Daoist Temples

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Temples

Temples are the shrines for the cultivation of Dao and the worship of the divinities of Daoism. 'Temple' (Gongguan) is the general term for Daoist palaces and shrines. The residences of ancient emperors are called "palaces"(Gong), while places for surveying the city battlements are called "Lookouts"(Guan). The places for offering sacrifices to spirits in ancient times are also called temples. For example, emperor Wu of the Han dynasty built temples in Chang'an and Ganquan, to venerate Divine Men ( 神人 Shenren ). After Daoism arose, places for religious activities, such as Dioceses ( 治 Zhi ) and Oratories ( 靖 Jing ) at the very beginning, and later Immortal Mansions ( 仙館 Xianguan ), came into existence. Emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou dynasty changed the Mansions(Guan) into Lookouts (Guan), and after the Tang and Song dynasties, they were called Temples (Gongguan). According to Daoism, the oldest temple is the Lookout Tower Temple ( 樓觀 Louguan ) of Shanxi. Daoist temples then spread all over the country.

The Daoist priests of the Complete Perfection tradition ( 全真 Quanzhen ) take temples as their home. They adopt the system of the 'Temples of the Ten Directions' ( 十方叢林 Shifang Conglin ) ( 十方常住 Shifang Changzhu ). The 'Temples of the Ten Directions' is an organization and administration system of Daoist temples. The Temples of the Ten Directions are key places for religious activities of Daoism that are scattered all over the country, such as the White Cloud Temple ( 白雲觀 Baiyun Guan ) in Beijing, the Supreme Clarity Temple ( 太清宮 Taiqing Guan ) in Shenyang, Black Sheep Temple ( 青羊宮 Qingyang Gong ) in Chengdu, and the Lookout Tower Platform ( 樓觀台 Louguan Tai ) in Shanxi. The property of the Temples of the Ten Directions belongs collectively to the Daoist priests of the religious organizations. The major officials, such as the Abbots ( 方丈 Fangzhang ) and Supervisors ( 監院 Jianyuan ), are elected by the Daoist priests, and the ordinary officials are recommended by the Daoist priests after mass discussion. The officials hold a one year term. They can renew their term of office if elected consecutively. Incompetent officials will be dismissed after mass discussion. The Temples of the Ten Directions can transmit commandments, but they cannot take in disciples. When the temples declare that they will transmit commandments, the small temples will recommend disciples to converge to receive the Great Commandments of the Three Halls ( 三堂大戒 Santang Dajie ) (namely the Original Perfection Commandments ( 初真戒 Chuzhen Jie ), the Intermediate Extremity Commandments ( 中極戒 Zhongji Jie ), and the Heavenly Immortal Commandments ( 天仙戒 Tianxian Jie ). Regarding religious inheritance, it is regulated that the Daoist priests of the Orthodox Oneness Sect ( 正一派 Zhengyi Pai ) cannot be appointed Abbots and Discipline Masters ( 律師 Lushi ) of the Temples of the Ten Directions of the Complete Perfection sect. The Temples of the Ten Directions of the Complete Perfection tradition are quite strict with the religious life of their Daoist priests. In these temples, the first and the fifth day of each lunar month are fasting days, when the priests should recite the Book of the Jade Emperor ( 玉皇經 Yuhuang Jing ), the Book of the Three Officials ( 三官經 Sanguan Jing ), and the Book of the Perfect Warrior ( 真武經 Zhenwu Jing ) during their Morning and Evening Recitation ( 早晚功課 Zaowan Gongke ). At every Daoist festival, such as the sacred birthday of the Jade Emperor ( 玉皇大帝 Yuhuang Dadi ), the sacred birthday of the Supreme Venerable Sovereign ( 太上老君 Taishang Laojun ), and the Festivals of the Three Pristine Ones ( 三清節 Sanqing Jie ), grand fasting rituals are held inside the temples, and Daoist altars are set up for the recitation of scriptures for celebration. In the temples, at the Grave-Sweeping Festival ( 清明節 Qingming Jie ) and on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month, and on the first day of the tenth lunar month every year, Daoist rituals, which are called "paying debt to the solitary spirits", are held to expiate the souls of the dead.

In the temples, striking bells, beating drums, and tapping cloud slabs are used as orders in ordinary life. At five o'clock every day, after getting up, sweeping the courts and halls, and adjusting their hats and dresses, the Daoist priests begin their morning recitation, and in the evening, they perform the evening recitation. Most of the Permanent Daoist Lodgers ( 常住道眾 Changzhu Daozhang ) of the Temples of the Ten Directions are the best ones, chosen to stay and live there from among the Daoist priests who put up at the temples for short stays. The Temples of the Ten Directions generally have a large scale, a big amount of property, and many Daoist priests, so they have a set of well-organized administrative systems.

