Daoists of Xinzhou, Shanxi

While Xinzhou is further south from the counties of north Shanxi that I have introduced so far, and perhaps part of a somewhat different ritual zone, it seems worth including in my surveys the household Complete Perfection Daoists active near the county-town . Here I augment notes from our brief 1992 visits with Chen Yu’s 2010 material.

Xinzhou 1992.1

The extensive administrative region of Xinzhou covers the whole of central-northwestern Shanxi, with many mountainous areas; here I merely introduce some aspects of ritual in the immediate vicinity of Xinzhou county-town, southwest of Wutaishan.

As in Shuozhou, Tianzhen, and Hunyuan counties further north, here we find another clear case of Longmen Complete Perfection Daoists moving between temple and household.

Local scholars have only studied one group of lay Daoists in Xinzhou, from a group of three villages just southwest of the county-town; [1] I imagine there are more further afield. We paid them two brief visits in 1992; after a formal first day accompanied by cultural cadres (not typical, even then), when the Daoists were somewhat anxious, our second visit—now unencumbered—was much more informal and fruitful.

A band consists of around seven Daoists—as many as thirteen for major rituals. In 1992 they mustered eleven to perform sections of their ritual for us, aged from 72 to 22 sui. After being rediscovered by students from the Central Conservatory of Music during fieldwork around Wutaishan in 2002, [2] they did a concert in Beijing in 2008. Chen Yu visited them in 2010.

Again, this Daoist tradition has been misleadingly presented in the media and by the Intangible Heritage Project as “Daoist music”, leading to a simplistic commodification for the concert stage, and perhaps throwing scholars of Daoism off the scent.

The regional draft for the Anthology mentions four Daoist ritual bands in the late Qing, led by Liu and Zhang lineages. Chen Yu lists these groups as based in the villages of South Gao 南高, Hesuo 合索, East Huyan 東呼延, and East Fengcheng 東馮城. The Liu tradition declined in the Republican period, leaving the Zhangs, based in the adjacent Wangyao 王要 and Hexitou 河習頭 villages in Lancun district; nearby North Zhao 北趙 village was perhaps the earliest centre, and Daoists from there also took part in the restoration after the Cultural Revolution.

Some of them had served as priests in the Yuquan guan 玉泉觀 temple; on Liberation it was converted to a school, and the Daoists were laicized, including Zhang Changxian 張長先 (daohao Jiaoxin 教信, b. c1923). We also talked with Zhang Shuangxi 張雙喜 (daohao Jiaozhong 教忠, b. c1922), the fifth generation of Daoists in his family, from North Zhao village. Also taking part in 1992 was Sun Mingfu 孫明富 (b. c1921), a disciple of Zhang Shuangxi’s father; not from a Daoist family, he entered the clergy at the San’gaisi 傘蓋寺 temple at the late age of 20, but it was destroyed upon Liberation. Apart from these three in their early 70s, the other Daoists were aged between 22 and 46; several of their fathers and grandfathers were also former temple Daoists.

So the nucleus is the Zhang lineage, with a substantial pool of Daoists from other lineages. Again our notes, based on brief visits, leave many questions unanswered, but this outline hints at the potential.

The leader in 1992 was Zhang Shuangxi’s son Zhang Yuping 張玉平, still active in 2010, who had moved with his brothers to North Zhao village.

  • 1st generation: Zhang Hesheng 張河生
  • 2nd generation: Zhang Hehe 張合和, Zhang Heyuan 張合元, Zhang Hezhi 張合治
  • 3rd generation: Zhang Changwang 張長旺, Zhang Changxian 張長先 (daohao Jiaoxin 教信, b. c1923); (sons of Zhang Heyuan) Zhang Shuangxi 張雙喜(daohao Jiaozhong 教忠, b. c1922), Zhang Runxi 張润喜.
  • 4th generation: Zhang Wuxiang 張五祥 (b.1960); (sons of Zhang Shuangxi) Zhang Yuping 張玉平 (b.1947), Zhang Yuxiu 張玉秀, Zhang Yubao 張玉保, Zhang Yulin 張玉林, Zhang Yuhuai 張玉槐
  • 5th generation: Zhang Yun 張云.

