen years he returned to be a cadre; in 2011 he was over 70 sui, living in town.

So the Zhou lineage claims twenty generations: nine based in Daixian, five in Shuozhou town, and six in Liujiakou and Gengzhuang. As usual, the depth of such traditions can only be appreciated once we begin studying the whole extended lineage, not just the direct line of fathers and sons. These stories, however sketchy, are fascinating clues to patterns of local transmission, often based on emergency needs.

We also need to make educated guesses. The temple priests among them might have been given to their respective temples when young, later coming back to marry and have children when in their 20s or 30s—whether they were still nominally resident temple priests, or had already left the temple to practise as household ritual specialists. Such a temple priest was generally a lone disciple of the senior priest in their temple, so they naturally banded together with other local household Longmen Daoists to perform rituals among the folk.

Anyway, the Zhou lineage continued providing both temple and household priests over many generations. As we reach the 20th century, successive assaults took their toll: first warfare, with Daoists joining the army or fleeing, then state disapproval, and since the 1980s a wider choice of occupations. But today’s Daoists have been practising again for over three decades.

This ancient lineage, with its long history of providing both temple and household ritual specialists, seems to have been the major influence on the household Daoist ritual scene in the vicinity since the 1940s. They taught both the Wang family of Muzhai (they still often work together) and Wang Huarong in Upper Quanguan (see below).

I outline the rituals and manuals of all the groups discussed here in §§4–6 below.

1.2 The Wang lineage of Muzhai

Wang band

The Wang band of Muzhai, with Wang Yuxi (centre) and Wang Junxi on his left. Photo: Liu Yan.

Around Shuozhou city, the other group with the greatest reputation is that of the Wang brothers in Muzhai village. It’s a 15-minute drive from the city centre, and was scheduled for demolition when we visited. The Wangs were promised a three-room flat nearby, yet to be built; they weren’t keen to move anyway.

We chatted with the brothers Wang Yuxi 王玉玺 (b. c1949) and Wang Junxi 王君玺 (known as Wang Erdan, b.c1966). They are among at least nine members of the fourth generation of Daoists in their lineage. They believe they first acquired their ritual skills from the Zhou lineage in Gengzhuang, with whom they often still work.

Before 1964, most distinguished of the Daoists were their father Wang Youmin and his older brother. Wang Youmin’s oldest son Wang Yuxi (b.c1949, remember) had started learning when 6 or 7 sui, so he was also active in those troubled times.

His younger brother Wang Junxi is remarkable too: in his posh suit, he is not much of a talker, but knows everything, and is an amazing guanzi player.

Most articulate member of the band is Yue Zhan 岳占 (b.1954). He says he had no real master, but he too is a great expert on ritual; he had an uncle who was a Daoist, and began learning when 7 or 8 sui.

In the Wang lineage, Daoists include:

  • 1st generation: Wang Run 王潤
  • 2nd generation: Wang Dachuan 王大川 (their grandfather, d.1960), Wang Yinchuan 王银川, Wang Houchuan 王后川
  • 3rd generation: Wang Baomin 王保民 (1910–c1980; he later became a soldier), Wang Youmin 王佑民 (1921–83, father of Yuxi and Junxi), Wang Qimin 王启民 (d.c1985). It was only from this generation (ming in the Longmen lineage poem) that the Wangs began practising ritual in earnest, with Wang Baomin and Huang Jishun 黄继舜 taking the lead. Huang had no heirs, but he had several disciples, including Wang Huarong (see below) and Li Xinquan 李新泉, still a Daoist in Muzhai (the village also has several Daoists from other lineages).
  • 4th-generation Daoists include:
    • sons of Wang Baomin: Chengxi 王成玺 (b.c1952), Weixi 王维玺 (b.c1963);
    • sons of Wang Youmin: Yuxi 王玉玺 (b.c1949)  63) Junxi 王君玺 (b.c1966), Jiuxi 王久玺 (b.c1973);
    • sons of Wang Qimin: Yuanxi 王圆玺 (b.c1964) 48), Quanxi 王全玺 (b.c1965),
      Jinxi 王金玺 (over 30 in 2011).

The Wangs’ ritual manuals are listed in §6, Table 2.

1.3 Wang Huarong

Wang Huarong 王华荣 (b.1955) is another fine Daoist. He has no hereditary background, and began late, but has a keen interest, and has studied diligently with the available masters in the area.

Wang Huarong

Wang Huarong. In background, trunks with ritual equipment.

He is based in Upper Quanguan 上泉观 village, about 15 kilometres north of the city. It was once called Zhangjiayao 张家窑, but with its spring (quan) and temple, it was later called Quanguan. Just south was a village called Qiusiyuan 秋寺院, named after its temple (it sounds like a Buddhist temple, though guan means Daoist belvedere, if we seek historical meanings for what has long been a flexible local folk vocabulary); legend goes that it was sacked by the Qing government after an “incident” there. Such temples owned land (yangshandi 养善地 “land for cultivating charity”) but after Liberation their land was confiscated and there were no more resident priests. The land of the temple at Upper Quanguan (a dozen or so mu) was in the east of the village, near the present brick kiln.

Wang Huarong once worked for the county Hall of Culture, also playing sheng mouth-organ and di flute in the county yangge troupe. He only began studying ritual around 1982, learning with several local Daoists, including Huang Jishun 黄继舜 of Muzhai, Xu Jingsheng 徐旌升 of Pinglu, and Cui San 崔三 of the Eastgate in Shuozhou town. Like the Wangs of Muzhai, he also studied with the Zhou family of Gengzhuang, often doing rituals with both them and the Wangs. His second and third son take part in his ritual band. He now also runs a funeral shop in the city, and is keen on learning new ritual skills, seeking out Buddhist ritual manuals and learning mudras from local spirit mediums.

After Zhou Qishan (§1.1) was tortured in the Cultural Revolution and hung himself, his younger sister took over some of his manuals, and Wang Huarong managed to get her to hand them over to him.

These manuals of the Zhou lineage, taken over by Wang Huarong, provide further evidence that the Shuozhou manuals belong to an “orthodox” Complete Perfection tradition, transmitted since at least the Qing dynasty both by temple and household Daoists. According to Wang Huarong, the Taishang zhupin zhenjing compilation was handed down from the White Cloud Temple in Beijing. [2] What is wonderful about this is that whereas the ritual tradition of the latter has never been clear, here we find a practical ritual application of its system, preserved in provincial usage. These ritual manuals consisted of a set of eight, of which he had salvaged four. See §6, Table 3.

Wang Huarong bajuan list

Taishang zhupin zhenjing, contents.

1.4 The Zhang lineage of Shentou

In Shentou—a region where we were told the Hongfu dao sect was active and jiao Offering rituals were more common—Chen Yu visited Zhang Fuwen 张福文 and his younger brother Zhang Jiwen 张继文. The latter has been busy recently leading a construction company, and does less ritual business.

This lineage of Daoists belonged, exceptionally, to the minority Huashan 華山 branch of Complete Perfection. Their ancestry seems to be as ancient as that of the Zhou family, also claiming origins in the Ming dynasty; Zhang Jiwen had heard that in the Qianlong era, Zhang Xiushan received a golden imperial placard (jinbian 金匾) inscribed with the characters Mingdeng taixu 明登太旭, implying a Ming ancestry to the tradition—and also presumably that he was a temple-dwelling Daoist. They can name eight generations of ancestors since the early 17th century. They had daohao titles, but no longer recall them.