The organization and administration system of temples also includes Shrines for Disciples ( 子孫廟 Zisun Miao ) and Temples for Disciples ( 子孫叢林 Zisun Conglin ). Shrines for Disciples are also called small shrines. These are privately owned and are handed down from masters to disciples, so that the disciples inherit not only the religious inheritance of the masters but also their property. The small shrines can take in disciples, but they cannot transmit commandments, and are forbidden to hang bells or slabs. In the Temples for Disciples, the masters are the abbots, and there are not many Daoist priests living in the temples. Therefore, these temples have no complicated organization; they are similar to ordinary families. The small temples do not receive the Daoist Priests of the Ten Directions, which means that Daoist priests are not asked to put up at these temples for short stays. Usually the temples of small towns and in the countryside are Temples for Disciples. Temples for Disciples are also called Residences for Disciples, which are between the Temples of the Ten Directions and the Shrines for Disciples. They arise mostly from the prosperous Shrines for Disciples, hang bells and slabs, receive Daoist priests for short stays, arrange some duties for the Daoist friends from the Ten Directions who stay in the temple, and administer the affairs of the temples together with them. Temples for Disciples can also transmit commandments, but after that, they cannot take in disciples according to the rules of the temples. Hence Temples for Disciples are actually the higher level of Shrines for Disciples.


The officials of the temples mainly include the Abbot, the Supervisor, the Official Host for Guests ( 知客 Zhike ), the Hall Master ( 堂主 Tangzhu ), the Sacred Hall Master ( 殿主 Dianzhu ), the Scripture Master ( 經主 Jingzhu ) and the Master of High Merit ( 高功 Gaogong ). The Abbot is the host of the whole temple. It is actually a ceremonial post. The Abbot does not administer the affairs of the temple and retires from active duty after the transmission of commandments. During the transmission of commandments, the Abbot is also called the Discipline Master. It indicates that the Abbot masters commandments and disciplines, can transmit commandments as a representative of the Supreme Venerable Sovereign, and can be taken as a Master. The candidates for Abbot must be adepts who have received the Great Commandments of the Three Halls, are expert in commandments, disciplines and rituals, and enjoy popular confidence. The Supervisor is also called 'zhuchi' or 'dangjia' (head). The Supervisor is the actual host of the temple, in charge of all the affaires of the whole temple. Though the Supervisor is inferior to the Abbot in rank, he wields greater real power. Supervisors are elected publicly by the Daoist priests of the temples and have a three years' term of office. They can renew their term if elected consecutively, and may be dismissed for faults through mass discussion. The intelligent and capable are usually elected as Supervisors. The Official Host for Guests takes charge of receiving and treating guests, assisting the Supervisor in dealing with all the affairs of the temple, and can be the alternate of the Supervisor. Candidates for the Official Host for Guests must be good at social intercourse, devoted, and desirous to do better at abiding by commandments. The Hall Master is the official in charge of the Hall of the Ten Directions ( 十方堂 Shifang Tang ) and of the Water and Cloud Hall ( 水雲堂 Shuyun Tang ), who specially administers Daoist priests' short stays at the temple. All the wandering Daoist priests who put up at the temple for short stays live in these two halls, so the Hall Master supervises their observance of commandments and rituals, and their violation of the disciplines. In addition, there is the Hall Master of the Life Nourishing Hall ( 養生堂 Yangsheng Tang ). All the old, weak, sick, and handicapped Daoist priests of the temple are adopted and live in the temple, and the Hall Master of the Life Nourishing Hall takes care of their life and medicine. The Sacred Hall Master takes charge of a certain sacred hall. For example, the Hall of Patriarch Lu has a Sacred Hall Master, who is responsible for sweeping, incenses, cleaning the worship wares, and security. The Sacred Hall Masters are usually Daoist priests who have stayed in the temple for years and contributed a lot to the temple. The Scripture Master is in charge of Daoist priests' studying and worship of scriptures, recitation in three periods, and cults and pilgrimage. Besides, he is responsible for the care and sale of the books of the temple. The Master of High Merit is commonly called the Master in Charge of Altars. He is the head of all the Scripture Masters and presides over all the major and minor Daoist rituals. He is responsible for petitions, receiving immortals, all pilgrimage affairs, scriptures, mysterious disciplines, and rituals and rites. Those having intimate knowledge of scriptures and rituals assume the office. In addition, in the temples there are some other administrative organizations, such as the cell, the storehouse, and the accountant's office, and other officials, such as the Master of Scriptures, the Secretary, the Hall Supervisor, the Chief Cantor, the Official in Charge of Affairs, and the Eighteen Heads.


