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Popular Cults. Family cult: Ancestral cult The household gods: gods of the door, of the hearth, of the beds, of the courtyards, or the earth Innumerable popular deities in localities

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Popular Cults

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    1. Popular Cults • Family cult: • Ancestral cult • The household gods: gods of the door, of the hearth, of the beds, of the courtyards, or the earth • Innumerable popular deities in localities • Ancient sages, great poets, warrior heroes, gods in Daoist pantheon, illustrious monks, great Buddhist saints and deities, gods of soil and gods of ramparts • Gods continued to proliferate • Local gods were associated with spiritualistic practices • Mediums, (spirit-mediums included), visionaries, prophets abounded among the people • Madmen, idiots, beggars in rags might be the incarnation of Buddhist and Daoist deities

    2. The Cult of Popular Gods • Hierarchy in the pantheon of celestial bureaucracy • Jade Emperor at the top • The wall-and-moat gods, or city gods (cheng-huang shen) at the bottom • City gods were local gods, some of which emerged as a result of Buddhist influence • A god associated with wall: Pisha men, originated from Indian Visaravana.

    3. From Suppression to Acceptance • Many local gods were considered unruly and suppressed by Confucians, Buddhists, and Taoists • Reasons: many of them involved blood sacrifice and killing or terminating human life • They were accepted probably because officials and clerics transformed them into less bloodthirsty cults • A monk became powerful by meditating, capable of “converting” an unruly god

    4. The Cult of P’i-sha-men (Pishamen, Vaisrvana) • One of the four Buddhist Heavenly Kings from India, cult of this local god began from the 8th century • Often pictured carrying a halberd, money bag, or mongoose • Associated with walls and gates in India, Central Asia, and China • In China: symbol of protector of cities • Statue or image always appeared on wall towers, often in the northwest corner of city wall • Held a spear or trident in his right hand and a stupa in his left

    5. The Cult of Guan Yu • Guan Yu (Kuan Yu; Lord Guan) : A hero of the Three Kingdoms period • Deified as a popular god because of his unmatched prowess and fighting skills • Buddhist monks converted him into a Buddhist guardian deities or monastic guardian (Qielan shen; Ch’ieh-lan shen)

    6. The Wall-and-Moat Gods • Also known as City Gods (Cheng-huang shen), became popular during the Tang along with the introduction of the Pishamen cult and the proliferation of monastic guardians • Answer the prayer for stopping rain or draught • Nameless at the initial stage • Began to have names and identities later • Such as King Rui of Wu • Names were awarded by local gov’t • Became bureaucratic gods, representing the lowest level of bureaucratic hierarchy, similar to temple gods, hill gods, and water gods and ranked higher than earth gods (tudi shen, tudi gong)

    7. Spirit of the Deceased • Spirit of the deceased go to the netherworld created imaginatively by Buddhists and Taoists • The spirit’s journey in the underworld involved the meeting with the ten kings, who reviewed the records of the dead, adjusted lifespan accordingly, and decided the dead was a sinner and where the liminal body of the sinner should go.

    8. A Sinner’s Journey in the Netherworld • A sinner would be led from one torture to another • His neck was encircled with a cangue, his hand bound, and his feet shackled • Would be led to some chambers: • Where he would be nailed down to a wooden bed with metal spikes • Or underwent a special form of mutilation • Finally assigned a path of lower rebirth, such as animal, hungry ghost, or hell being, if without posthumous support from family,

    9. Popular Beliefs • Fighting demons, ghosts, or fantastic creatures • Use the sound of firecrackers, drums and gongs to chase them away • Strike them with a stick or a sword when seeing them • Scare them away with willow or peach branches or artemisia • Use symbols, such as designs of ramparts and moats, shields and halberds, designs using magic written characters • Place objects in their path—white jade • Hire sorcerers, Daoist priests, Buddhist monks to exorcise them • Marvels and mysteries in daily life • Consult almanacs, horoscopes, and geomancers…

    10. Exorcists and Mediums • Master Demon Seers (Jian’gui shi) • Daoist priests • Buddhist monks • Spirit-mediums: • Exorcism--two stages • suspend a talisman and sword over a basin of water to detect the demon; or use the light of celestial bodies when confronted by prodigies on the road • Summon demon/ghost for investigation by compelling the possession of a young boy, then expel or ward the demon off • Note that both the spirit mediums and patients were possessed

    11. Sinicization of Tantric Buddhism • Tantric Buddhism continued affecting Chinese Buddhism and Daoism, mixing with Daoism and causing Daoist therapeutic rituals to become “tantricized” • Daoist ritual of “Summoning for Investigation” assimilated Tantric “Rites of Vijra-Being of Impure Trace” or “Rites of Ucchusma”(Huiji jingang fa), making the latter a popular form of exorcism and therapeutic ritual.

    12. The Convergence of Buddhist and Daoist Exorcisms • Daoist Ritual Masters became devotees of the Buddhist Rites of the Three Altars and Rites of Ucchusma • Buddhist performances of the Rites of the Three Altars and Rites of Uccusma often included elements borrowed directly from Daoist Rites of Summoning for Investigation • Spirit-mediums performed exorcism independently, functioning like the Daoist or Tantric Ritual masters.

    13. Secret Society • A religious sect known as Demon Worshippers became popular in Fujian, Zhejiang, and the Yangzi river valley • Directed by an individual known as the Demon King, and the Demon Father and the Demon Mother as his aids • Practiced a kind of communalism of ownership, strictly observed abstinence of meat and alcohol • Proscribed the worship of all Daoist and Buddhist deities as well as ancestral cult and recognized only the sun and the moon as the only gods, which they considered to be “true Buddhas.” • Doctrines: life is nothing but suffering, but death brings final salvation