Bells

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Origin of the Use of Bells in Daoist Fasts and Offerings ( 齋醮 Zhaijiao )

The Bell is one of the Magical Instruments ( 法器 Faqi ) often used in Daoist rituals of Fasts and Offerings and in Daoist temples. Copper bells were made as musical instruments in early ancient China. In ancient rituals, bells were used both in banquets and worship. The Imperial Encyclopedia of the Taiping Era ( 太平御覽 Taiping Yulan ) cites Accurate Divination by Mastering the Book of Changes ( 易通卦驗 Yitong Guayan ), saying, "on the day of the Winter Solstice, the emperor lets the officials of eight kinds of capacity hit the yellow bell, and so the emperor will respect the kind people and the ministers and senior officials will be loyal and trustworthy." It also quotes from the History of the Han Dynasty ( 漢書 Hanshu ), saying, "there are ten bells in the temple of the first emperor of the Han dynasty. Each of them weighs one thousand dan, and when they are stricken, the sound spreads 100 li". There was originally no record of bells being used as magical instruments, and viewing the sound of bells as Immortal Music appeared late in the Daoist literature of the Wei, Jin, and Southern and Northern Dynasties. The Declarations of the Perfected ( 真誥 Zhengao ) written by Tao Hongjing, an eminent Daoist who lived between the Qi and Liang dynasties, states that "the sounds of gold, stone, bells and drums from heaven are suddenly heard", and "the Kunting sends out loud sounds, and the gold sheng sounds like a divine bell". After the Sui and Tang dynasties, many records of using bells appeared in Daoist temples and during rituals of Fasts and Offerings. On Conducting the Pervasive Mystery Numinous Treasure Three Grotto Rituals and Commandments for Worshiping Dao ( 洞玄靈寶三洞奉道科戒營始 Dongxuan Lingbao Sandong Fengdao Kejie Yingshi ), finished in the Southern and Northern dynasties, mentions the production of bells, saying, "there are altogether five kinds of bells, namely gold bells, silver bells, bells made of the five metals, copper bells, and iron bells. Some of them have eight or nine corners, some have two or four, and some have no corner. The big ones weigh ten thousand dan, and the small ones weigh one dou. They all have their own features. After being made, the bells should be inscribed with the name of the dynasty, the year, the prefecture and the county, and the name of the temple, so as to mark different dynasties and be permanent for ages".

Functions of Using Bells in Temples and Rituals

There are two purposes of using bells in Daoist temples and rituals. One is to move spirits, the other is as a signal for Daoist priests who inhabit temples and conduct rituals. On Conducting the Pervasive Mystery Numinous Treasure Three Grotto Rituals and Commandments for Worshiping Dao says, "bells are used to assemble the four kinds of people, and for emergencies at any time. The rituals will be in disorder without this instrument. Scriptures say that during the long fasts, people assemble in the Mystery Metropolis, striking jade and jade bells, and hitting ritual drums to make the Immortals converge. The numinous singing is the same". Extracts of the Chief Rituals and Commandments ( 要修科儀戒律鈔 Yaoxiu Keyi Jielu Chao ), written by the Daoist priest Zhu Faman of the Tang dynasty, cites the Supreme Perfection Rituals ( 太真科 Taizhen Ke ), saying, "Golden Bells ( 金鐘 Jinzhong ) and Jade Inverted Bells ( 玉磬 Yuqing ) that are hung both in front of the Fasting Hall and above the Scripture Terrace, are stricken according to the hours. Daoist priests all strike bells before preaching, not only in order to warn human beings, but also to move spirits. When hearing the sound of the bells, spirits and human beings get together to carry forward Daoism and benefit things, and so great virtues are converged". In temples and rituals, Daoist bell striking has a specific order, and the times for striking bells have certain meanings.