  • late Ming/early Qing: Zhang Guangtian 张广田
  • early Qing: Zhang Dai 张代
  • Qianlong era: Zhang Xiushan 张秀山
  • late Qing: Zhang Yu 张裕, Zhang Wei 张维, Zhang Shao 张韶
  • Republican era: Zhang Shouxi 张寿玺, Zhang Zongxi 张宗玺, Zhang Chengxi 张成玺
  • after Liberation: Zhang Ren 张仁, Zhang Yi 张义, Zhang Xin 张幸, Zhang Yong 张勇, Zhang Ming 张明, Zhang Liang 张亮
  • since 1990s:  Zhang Fuwen 张福文, Zhang Jiwen 张继文, Zhang Xuwen 张续文,
    Zhang Binwen 张斌文, Zhang Xuwen 张旭文, Zhang Runwen 张润文

2 The Pinglu region

This region is a short drive north of Shuozhou city.

2.1 The Li lineage of Front Anjialing

Both Front and Rear Anjialing 前/後安家岭 villages have Daoist lineages, the latter having learned from the former.

We talked with the admirable Li Guirong 李貴榮 (b.c1953), originally of the Front Anjialing Daoists, now running a funeral shop in Pinglu town near the bus station. He claims a family Daoist tradition of twenty generations (!) down to his son, but he can only specify four generations before him. He never heard of any temple-dwelling ancestors.

Li Guirong was now mainly running his shop and doing consultations, and had been going out less often to perform rituals for over ten years. In 1993, when workers were killed in a mining accident in Wuxiang district of Changzhi in southeast Shanxi, one of the foremen, who came from Pinglu, requested Li’s help. He performed a ritual (“recited scriptures to resolve adversity”), and the mine boss asked him to choose the grave site. He stayed there for half a month, receiving 3,000 yuan and a new mobile phone. The mine suffered no further accidents.

2.2 The Yang lineage of Hancun

At Hancun 韩村 village (in Miangao district in the foothills northeast of Taocun township), we talked at the house of fourth-generation household Complete Perfection Daoist Yang Guangmo 杨光模 (b.c1950). The village land has largely been taken over by the Pinglu-Shuozhou Open-air Electrical and Mining Company—which compensates each household still resident with a sack of flour and 500 yuan “pollution expenses”.

Consulting a lineage chart compiled by Yang Xingbang 杨兴邦 since the 1980s, Yang Guangmo told us of their Daoist history.

Their founding Daoist ancestor was Yang Buyun 杨步云. He learnt from 1843 (Daoguang 24) with a Daoist called Wu 武 in Baijialiang 白家梁. Four of the five brothers in the Wu family were Daoists—the fourth was an opium smoker, and had to sell his wife, a story that one hears sometimes about shawm players, rarely about Daoists. Yang Guangmo himself smokes annaka pills through tinfoil, like several Daoists in Yanggao. Two descendants of Yang Buyun’s master are still active as Daoists, Wu Cunli 武存礼 (b.c1963) and Wu Cunde 武存德 (b.c1968).

Yang Buyun pursued the “pure and quiet path of the gods” (qingjing fomen 清静佛门), gathering together a ritual group that included Li Qiming 李启明, Niu Riyun牛日云, and Duanliu 段六 from Shuoxian. He studied vocal liturgy with the Daoists in South Yandun 南烟墩 in Shentou district; he learned shengguan by inviting the temple Daoists Kang Liu 康六 and Kang Er 康二 from the county-town—which was considered “switching masters” (guomenshi 過門师), although much of our material suggests it was rather common. Yang Buyun moved from Fengjialing 馮家岭 to become resident priest at a temple in Qiangfengling 抢风岭 and then the Nainaimiao temple in Hancun.

Yang Buyun’s second son Yang Cunren 杨存仁 (1875–1948) was also a Daoist, with the daohao Liyuan 理元. He had two sons, Yang Yuting 杨雨霆 (1903–80) and Yang Yulin 杨雨霖 (d.1974), both Daoists. Yang Yuxian 杨玉先 (b.1928) also learned, and on returning from army service after Liberation he resumed performing rituals with Yuting and Yulin, but he left for Dunhuang around 1981.

Our Yang Guangmo, fourth son of Yang Yulin, began learning vocal liturgy from his father when 13 sui around 1962. They were unable to practise from 1964 to 1980, but on the revival Yang Guangmo also learnt sheng from his older brother Yang Guangquan 杨光权 (b.1928), who was also an active Daoist; two of Guangquan’s four sons, Wanlong 杨万龙 and Wansheng 杨万胜, are active. Of Yang Yuting’s grandsons, Zhenbang 杨振邦 (b.1962), Weibang 杨维邦 (b.c1966), Wen’ge (“Cultural Revolution”!) 杨文革 (b.1969), Yanbang杨彦邦 (b.c1962), Guibang 杨贵邦 (b.c1968), Wenbang 杨文邦 (b.c1972), and Quanbang 杨全邦 (b.c1982) are all active, as is Yang Xingbang 杨兴邦 (b.c1941), who copied some of the family’s ritual manuals (§6, Table 4). And I’m sure there are more, both in the immediate family and in related branches.

This is another impressive Daoist lineage that has kept producing Daoists right down from 1843, both before and since the Cultural Revolution, to today.

3 Yingxian: the Qinglongshan Daoists

Yingxian county lies east of Shuozhou, and just west of Hunyuan (seat of my bête-noire Hengshan). The Daoists whom we met there often did rituals together with household Daoists from Hunyuan. The Longmen Complete Perfection Daoists we found there have been based around the county-town since at least the 1980s, but had moved en masse from Qinglongshan village in the mountainous south of the county. I look forward to visiting the latter in search of further clues.

The only group we have found in Yingxian so far is the Zhao lineage of Longmen Daoists, now on their seventh generation—or according to Zhao Jun, thirteenth! Again, we find temple-dwelling priests among their ancestors.

The lineage originally lived in Jiaozizui 教子嘴 village, known as Qinglongshan 青龍山, in the southern mountains in Shuangqianshu district near (indeed formerly part of) Fanshi county. This was a village with many temples, and members of the Zhao lineage were resident priests in the main temple there. Unusually, it is mentioned in the county gazetteer (Yingxian zhi p.62), as having over ten “household Daoists” (zaijia daoren 在家道人) in the Republican period. As we often hear around north Shanxi, they supplemented their income from renting out land by “seeking household ritual” (xunmenshi 寻门事).

Later (perhaps early in the 20th century) most of the Qinglongshan Daoists began moving to Yingxian town, where Zhao Fu’s father and his older brother served as resident priests at the Nainai miao temple, which was renowned for its rituals.

According to the gazetteer, by 1985 there were only two resident Daoist priests at Qinglongshan.