So the 2nd and 3rd generations in the family belonged respectively to the he 合 and jiao 教 generations in the 40-character Longmen Complete Perfection generational poem:

道德通玄靜 真常守太清 一陽來復本 合教永圓明
至理宗誠信 崇高嗣法興 世景榮惟懋 希微衍自寧

Zhang Changxian told Chen Yu an even earlier ancestry: his “seventh generation” ancestor Zhang Yu 張玉 had served as a temple priest in Lesser Qi 小奇 village just north.

Zhang Yuping was the oldest of nine siblings, of whom all five males became Daoists. His father Zhang Shuangxi also had a disciple Gao Junbao 高军宝 (b.c1938), who was leading another band by 1992.

It would be fascinating to write a detailed history of the Daoists’ lives from the late Qing through the Republican period into the tribulations of early Maoism when they were laicized. They continued activity through until the Four Cleanups campaign of 1964. They buried their instruments, ritual manuals, gongche solfeggio score for shengguan wind ensemble, and god paintings, but during the Cultural Revolution two cartloads of scriptures had been taken away and burnt. By the time the Cultural Revolution was over they were unable to retrieve the buried artefacts, and they now recited the scriptures from memory. Zhang Changxian was praised for his memory of scriptures and music; it was he who led the collective relearning of their ritual.

Here they are known as daoshi, shifu “masters”, or (as in Datong countyerzhai 二宅. Although they were no longer temple-dwelling, the expression “inviting the Daoist belvedere” was still in use (qing daoguan 請道觀). The chief celebrant responsible for the ritual is called fashi 法師 “ritual master”, similar to the less commonly-used term gaogong. He wields a longtou 龍頭 dragon-shaped incense holder (which we hardly saw further north in Shanxi) and a ling hand-bell.

Xinzhou 1992.5

Ritual instruments: conch, two guanzi oboes, longtou incense holder, hand-bell, and muyu woodblock.

Xinzhou 1992.3Xinzhou 1992.4
As we saw, whereas the elite temples tended only to use ritual percussion to accompany their vocal liturgy, most priests in smaller temples, like household groups, had a long tradition of shengguan wind ensemble, overlapping in repertoire with groups further north.

Before Liberation, Buddhist monks and Daoist priests used to compete at funerals. The Buddhist monks, all laicized after Liberation, also played shengguan wind ensemble music, but it was “different”—and we didn’t hear that they ever revived. Funerals were also called daiqi 待七 “attending at the sevens”, and apart from Buddhist sevens (heshang qi 和尚七) and Daoist sevens (daoguan qi 道觀七), there were also “xiucai sevens” 秀才七 presided over by local Confucian ritual specialists.

The Xinzhou Daoists mentioned a celibate group called Qingfo dao 清佛道 (“Way of the Pure God”) whose members, including priests living in the Lüzu miao 呂祖廟 temple in Xinzhou town, had also been laicized after Liberation. “Laicized” was surely a euphemism: in Wutai county nearby, a Qingfo dao is listed as one of the “reactionary sects”, introduced from other counties, crushed in the campaigns of 1950–51. This sect was clearly widespread in central and north Shanxi. [3] Its Xinzhou adherents were said to have acquired their shengguan wind ensemble music from our former temple Daoists.

So here’s another hint of the connection between temples and sects. In Yanggao, Huai’an and Tianzhen, we found a link with the Way of Yellow Heaven (Huangtian dao) sect; and in Shuozhou, with the Hongfu dao sect.

While the rituals of the Xinzhou Daoists have much in common with those of both Complete Perfection and Orthodox Unity Daoists further north in Shanxi, their vocabulary differs somewhat.

