Altars for Commandments

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Altars for Commandments
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Pilgrimage Times and Temple Fairs

Commandments altars are set up for the Transmission of Commandments by the Daoist priests of the Complete Perfection sect ( 全真派 Quanzhen Pai ). They are only established in big temples of the Complete Perfection sect which are qualified to transmit commandments. Between the Jin and the Yuan dynasties, Patriarch Wang Chongyang founded the Complete Perfection sect. His disciple Qiu Chuji founded the Three Commandments for Elementary Perfection ( 初真 Chuzhen ), Middle Perfection ( 中極 Zhongji ) and Heavenly Immortals ( 天仙 Tianxian ) according to the Buddhist commandment systems of Buddhist novices, monks and Bodhisattvas. He instated a system for transmitting the teachings of the Complete Perfection sect by passing commandments down from a master to a single disciple. Wang Changyue, the eminent Daoist priest of the Qing dynasty, abbot of the White Cloud Temple ( 白雲觀 Baiyun Guan ) in Beijing, changed this method of transmission into a public system by setting up altars. Hence, Commandment Altars came into being in the temples of the Complete Perfection sect.


The presently existing Commandments Altar in the White Cloud Temple is a long rectangular altar in a pavilion. There is wall on one side, and the other three sides are open. The open ground in front of the altar is where the Daoist believers are seated when the commandments are transmitted. On the altar are the seats of the Eight Great Masters, namely the Witness of the Covenant ( 証盟 Zhengmeng ), the Inspector of Commandments ( 監戒 Jianjie ), the Guarantor of Rituals ( 保舉 Baoju ), the Ritual Preacher ( 演禮 Yanli ), the Master Who Rectifies Rituals ( 糾儀 Jiuyi ), the Master Who Initiates Rituals ( 提科 Tike ), the Master Who Records Registers ( 登籙 Denglu ), and the Master Who Invites Deities ( 引儀 Yinqing ). The commandments altar in the White Cloud Temple in Beijing is a richly ornamented and elegant bulding.