The Zhao lineage of Longmen Daoists in Yingxian
by generation (1–7); known temple priests in bold
1        Zhao Tianyu 赵天玉
2        Zhao Ming 赵明 (daohao Zhao Jiaoxuan 赵教玄)
3        Zhao Yongzhen 赵永珍, Zhao Yongbao 赵永宝
4        Zhao Zhong 赵仲, Zhao Xiu 赵秀, Zhao Cai 赵财, Zhao Rui 赵瑞
5        Zhao Guowen 赵国文 (son of Zhao Xiu)
6        Zhao Fu 赵富 (daohao Zhao Zhimiao 赵至妙), Zhao Pu 赵普
7        Zhao Shiwei 赵世伟
And Daoist cousins of that 4th generation gave rise to further recent generations:
4       Zhao Quan 赵全, Zhao Bei 赵北
5       Zhao Guoxiang 赵国祥 (son of Zhao Bei)
6       Zhao Jun 赵俊

Zhao Quan was a temple Daoist in Huangnian 黄碾 village in Hunyuan county nearby. Zhao Fu studied as a Daoist with his uncle from young, but joined the county Jinju opera troupe in the 1960s, playing suona. After retiring in 2006 he resumed ritual activity. Recently the boss of the new scenic site in Wujinshan 乌金山 in Yuci county invited his son Zhao Shiwei to look after one of several new temples there, so he and Zhao Fu spend a lot of time there. Zhao Pu was also a Daoist but now sells noodles in Southgate in Yingxian town.

I didn’t meet them, but in 2011 we spent time with two Daoists who gave us some details on the former Qinglongshan temple tradition in the far south of county (see map). First we dropped in on Zhang Kuo 张括 (b.c1943), living in a new block to the south of town. He had moved from Qinglongshan around 1995, and usually worked with Zhao Fu’s band—sometimes they invited people from the Jiao band in Hunyuan nearby. Zhang Kuo had no family background, but began learning Daoist ritual from the Zhao family at the age of 16 sui, mainly playing the sheng. By the time we met him he was not very active, mainly looking after a bicycle parking lot.

Zhang Kuo’s nephew (64 sui in 2011) in Houzhuang 后庄 in Fanshi county was also a Daoist, mainly reciting the scriptures. He gave us a further lead to the Chenghuang miao temple at North Loukou 北楼口 (east of Yingxian county-town), where the resident Daoist was known as Erbai 二白; he lived into his eighties. He also mentioned the collaboration of Daoist with Buddhist ritual specialists, whose instrumental music, at least, was shared.

Then we found Zhao Jun 赵军 (b.1943) in town to take him back to his home in Suzhai village. A sweet bachelor leading a humble life, he adopted a daughter, who later married; the couple runs one of the many funeral shops in East Street. Zhao moved to town in the 1980s; after 2002, when the town was being rebuilt, he couldn’t afford to buy a new flat there, and rent was expensive, so around 2006 he bought an old house in Suzhai just north of the town. He is known as dayandai “big tobacco pouch”!

Zhao Jun

Zhao Jun.

Zhao Jun learned from his father from young, specializing in the dizi flute. He recalls his strict training, starting as soon as he got up without even being allowed time to have a pee, so that his body would get used to it. As usual, when he went out on business with his father’s band he began by playing dangzi and then small cymbals. Later he also played wind instruments, never learning to recite. Business was good until the eve of the Cultural Revolution; they were so busy that they rarely took part in production, instead buying work points with the money they earnt from doing rituals. During the Cultural Revolution he worked as a cook and labourer for the commune.

Zhao Jun gradually began doing rituals again with his father and other relatives from around 1980. Soon he took in a former Daoist priest from Hunyuan county called Xu Ru 徐儒, whose daohao was Xu Zhizhong 徐志中. Born in the 1920s, Xu had been given to a temple when young, but eventually got married. He spent fifteen years in prison in the 60s and 70s after taking the blame for a “crime” supposedly committed by his wife—we didn’t ask further, but in this period such crimes often amounted to no more than some trumped-up offence against Chairman Mao. After he was released, perhaps in the late 1970s, Xu looked after the Nainai miao temple in Yingxian town, performing rituals among the folk. The Daoists there were known as “secondary Daoists” (erdaoshi二道士, cf. erzhai, erseng—see my In search of the folk Daoists).

Zhao Jun gave a home to Xu Ru when he began to get infirm; Xu took him as his disciple, and they did rituals together. Around 1989, not long before Xu died, he copied many ritual manuals and gongche scores for Zhao Jun (§6, Table 5).

Whereas many home-schooled Daoists, like Li Qing in Yanggao, wrote rather well, Xu Ru’s hand shows the very basic level of education of some local Daoists. The manuals he copied are exceptionally full of wrong characters, which detracts little from their value. Even the “Qiu” character of Qiuzu, the founder of the Longmen lineage, is written wrongly; this only goes to show how very oral were such local traditions, at least after the material destructions since the 1940s.

Zhao Jun score coverZhao Jun score 2

In the first line (recto) of the latter photo, note the fine phrase “May socialism be eternally consolidated”! The verso contains gongche solfeggio.

After Xu Ru died in the early 1990s, Zhao Jun continued doing rituals with his cousin Zhao Fu, and sometimes with the Jiao band in Hunyuan; but he has been doing less as he gets older. He was mainly active in this small area; the furthest he ever went was Tumentai in Jining, Inner Mongolia, where they performed “facing platforms” (duitai) with a band from Yanggao.

Zhao Jun has a domestic altar, which we rarely find among Daoists in north Shanxi; otherwise I only recall finding one at Wang Yuxi’s home in Muzhai.

4 Rituals and ritual segments

Here I will outline the repertoire of rituals for the dead and the living among the various groups. We find a broad similarity among the various ritual segments— and the vocal, percussion, and melodic instrumental items within them— performed by the various groups around Shuozhou; they differ in minor but interesting details from those of Yanggao—which I use as a point of comparison merely because my book gives the most detailed information so far on rituals there.

Unusually, there are many online clips of the Shuozhou Daoists (mainly the Wang band, and often focusing on the melodic ensemble, but giving an impression of the liturgical context), such as http://www.iqiyi.com/w_19rs4b208t.html (Hoisting the Pennant from 7.14). They can be found by googling 朔州王二旦 or 朔州道士, and so on.

To assess the current state of the performance of jiao Offering and xietu Thanking the Earth rituals around Shuozhou we will have spend longer “making a base” there.

4.1 A village funeral
On 2nd May 2011 we attended the funeral of a 73-sui-old woman, with two Daoist bands (the Wangs of Muzhai and Wang Huarong’s group) providing the rituals.

Chiyu 峙峪 village lies about 10km northwest of Shuozhou city. It has over 4,000 inhabitants, of whom 3,500 are from the Luo lineage; they moved here from Shandong in the early Ming. A Protestant church has recently been built in the village.

The main public rituals were Raising the Pennant, Ritual of Deliverance at the Ten Palaces, and Roaming the Lotuses.

Hoisting the Pennant
As Wang Huarong explained, Hoisting the Pennant (yangfan 揚幡) for a funeral and a jiao Offering are similar (as in Yanggao), but for the former they recite the Ten Repayments for Kindness (Shi bao’en 十报恩), with Buxu 步虛 as naobo cymbal interludes, whereas for a jiao Offering they recite the Ten Offerings (Shixian 十獻) with interludes of Sanfengqing 三奉请 or Lesser Five Offerings (Xiao Wu gongyang 小五供養).

Unusually, the Wang brothers have a manual for the jiao version, titled Qingjiao yangfan keyi (Table 1); I don’t think I have seen any others, not even in Yanggao where the ritual is commonly performed.