They distinguished three types of activity: “god rituals” (shenshi 神事, temple fairs), funerals (zuo fashi 做法事 or wangshi 亡事), and Thanking the Earth (xietu 謝土). They also spoke of two types of scripture: funerary “scriptures before the soul” (lingqian jing 靈前經), including sung hymns such as Sangui zan 三皈讚 and Yuyin zan 玉音讚; and “scriptures before the gods” (shenqian jing 神前經), including Huangdi zan 皇帝讚 and the hymns to the Three Primes (Shang/Zhong/Xiayuan zan 上/中/下元讚).

Here I outline the main ritual segments—our notes have many further details of the complex prescriptions for percussion and wind items within them.

They sometimes do one-day funerals, called zaoqijing 早起經, “early-to-rise scriptures”, with the burial taking place (unusually) in the afternoon. For this the Daoists perform five sessions of scriptures (wutang jing 五堂經) in the morning, making successive visits from their base of the scripture hall (jingtang 經堂) to the soul hall (lingtang 靈堂), as further north.

The first session consists of Inviting the Soul (qingling 請靈), singing the Dadao dongxuan xu 大道洞玄虛 (a Buxu 步虛 Pacing the Void hymn, erstwhile part of evening temple services and the yankou) and Triple Libations of Tea (san diancha 三奠茶). For the second session they perform Litanies with shengguan (shengguan chan 笙管懺), singing the hymn Qinghua jiaozhu 青華教主. For the third session they sing the hymn Penglai haihui 蓬莱海會, also widespread. For the fourth session the scripture is Shizhong chan 時鐘懺. For the fifth session it is Xuanshu gongde 玄疏功德.

That was the basic prescription they gave us in 1992. For us they performed the opening segment of a funeral, qingling 請靈 Inviting the Soul; and its conclusion, called wanchan 完懺 Concluding the Litanies, including the Shizhong chan 時鐘懺. As ever, vocal liturgy accompanied by ritual percussion alternates with sections for the percussion alone, and melodic instrumental music for shengguan wind ensemble.

In an article describing a one-day funeral sequence as observed in 2008, the items are similar but the sequence differs (it also provides ritual texts; here I again list titles of vocal sections but not of percussion and shengguan instrumental items, which are also important!). Rituals throughout the morning were

  • Sacrifice to the Kitchen (jizao 祭灶)
  • Inviting the Soul (qinglin請靈), five visits:

1) including the scriptures Taishang miluo 太上彌羅, Liuzi zhenyan 六字箴言,and San diancha 三奠茶.
2) Xuanshu gongde 玄疏功德
3) Penglai haihui 蓬莱海會
4) Qinghua jiaozhu 青華教主
5) Shizhong chan 時鐘懺

The burial took plaace in the afternoon. After the Daoists sing the hymn Jishou guiyi 稽首皈依 before the coffin, they lead the procession to the grave; on the route the coffin is rested as they sing San diancha 三奠茶. At the grave they first sing Jishou guiyi, and then (as the coffin is buried) Miaoyan guan 妙嚴官. This burial sequence contains more vocal liturgy than I have found elsewhere.

A two-day funeral is called zhouye jing 晝夜經. A three-day funeral (sanzhou erye jing 三晝二夜經, rare if not obsolete by the 1990s, is called sanzhou erye jing 三晝二夜經 “scriptures of three days and two nights”. For this they performed ten (rather than the more common five) sessions of scriptures, including

  • dachi poyu 打池破獄 Making the Arena and Smashing the Hells
  • yinjing 引經 Leading the Scriptures
  • zhaoqin 召親 Summoning Kin (perhaps zhaoqing 召請, as in Yanggao—my book, pp.298–307).
  • guo jinyin qiao 過金銀橋 Crossing the Gold and Silver Bridges.

For Making the Arena and Smashing the Hells (or da huichi 打灰池 Making the Arena of Ashes), a kind of mandala was drawn with ashes on the ground, made up of concentric squares, and in the centre an altar was constructed out of tables.

Before Liberation, the main temple fairs of the village were held around 1st moon 15th and 4th moon 8th and 14th. On 7th moon 2nd they performed Escorting the Thunder God (song leishen), presumably related to rain rituals. They weren’t familiar with the term jiao 醮 Offering.