At 11.15am, after “parading the streets” (shangjie, representing the former touring the temples shangmiao), the two Daoists bands (each with six members, in their red costumes) lead the kin to the ritual arena in a large open space equipped with two separate areas, and face south. First the chief celebrant of each group leads the kin around the arena to the accompaniment of naobo cymbal patterns. On arrival at the ritual site, the chief celebrant, wielding a hand-bell (faling 法鈴) and a wooden “dragon head” (longtou) to hold incense, recites the Sanqing shenghao 三清聖號, the kin kneeling behind. They play the naobo cymbal patterns Shuangtou buxu 雙頭步虚, Chaogu 朝鼓, and Dantou 单頭, and then recite the Sanfengqing 三奉請 and play the shengguan melody Xiao Baimen 小拜門, singing thrice and playing shengguan thrice, while “paying homage” (bai 拜, with cosmic paces).

After reciting and burning a yellow memorial, they sing the Ten Repayments for Kindness, playing shengguan and the cymbal pattern Changxing 長興 as they parade the five poles (the two groups now, as at the start, parading both arenas), leading the male kin (the female kin remain kneeling) faster and faster around the poles as a Daoist waves the flag. Then back at the main pole they recite the diewen 牒文 document, which, like that for Opening Scriptures (kaijing), begins Lingbao xuantan 靈寶玄壇. Unlike in Yanggao, there is no bundle beneath the pennant from which goodies might be released.

At 11.45 both bands, still playing naobo cymbals, lead the kin to the soul hall (lingtang), where Wang Huarong’s group sings a hymn as the oldest son brings his mother’s portrait and placard to the soul hall. The table is laden with offerings.

Ritual of Deliverance at the Ten Palaces
After lunch, at 3.20pm the Ritual of Deliverance at the Ten Palaces (shigong chaodu daochang 十宫超渡道場) is performed before the coffin, the two groups alternating. This seems to be distinctive to the region. The two chief liturgists sing “high hymns” alternately, framed by percussion.

This leads into a long pop session till 6pm, the two bands again playing alternately. They were already playing pop, as we know it, by the 1980s; they consider it part of the “old rules” (lao guiju) to play it after the first ritual session of the afternoon. This is a substantial part of the funeral that deserves attention, not least for the fabulous guanzi playing—which the traditional repertoire (now, at least) does not display to the full. They play long medleys (more free than the shengguan “suites” elsewhere, but perhaps with their own “new rules”) of pop (including Maoist) songs, Jinju 晉劇 opera, Errentai 二人台, and yangge 秧歌.

Judgment and Alms
The Judgment and Alms (panhu 判斛) ritual may be a distinctive feature of north Shanxi, that we have documented in Yanggao (my book, pp.89–91) and Tianzhen. In Yanggao they do it for both funerals and temple fairs; in Shuozhou they apparently now do it only for the former, in Pinglu only for the latter. It is prescribed for the afternoon, but the Wang band didn’t do it for this funeral, so Yue Zhan described it for us. Li Guirong’s account for Pinglu was similar.

At the arena used for Hoisting the Pennant, a table is placed at the foot of the central pole. The ritual should take about an hour (formerly called “one stick of incense”—after all these years, this is the first time I realized this could be a measure word for time!).

Then the chief celebrant takes the “banner to lead the soul” (yinhunfan 引魂幡) and plants it at the foot of the central pole that was used for Hoisting the Pennant.

The Daoists sing five or six “high hymns” accompanied by shengguan, such as Yizhan deng 一盏灯, San guiyi 三皈依, Wu gongyang 五供養, Kaitong zan 开通讚, Guangming zan 光明讚, Sanfengqing 三奉請, Jiezir 偈字儿. Most of these titles, at least, are in common with Yanggao. They then lead into a medley of popular pieces from local vocal genres such as daoqing 道情 and yangge.

At our Chiyu funeral, the simple evening meal consists of delicious noodles, then we all rest until

Roaming the Lotuses
The nocturnal ritual Roaming the Lotuses (youlian 游蓮) is performed here for deceased females, and also known as Encircling the Lotuses (weilian 圍蓮), Roaming the Lotus Pools (youlianchi 遊蓮池), or Smashing the Bloody Bowl (po xuepen 破血盆).

Roaming the Lotuses was performed by the Orthodox Unity Daoists of Yanggao until the 1950s (my book pp.250–51), but has since become obsolete there; why it is still performed by the Complete Perfection Daoists of Shuozhou and Tianzhen is yet another issue to be explored.

The ritual ends with a brief Invitation (zhaoqing 召請) segment, leading back to the soul hall (cf. the separate Invitation in Yanggao). Finally they Escort Away the Orphan Souls (song guhun 送孤魂) (my book, p.128). The family burns paper as they recite the Bridge of Orphan Souls (Guhun qiao 孤魂橋) and scatter pieces of momo bread rolls all around, people vying to snatch the pieces to bring well-being—as at the end of Hoisting the Pennant in Yanggao. In Pinglu, according to Li Guirong, they recite the slips for the Orphan Souls (guhun tiao) while the family burns paper, finally throwing the ashes away at a crossroads.

4.2 Another funerary Hoisting the Pennant
At another funeral on 7th October 2011 in Muzhai we attended another Hoisting the Pennant ritual, this time performed by Zhou Erdan’s band.

Zhou yangfan

After “parading the streets”, they enter the arena from the east and take their places around a table at the central pole, reciting the Sanqing shenghao with Shuangtou buxu as cymbal interludes. They then play Xiaobaimen on shengguan as firecrackers are let off. Zhou now leads the kin on a tour of the poles. Still weaving through the poles, he sings the Ten Repayments for Kindness, two phrases at each pole. All this takes half an hour.

Zhou yangfan 2

All then proceed to the soul hall, burning incense, revering the memorials (jingbiao 敬表), and reciting the Sanqing shangxiang weidezun 三清上香為德尊 text with Four-phrase Buxu (Siju Buxu 四句步虛) as cymbal interludes. They then perform Presenting Offerings (shanggong 上供): as the kin burn paper and kowtow, after the cymbal pattern Changxing, they recite the Yizhu daodexiang 一炷道德香 text, with cymbal interludes of Qisheng 七聲.

4.3 Other funerary rituals
Zhao Jun summarized the sequence for funerals in Yingxian:

  • Day 1: three Delivering the Litanies (songchan) visits in the morning, four in the afternoon—similar to Yanggao. Fetching Water (qushui) in the morning, Homage to the Deceased (chaowang) in the evening.
  • Day 2: three Delivering the Litanies visits in the morning; Chasing the Five Quarters (pao wufang) in the afternoon; Bestowing Food, Hongyi version (Hongyi shishi) in the evening.

The title Homage to the Deceased is not used further north, but it sounds very like the Invitation (zhaoqing) ritual in Yanggao (my book, ch.17), performed at dusk outside the village to summon the orphan souls back to the central pole. Here, somewhat differently from in Yanggao, the Invitation segment is a minor adjunct to Homage to the Deceased, performed on the return to the soul hall to invite the souls of the ancestors of the deceased to bathe.

In Pinglu, here is a fuller prescriptive list of segments within the two-day funeral of the Hancun Daoists:

Funeral sequence, Hancun
1st eve
Spreading the Scriptures pujing 鋪經 (普經?)
Bestowing Food to Pacify the Soul anling shishi 安靈施食 (Hongyi shishi 洪儀施食)
Day 2
Opening the Scriptures kaijing 開經
Reciting the Litanies songchan 誦懺 (three visits)
Touring the Temples shangmiao 上廟
Hoisting the Pennant yangfan 揚幡
Reciting the Litanies songchan 誦懺
Second Litanies (Arena of the Way, Seated, for the Ten Kings)
       erchan 二懺 (zuo shiwang daochang 坐十王道場)
Judgment and Alms panhu 判斛
late pm:
Homage to the Deceased chaowang 朝亡
Roaming in Paradise youlian 游蓮
Crossing the Bridges guoqiao 過橋
Invitation zhaoqing 召請
Bestowing Food, According to Scriptures suijing shishi 随經施食 (or?)
Bestowing Food, Guanyin version nanhai shishi 南海施食
Beholding the Lanterns guandeng 觀燈
Escorting Away the Orphan Souls song guhun 送孤魂

As in Yanggao (my book, pp.245–52), several ritual segments have become rare or obsolete in Shuozhou. Here they don’t know of Releasing the Pardon (fangshe 放赦), which the Yanggao and Tianzhen Daoists could still do quite recently. The main public rituals that Li Guirong mentioned (apart from Judgment and Alms and Roaming the Lotuses, described above) were Smashing the Hells (poyu 破獄), Crossing the Bridges (guoqiao 過橋), and Bestowing Food, Guanyin version (Nanhai shishi 南海施食).

Smashing the Hells
As in Yanggao (my book, p.251), Smashing the Hells (poyu) has rarely been performed since the early 1960s. As in Yanggao, an underworld citadel (yincheng 陰城) is depicted from ashes or flour, with tiles inscribed at the five cardinal points. The chief celebrant leads the oldest son on a tour of the five quarters. At the centre, they sing the hymn Jingzir and play the cymbal pattern Changxing; they smash a tile with a lock while reciting the Mantra to Revere Paper (Jingzhi zhou 敬紙咒 [?]). Finally they play the cymbal pattern Changxing on the way back to the soul hall.

Beholding the Lanterns
The Zhou family can still perform the Ten Kings Beholding the Lanterns (shiwang guandeng 十王觀燈, my book, p.250; cf. temple fair version, pp.240–41). It is performed on the evening before the burial. Images of the Ten Kings are displayed at the soul hall, with Dizang pusa in the middle. A dharma platform (fatai 法台) is erected from tables; they perform the Lantern Scripture for the Ten Kings (Shiwang dengke 十王燈科).

Bestowing Food
Around Shuozhou, apart from the common Hongyi version of Bestowing Food (shishi 施食), another edition for Guanyin (Nanhai shishi 南海施食) is also performed—suggesting that both Buddhist and Daoist versions are (or were) used in this region, as in Yanggao (my book, pp.225–6). Formerly lasting “three sticks of incense”, the Guanyin version now only takes around an hour.

In Shuocheng district it can be performed for either partner, but in Pinglu district it is only done for the second death of a couple.

4.4 Rituals for the living
In this section I outline Thanking the Earth and the jiao Offering rituals. We know that the latter are still performed, but from several comments it seems that Thanking the Earth has become rare if not obsolete. In both, the jing 經 scriptures (chanted fast a cappella with woodblock—my book, pp.211–13, and for a list of the Li family’s collection, pp.377–82) play a major role, not found in funerals.

First a spirit medium (here called “holy physician”, shenyi 神醫) is invited to diagnose which type of ritual is required. If the cause is “moving the earth” (viz. a potentially dangerous use of the land), they must perform a Thanking the Earth ritual; if the cause is offending the gods, then they do a jiao Offering.

We gained more clues to both jiao and Thanking the Earth in Shuozhou than in Yanggao. I wonder if this is because the economy of the latter has remained quite static, whereas in Shuozhou there has been a vast “moving the earth” in recent decades.

Thanking the Earth
See also In search of the folk Daoists of north China, pp.77–9, and my book, pp.229–37.

Here Thanking the Earth is rather small in scale, mainly for “moving the earth” (dongtu 動土) when building new houses. According to Wang Huarong there is usually a suitable day each moon. Sometimes a whole Daoist band is invited, but often only one Daoist; in 2011 hiring one Daoist cost 200 or 300 yuan. During the years of Maoist campaigns, they used to get it over within a single evening; now they have restored the old sequence, beginning the first evening followed by the whole of the next day.

For Thanking the Earth they distinguish greater and lesser five scriptures—all recited fast with woodblock, rather than sung. The greater five scriptures (da wujing 大五經) can only be recited with the full group of Daoists, and are also used for a jiao Offering; the lesser five scriptures (xiao wujing 小五經) are used more often as they can be recited by one Daoist alone. For more on these scriptures, see my book, pp.211–13, 377–82.

greater five scriptures                                            
Longhu miaojing 龍虎妙經
Yuanshi tianzun shuo shiyiyao da xiaozai shenzhou jing 元始天尊說十一曜大消災神咒經
Beifang zhenwu miaojing 北方真武妙經
Yanshou miaojing 延壽妙經
+ one other
lesser five scriptures
Yuhuang xinyin miaojing 玉皇心印妙經
Taishang changqingjing jing 太上常清静經
Xiaozai huming miaojing 消灾護命妙經
Rangzai du’e zhenjing 禳灾度厄真經
Tiantong huming miaojing 天童護命妙經

I tend to lament the lack of detail about ritual specialists in county gazetteers. But remarkably a brief account of Thanking the Earth in the exceptionally detailed 1935 gazetteer for Zhangbei county (in northwest Hebei, not so far) mentions this very distinction (In search of the folk Daoists, pp.78–9):

After the Double Yang festival [9th moon 9th], after the autumn harvest, every family pledges vows and Thanks the Earth, only stopping on 12th moon 23rd. They invite yinyang (fake Daoists, jia daoshi) to construct an altar in their homes and recite scriptures. It lasts two days; one person for “lesser scriptures”, five to seven people for “greater scriptures”. Its meaning is to guarantee well-being for all four seasons.

Still, fieldwork always has more potential.

Li Guirong also described Thanking the Earth for us. As in Yanggao, it is performed for private families over two days. On the first evening, earth is taken at the allotted hour in the chosen part of the courtyard, digging it up and placing it in an “official measure” guansheng 官升, covered with red cloth, and placed before the god image at the altar. A standard range of deities is worshipped, such as the sanqing 三清, tushen 土神, guhun 孤魂, zaoshen 灶神, and tiandishen 天地神.

On the first evening they “supplement the earth” (butu 補土), reciting the evening service (wan gongke 晚功課) and Litany for the Stellar Lords (xingzhu chan 星主懺; for full titles of the segments in this section, see §6 below).

The second morning begins with the morning service (zao gongke 早功課) and later the sanqing ke 三清課. In the afternoon they recite the sanguan chan 三官懺. In the evening they “retreat the earth” (tuitu 退土), burying five-colored thread (wusexian 五色線), peeled eggs, five grains, seven new needles, and meat; they recite the evening service, incorporating the ritual segments Na’e 拿鹅 [3] and sanhua 散花 (generally lighter in nature, including tricks). Finally they Escort Away the Orphan Souls (song guhun 送孤魂).