Thanking the Earth (a “red ritual” for the living) is sometimes held at temples (cf. Shuozhou), to guarantee well-being (bao ping’an 保平安, frequently heard); they recalled a lively three-day Thanking the Earth at the temple of Baishisizhuang village. Its common function is exorcistic—to Pacify the Dwelling (anzhai 安宅) after the moving of the earth upon the construction of a new house or a new village, forestalling or destroying evil influences. The Xinzhou Daoists recalled a major Thanking the Earth for a neighbour early in the 1980s. But the ritual may be more common than we could discern. It is often performed in the 12th moon (layue 臘月). A geomancer (yinyang jiang 陰陽匠) is invited to choose an auspicious day; the Daoists recite scriptures and play shengguan. Again a mandala of ashes is delineated on the ground, but this time it is octagonal; it is a diagram of the five elements (wuxing 五行). The Xinzhou Daoists said they could no longer depict the fu 符talismans that should also be part of such major rituals.

If zuo fashi (“performing ritual”) refers here specifically to funerals, then the term daochang 道場 Arena of the Way, exceptionally, refers to “inviting the ancestors” (qing zuxian 請祖先), and was used for the ritual of revising the lineage chart (xiu jiapu 修家譜); it is also called fanchang 返場 Arena of [making the ancestors] Return—another term I haven’t heard elsewhere. This evokes the common use of Thanking the Earth to rewrite the lineage chart in Yanggao (my book, pp.230–33). The Xinzhou Daoists told us that the Daoists of Jingle and Yangqu counties, just west and south of Xinzhou, did fanchang rituals, including Chasing Round the Five Quarters (pao wufang 跑五方).

Ritual manuals
While (as in most local Daoist traditions in north China) their main liturgical texts are doubtless the hymns, they also mentioned scriptures like Sanyuan chan 三元懺 Litanies to the Three Primes, Shiyi yao 十一耀 Eleven Luminaries, and Beidou jing 北斗經 Scripture to the North Dipper (see my book, pp.375–82).

Chen Yu transcribes texts for two ritual manuals:

  • Xuanmen risong wantan gongke jing 玄們日誦晚壇功課經
  • Taishang lingbao jiuku miaojing 太上洞玄靈寶救苦妙經. [4]

As in Tianzhen, Guangling, and Shuozhou, here in Xinzhou the ritual specialists are household Complete Perfection Daoists from a former temple background. Differences (in ritual segments and vocabulary) between both Complete Perfection and Orthodox Unity Daoists elsewhere in Shanxi are largely based on geography.

Yet again, I can’t help wondering why such important work on folk religion, which demands the expertise of scholars of Daoism, has been left to music fieldworkers.

Xinzhou 1992.2

With thanks to Xue Yibing and Jing Weigang; as well as Chen Yu, whose book (Jinbei minjian daojiao keyi yinyue yanjiu pp.88­–90, 134–6, 358–77) has more. See also my In search of the folk Daoists of north China, pp.69–72, 78. For rain rituals, see here.

[1] Transcriptions (alas only instrumental) in Zhongguo minzu minjian qiyue jicheng, Shanxi 1931–61, based on the county mimeograph, which gives basic background.
[2] Two audio tracks feature on the CD Tianye zhi sheng: Zhongguo lisu yinyue (Beijing huanqiu yinyue cbs).
[3] Wutai xianzhi 五台县志 (1988), p. 577; also listed for nearby Fanshi and Shenchi (Zhao Jiazhu 赵嘉朱, Zhongguo huidaomen shiliao jicheng 中国会道门史料集成 (Beijing,  2004), pp.182–4); for the sect in Shanxi generally, see ibid.: 151. For other counties in north–central Shanxi, cf. Qingfo dao 青佛道 in Pianguan and Hunyuan (ibid., p.185); cf. also Qingfu dao 清褔道 in Zuoyun (165) and 青褔道 in Yingxian (167).
[4] She lists the latter on p.100; I surmise that this is the proper title of the second scripture whose texts she transcribes (from p.363), since she gives the same title of Xuanmen risong wantan gongke jing to both texts on pp. 358–77.