The jiao Offering
The Wang brothers mentioned the display of twelve ritual paintings. According to Wang Huarong, whereas Thanking the Earth worships five deities (including the sanqing trinity, God of the Earth tushen, and the orphan souls), there is no God of the Earth for a jiao.

The jiao Offering may be performed at a temple, but for private patrons rather than for temple fairs. According to Wang Huarong, annual jiao are generally initiated annually by spirit mediums (for whom he used two terms: those who worship daxianye 供大仙爷的,and dingshende 定神的). This accords with my observation in many places, that the mediums are a principal driving force behind temple revival, maintenance, and activity.

The diligent Liu Yan attended a jiao on the 7th–8th September 2011 at the Yuhuang miao 玉皇廟 temple in Gaoyangpo village 高阳坡村 northeast of the city. It is a small hill village with less than 500 inhabitants, mostly from the Gao lineage. Most of the younger villagers have left the village in recent years to find work, leaving behind mainly elderly people.

The jiao was commissioned by Gao Zhide 高志德 (53 sui), who used to run a private mine, but since the government rules were more tightly enforced has been running a trading company. He has made a vow to sponsor a jiao annually for three years, of which this is the first; the date is chosen by “determining the date” (kanrizi). A dozen people are responsible for the arrangements, including women as cooks, men to greet guests and make arrangements, and others in charge of offerings of incense, candles, and so on.

They have invited Wang Junxi’s band, consisting of seven men. Wang Huarong later told us that the village has a group of Hongfudao 洪福道 sectarians who recite the Yuhuang jing 玉皇經, so I surmise that the jiao was not just for Gao as an individual, but for the sect; sectarians are often capable of performing large-scale rituals themselves without inviting Daoists (as in my In search of the folk Daoists, Appendix 3), so the two are not alternatives but complementary.

The Yuhuang miao temple is on a hill east of the village. The temple has been refurbished since around 2000, but a new high-speed rail link is being built just before it. Its god statues are a typical list: Yuhuang in the centre; to the left as one faces it, Wangmu niangniang; further left, Guanyin and Shanniangniang; furthest left, Wudaoshen, Shanshen, and Tudishen; to the right, Lüzu, Laojun, and Guansheng.

The jiao began on the evening of the 7th, and continued the whole of the next day. By contrast with funeral practice, many of these ritual segments require the use of the manuals.

Wang band jiao

The Wang band performs a jiao, October 2011. Photo: Liu Yan.

Jiao Offering, Gaoyangpo village, 7th–8th September 2011: sequence

  • On the first evening, as the scripture hall is equipped, they perform a pujing 鋪經 ritual, reciting the Pujing zhou 鋪經咒. Next day:
  • 8am, before temple: kaijing 開經 (Taishang kaijing shenzhou 太上開經神咒).
    9.25 (same scripture continues, with cymbal pattern Shuangtou Buxu 雙頭步虚).
    9.37–10am shengguan melody Huadaozi 花道子 leads into items from daoqing 道情.
    10.25–10.50 Shangqing hao 上清號 (from Taishang dongxuan lingbao xiaozai huming miaojing 太上洞玄靈寶消災護命妙經, with cymbal pattern Shuangtou Buxu as interludes).
  • 11.05–11.40 Taiqing hao 太清號 (from above scripture, again with Shuangtou Buxu).
    11.50–12.20 before the god statues in turn: shanggon上供 (Bafang zhou 八方咒, with cymbal pattern Changxing 長興).
  • 12.30–15.00 lunch and rest
  • 15.10–15.30 before temple: sanguan chan三官懺 (shangyuan 上元 section from Taishang sanyuan cifu shezui jie’e baochan 太上三元赐福赦罪解厄寶懺, with cymbal pattern Changxing, and pieces from Zhonglu bangzi opera and pop).
  • 15.50­–16.00 continued (zhongyuan 中元 section, with cymbal pattern Qisheng 七聲).
  • 17.05–17.50 continued (xiayuan下元 section, with Changxing, and pop).
  • 18.00–19.45 supper
  • 20.00–20.40 before temple and outside main gateway: guandeng 觀燈 (Beidou jinxing jing 北斗金星經, with cymbal patterns Dantou Buxu and Shuangtou Buxu, and shengguan melody Qiansheng fo 千聲佛).
Wang band jiao envelopes

Envelopes with petitions for the jiao.

Scriptures for well being
The Wang brothers are also invited to perform “scriptures for well being” (ping’an jing 平安經, cf. Yanggao, my book p.229—perhaps a simpler version of the jiao Offering?) three or four times a year, for serious physical illness. This ritual has become more commonly requested in the Shentou area in recent years. But Yue Zhan claimed they do it around six times a year for kaiguang rituals at temples, and the birthdays of Guanyin and Taishang laojun, so this is one of many areas in need of further elaboration.

5 Ritual soundscape

The three components of ritual sound (vocal liturgy, percussion, and shengguan melodic wind ensemble, expressed in reverse order of importance in the local term chuidanian 吹打念) show both similarities and differences with the style I have described for Yanggao (consult the useful tables in Chen Yu, Jinbei minjian daojiao keyi yinyue yanjiu, pp.258–85). It is only when we enter into the level of the vocal liturgy, percussion, and shengguan repertoires that we get to the heart of ritual practice.

In the Shuozhou region the sung vocal liturgy is called “high hymns” (gaozan 高讚) rather than the term zantan (“hymns of mourning”) used further north (my book, ch.14); these are the only terms for the hymn repertoire. But many of the hymn titles are the same as in Yanggao. The titles of the cymbal patterns also overlap substantially with those of Yanggao (my book, ch.15).

Wang Huarong has a very distinctive style of beginning each section of text with a harsh guttural, but he can’t think from whom he derived it.

Despite the Shuozhou Daoists’ illustrious tradition of vocal liturgy, their separate paraliturgical repertoire for shengguan melodic wind ensemble, while technically of a high standard, is of less complexity than that which we have come to expect in north Shanxi, lacking the long suites of “holy pieces” played there mainly for temple fairs (my book, ch.16). The shengguan repertoire of the Yingxian Daoists, however, with suites such as Zouma, looks to belong to the classic tradition familiar to us from the temples of Beijing, ritual associations of Hebei, and (perhaps most relevantly) the Buddhist temples of Wutaishan.

But we’ll need to listen carefully to find out how similar are the actual melodies of the hymns and shengguan pieces, and the contours of the cymbal patterns.

In recent years the Shuozhou groups have added a repertoire of pop for certain segments, Wang Junxi playing with fine nuance and expression. And whereas further north the instrumentation remains traditional, here they have modified it substantially, adding erhu, yangqin, accordion, small suona, and keyboard to the traditional shengguan.

6 Ritual manuals

The necessity of documenting both fieldwork observation of living rituals and silent ritual manuals brings to the fore the tensions between performance studies and sinological paleography.

Though the current practice of the Shuozhou groups is mainly funerary, one feature of these Complete Perfection manuals from a temple ancestry is that most of them are prescribed for temple fairs and Thanking the Earth; they seem to perform for these contexts (including jiao Offerings) more than the Yanggao Daoists.

Collecting manuals is only one aspect of our whole task: necessary, but not necessarily very fruitful. As often, it is rather hard to match manuals to practice.

When we don’t happen on a ritual performance, we need to ask Daoists if they do, or can, perform these texts as part of their rituals. Even a century or more ago, one would have had to undertake similar work to compare manuals with practice—even if most of the rituals contained in the manuals (such as Thanking the Earth) would then have been performed more often than they are now.

Manuals generally consist of texts for a particular ritual segment (like songjing, yangfan, qushui, and so on) rather than whole a ritual (like a funeral). And of course they give a very dry impression—unable to represent the visual riches of ritual actions, or hint at the sound of vocal, percussion, and melodic instrumental components. Within these ritual segments, one finds items (like the titles and texts of individual hymns, or the titles of cymbal patterns) which make a more useful point of comparison between regional traditions.

Where we do have manuals for ritual segments that are still performed, today’s Daoists do not necessarily perform the texts complete. An obvious instance is Bestowing Food (shishi), where sections using the fast chanted “rolling the fish” style (gunyu, see my book, pp.211–13) have long been commonly abbreviated; indeed, whole sections may be omitted.

Conversely, some segments within manuals may appear short, whereas in practice they add many vocal items, apart from their great organizational and kinetic complexities.

In Yanggao, Li Qing began recopying the manuals by writing out the hymn volume (my book, pp.208–209), which contains most of the individual items required within ritual segments; only later did he copy the manuals for those ritual segments. But in Shuozhou, the Wang brothers now seem mainly to have manuals of the routine services; we saw fewer manuals for the fashi ritual segments within funerals or temple fairs.

Still, only now did I begin to understand that morning, noon, and evening services don’t signify a temple tradition, or even a private devotional household tradition; they are not merely for the daily services of temple priests, but are part of the ritual sequences of household Daoists, for temple fairs and Thanking the Earth. As with what I call the “routine” Delivering the Scriptures (songjing) visits to the main ritual site throughout the day in Yanggao (my book, pp.213–14), they are not “public rituals” (fashi).

The following lists include only the manuals that we copied on a few brief visits; many more would doubtless emerge if we spent more time there.

Table 1: Ritual manuals of the Zhou lineage in Gengzhuang

  • Taishang ganying mifa lingfu 太上感應秘法靈符40pp. Talismans for all contexts; dated Daoguang 28 (1848).
  • Taishang kaijing keyi 太上開經科儀4pp. Funerals, Thanking the Earth.
  • Taishang kaijing gongke 太上開經功課6pp. (title page lost). Thanking the Earth; dated Guangxu 16 (1890) 5th moon.
  • Taishang yuanshi tianzun shuo siming zaojun keyi 太上元始天尊說司命竈君科儀 7pp., beginning from other end of above manual. Dated Guangxu 16 (1890), copied by Zhou Heyi.
  • Xijiangyue xietu nianjing wenshen lianyiben 西江月謝土念經瘟神聯一本15pp. Thanking the Earth. On title page: Jiaoxiu ji 教修記.
  • Taishang zhaoqing muyu diancha gongke 太上召請沐浴奠茶功課6pp. Funerals. On title page: 治國延年書.
  • Duilian zake 對聯雜科. Ritual couplets.
  • [untitled] 7pp. Old; includes paishi 派詩, sanhua wen 散花文, shizi ti 十字體, fu 符.
  • Yuhuang shangdi beiji 玉皇上帝碑記, and in same volume, Lingbao xuantan 靈寶玄壇17pp. Misc., including diewen 牒文 and more duilian.
  • Taishang kaijing ping’an zaojun jing 太上開經平安竈君經Thanking the Earth.
  • Yuanshi tianzun anxietu fu zhenzhai tuitu gongke 元始天尊安谢土府镇宅退土功课 16pp. Thanking the Earth, 2nd eve.
  • Taishang zhaoqing muyu chaomu duqiao youlian diancha wantan gongke 太上召請沐浴朝恭渡桥游蓮奠茶晚壇功課 18pp. (some missing at end?). Funerals.
  • Shiwang guandeng keyi 十王觀燈科儀 24pp. Funerals. 1999.
  • Zaoke 竈科 22pp. Thanking the Earth.
  • Taishang xingzhu ziwei baochan 太上星主紫薇寶懺 16pp. Eve of rituals for averting calamity (xiaozai 消災). Copied by Zhou Erdan’s grandfather?
Zhou Anxie tufu p.1

Yuanshi tianzun anxietu fu zhenzhai tuitu gongke, opening.

Table 2: Ritual manuals of the Wang lineage in Muzhai

  • Taishang kaijing keyi 太上開經科儀 37pp. Includes Taishang kaijing shenzhou 太上开经神咒, Taishang laojun shuochang qingjing jing 太上老君說常清靜經, Taishang dongxuan lingbao shengxuan xiaozai huming miaojing 太上洞玄靈寶升玄消災護命妙經, Taishang lingbao tianzun shuo rangzai du’e zhenjing 太上靈寶天尊說禳災度厄真經, Wushang yuhuang xinyin miaojing 無上玉皇心印妙經, Taishang zhutiandi zhenbaohao 太上諸天帝真寶號. Morning service.
  • Taishang shixian keyi 太上十献科儀 23pp., including Qingjiao yangfan keyi 清醮揚幡科儀. Noon service.
  • Taishang sanyuan cifu shezui jie’e baochan 太上三元赐福赦罪解厄寶懺 58pp., including Taishang chaoli sanyuan baochan 太上朝禮三元寶懺 and Yuanshi tianzun shuo sanguan xiaozai miezui chan 元始天尊說三官消災滅罪懺, with full lists of 120 tianzun for each of the sanyuan. Evening service.
  • Taishang anxietufu zhenzhai jiangong gongke 太上安謝土府鎮宅建宫功課 15pp. Thanking the Earth and crises.

Table 3: Ritual manuals of Wang Huarong in Upper Quanguan

  • Taishang zhupin zhenjing 太上諸品真經. Old: 4 juan survive of 8 from White Cloud Temple, Beijing.
  • Taishang shiwang po’an jindeng keyi 太上十王破暗金燈課儀. Old.
  • Taishang lingbao shiwang chaodu daochang 太上靈寶拾王超度道場. Old.
  • Taishang mingfu shiwang po’an jindeng gongke 太上冥府十王破暗金燈功課 . Old.
  • Jingwen gezan 經文歌讚. Recently copied by Wang.
  • Shishi ben 施食本. Recently copied by Wang.
  • [others in small notebooks]
    Note: The two manuals of the Zhang lineage in Shentou that Chen Yu saw, Taishang lingbao shiwang chaodu daochang 太上靈寶十王超度道場 and Taishang lingbao mingfu shiwang po’an jinlu dengke 太上靈寶冥府十王破暗金簶燈課 , are probably variants of those above.
Wang Huarong manuals

Some of Wang Huarong’s manuals.

Note: The two manuals of the Zhang lineage in Shentou that Chen Yu saw, Taishang lingbao shiwang chaodu daochang 太上靈寶十王超度道場 and Taishang lingbao mingfu shiwang po’an jinlu dengke 太上靈寶冥府十王破暗金簶燈課 , are probably variants of those above.

Table 4: Ritual manuals of the Yang lineage in Hancun

  • Taishang mingfu lingguan shiwang dengke jing 太上冥府靈官十王燈科經. Yang Yuting (1903–1980). Funerals.
  • Taishang lingguan chaodu shishi zhenjing 太上靈官超度施食真經.Yang Yuting, 1943 (Minguo 32); another copy by Yang Xingbang. Thanking the Earth (apud Zhao Jun).
  • Taishang yuanshi guangfa lingshu zhenjing 太上元始廣法靈书真經. Yang Xingbang. Thanking the Earth.
  • Taishang daluo sanbao yangfan ke 太上大羅三寶揚幡科. Yang Xingbang.
  • Taishang cibei wuji dadao sanshiliubu zhenjing (suijing shishi) 太上慈悲無极大道三十六部真經 (随經施食). Yang Xingbang.

Table 5 Ritual manuals of Zhao Jun in Yingxian, copied by Xu Ru

  • Bafang shenzhou 八方神咒
  • Qushui chaowang ke 取水超亡科
  • Taishang lingbao chaowang ke 太上靈寶超亡科
  • Taishang fu zhenwen danfu jiuxing dengke 太上府真文丹符九星燈科
  • Taishang lingbao hongyi shishi ke 太上靈寶洪儀施食科
  • Hongyi shishi ke 洪儀施食科
  • Buxie wutu ke 補謝五土科
  • Qiuzu longmen pai dizi daozan songji yinyue qupu 秋祖龍門派弟子道讚頌偈音樂曲譜
  • Daojiao fashi zayong ben 道教法事雜用本
  • Zayong xiezuo biantong 雜用寫作便通

7 Preliminary hypotheses

After a preliminary foray in Tianzhen county, this was one of my first live exposures to household Complete Perfection Daoists. Few of the Orthodox Unity traditions studied by scholars (as further north in Shanxi, or in south China) have such clear temple links (though see In search of the folk Daoists, Part Three)—but we should discover more, since there were plenty of local Orthodox Unity temples with resident clerics.

We can remain open to the possibility of discovering household Complete Perfection traditions with no temple links, but in both Shuozhou and Tianzhen we have clear instances of their long contact with temples. Overall, household Daoists were far more common than temple priests, but we now see that temple and household are not sealed categories. Within the same family, one brother might be a temple priest, another a household Daoist; indeed, the same man might practise first as a temple priest and later as a household ritual specialist, or indeed the other way round.

Ultimately, is not very relevant whether they are Complete Perfection or Orthodox Unity, and whether they are temple-dwelling or household. Any differences in their ritual practice are not based on these factors, but more on regional variation. We have been working with a red herring: the supposed dichotomy between Complete Perfection and Orthodox Unity has been based on the modern fiction of “household” Orthodox Unity ritual specialists versus “elite” temple-dwelling Complete Perfection priests. The latter did, and do, exist, but far more common were small local temples, whether Complete Perfection or Orthodox Unity, with a small staff. And their denomination was of no great consequence.

I hinted at something like all this in my In search of the folk Daoists. But these more recent case studies demonstrate it clearly, amplifying what appears to be a common case in “Complete Perfection” areas such as southwest Shanxi and south Hebei.

We can also confirm the tendency for some men to specialize in vocal liturgy, others in the accompanying shengguan wind music (cf. Hebei: In search of the folk Daoists, Part Three). We find this today, but it goes back at least several generations; one also thinks of work on yinsheng temple servants in earlier times (my book, p.324 and n.6).

As to distribution, why do we find so many Daoists in north Yanggao, none in south Yanggao; few in Tianzhen or Shanyin, and so on? Even in south China distribution may be uneven, but there in general we seem to find many more groups.

Even before the birth-control policy, lineages were unstable; if a Daoist had no sons, only daughters, or if he or his sons died young, the Daoist tradition might end abruptly. A family might move, within a county, or from one county to the next; sometimes a household Daoist might be asked to look after a temple.

We find both Orthodox Unity and Complete Perfection household Daoists in north Shanxi, but within any county, I think we have only found one or the other. I don’t see why. In old Beijing or Tianjin, in any city, and in the Hebei countryside (In search of the folk Daoists, Part Three), both Orthodox Unity and Complete Perfection temple priests performed rituals among the folk. If local traditions were basically household-based, then perhaps one or the other branch would dominate.

Whereas the Yanggao Daoists have been mainly performing funerals for many decades, it seems that the Shuozhou ritual scene has better preserved the rituals for the living. This also provides more living evidence for the performance of the jing scriptures, for which the Li family in Yanggao has preserved manuals but not ritual performance.

While this work is based in contemporary interviews, it resonates with the history of the late imperial period. It was a common tradition in many areas for parents to send their young sons to temples, like the Shuozhou Daoists—so why did those of Yanggao never do so? Presumably there were two elements: in Yanggao they had no such tradition of doing so, but there were no staffed temples there anyway! What made the Daoists of Tianzhen send their sons to the Nanmen si, at some distance? In fact, it was not so far; it may have been the nearest staffed temple.

And where might we find more material to amplify the evidence of oral history?

The temples where these men were trained were not exalted institutions with large staffs of reclusive clerics. Though the buildings were sometimes quite extensive, they were in disrepair, and commonly occupied by only one or two priests.

An important related angle is that many of the household Orthodox Unity texts that we are discovering turn out to be part of “orthodox” ritual manuals such as those of the Complete Perfection elite monasteries. Again, I started illustrating this in my In search of the folk Daoists of north China, and I have given further clear instances in my book on the Li family in Yanggao, but the work is ongoing.

So there is no clear division between household and monastic texts, whether Orthodox Unity or Complete Perfection. The latter took over the texts of the former—it is no surprise that Min Zhiting, Complete Perfection temple Daoist par excellence, constantly cites Orthodox Unity manuals from the Daoist Canon. The titles of many of the manuals of the Shuozhou household Complete Perfection Daoists are in common not just with “orthodox” temple sources like the Xuanmen risong, but also with the Orthodox Unity manuals of Li Qing in Yanggao (my book, pp.219–28). All that is not to posit—yet—any causality, or origins.

And if there appears to be a certain homogeneity of ritual texts within these areas, we can’t say that it shows any Complete Perfection temple dominance; Orthodox Unity manuals are just as likely a source. True, we have found fewer temples with Orthodox Unity clerics, though there were some.

I still feel that rather than using fieldwork to somehow posit timeless ancient traditions, our work needs to set forth from the current ritual (and social) scene, working back as far as we can—which often may be little further than the 18th century.


[1] These notes are based on several brief fieldtrips I made in April–­May and October 2011 in the successive company of the splendid Liu Yan, Li Jin, and Li Yueshan; and also on the extensive notes of Liu Yan and Chen Yu from 2009 and 2010 (forming the basis for the latter’s book).
I must also thank Li Hengrui, head of the Datong Bureau of Culture, for his constant support; he had shared with me the thorny task of minding the Hua family shawm band at the Silk Road festival in Washington DC in summer 2002 and in England in 2005. He also lent me his driver, the congenial and cultured Ma Hongqi, who adapts instantly to such fieldwork.

[2] Lü Pengzhi kindly observes that this is also included in the Gugong zhenben congkan 故宮珍本叢刊 (海南出版社, 2001, and online), juan 524. This is another area for further textual research.

[3] Na’e (locally pronounced nawo), an ancient melody common in the shengguan repertoires of northern temples (see the works of Yuan Jingfang), would be an interesting avenue to explore.