Many Daoist temples have been built in history. Some of them were destroyed, and others have been preserved. The celebrated temples include: the White Cloud Temple in Beijing, the Eternal Happiness Temple ( 永樂宮 Yongle Gong ) in Ruicheng, Shanxi, the Mysterious Sublimity Temple ( 玄妙觀 Xuanmiao Guan ) in Suzhou, the Temple of the Limitless ( 無量觀 Wuliang Guan ) in Qianshan, Liaoning, the Eternal Spring Temple ( 長春觀 Changchun Guan ) in Wuchang, Hubei, the Golden Hall ( 金殿 Jiandian ) of Mt Wudang in Hubei, the Purple Heaven Temple ( 紫霄宮 Zixiao Guan ), the Temple of Heavenly Oneness and Perfect Celebration ( 天乙真慶宮 Tianyi Zhenqing Gong ), the Celestial Masters' Grotto ( 天師洞 Tianshi Dong ) of Mt Qingcheng in Sichuan, the Temple of the Highest Clarity ( 上清宮 Shangqing Gong ), the Temple of the Middle Sacred Mountain ( 中嶽廟 Zhong Yue Miao ) of Mt Song in Dengfeng, Henan, the Temple of Longevity ( 萬壽宮 Wanshou Gong ) in Yulong, Mt Xi in Jiangxi, the Eight Immortals Temple ( 八仙庵 Baxian An ) in Xi'an, Shanxi, the Lookout Tower Temple in Zhouzhi (called Diedie in ancient times), Shanxi, the Temple of the Highest Clarity of Mt Longhu ( 龍虎山 Longhu Shan ) in Jiangxi, the Black Sheep Temple in Chengdu, Sichuan, the Primordial Talismans Temple ( 元符宮 Yuanfu Gong ) of Mt Mao in Jiangsu, the Supreme Clarity Temple ( 太清宮 Taiqing Gong ) in Shenyang, the Supreme Clarity Temple in Luyi, Henan and the Supreme Clarity Temple of Mt Lao in Shandong. These temples are not only a precious legacy of Chinese culture, but also an important source of human culture for the present development of tourism.

Temples and Daoist Culture

Daoist culture is an ancient but ever vigorous branch of the culture of the Chinese nation. Its value is being generally acknowledged by more and more men of insight in China and is becoming gradually understood in the world. Daoist culture has existed in different forms. The temple is one of these forms, which plays an important role in the evolution and development of Daoist culture in general. To know this is of great value for the understanding of the appearance and features of temples, and for the enhancement of what is modern and active for the development of Daoist culture.

The Substantial Expression of Daoist Culture

Taking temples as the general term for Daoist places occurred gradually through history. Temples themselves are the product of Daoist culture, but they are also the substantial outer expression of the culture.

The custom of calling the religious buildings of Daoism as temples occurred fairly late, no earlier than in the Tang dynasty. An investigation of the history of its formation and evolution shows that temples came into being and developed to satisfy the need of the formation and development of Daoist organizations. It is now generally believed that the religious buildings of early Daoism were mainly Chambers of Silence ( 靖 Jing ) (Quiet Chambers ( 靜室 Jingshi )) and Dioceses ( 治 Zhi ); some other Daoist chambers were called Lu, and those inside Dioceses could be called Guan. The so-called Chamber of Silence refers to a quiet chamber set up by a family worshiping Dao. It was meant to be separate from the other places in the house. "In a family worshiping Dao, the Chamber of Silence is the place showing good faith. Outside, it is isolated from other rooms; inside, there are no sundry articles. The door and windows are opened and closed lightly, and the room is always clean and serious as if spirits were living in it. The Chamber is only furnished with an incense burner, an incense lamp, a petition table and a writing knife." It is thus evident that at the beginning, the Chamber of Silence appeared to distinguish sages from ordinary persons, Daoist priests from common people, and the worship of Dao from worldly affairs. As for the Dioceses of the Celestial Masters Tradition ( 天師道 Tianshi Dao ), they were both public places for the religious activities of Daoism and the seats of the institution of this sect, whose leadership combined politics and religion. The sect is commonly called the Five Pecks of Rice Tradition ( 五斗米道 Wudou Midao ). At the time of its founding, there were already twenty-four Dioceses, and at the time of Zhang Lu, Unfixed Dioceses ( 游治 Youzhi ) were also established. Master Lu's General Daoist Rituals ( 陸先生道門科略 Luxiansheng Daomen Kelue ) further lists Auxiliary Dioceses ( 別治 Biezhi ), Affiliated Dioceses ( 配治 Peizhi ), Surbodinate Dioceses ( 下治 Xiazhi ), etc. This shows the further development of Dioceses. These Dioceses, fixed or unfixed, were places where the Daoist believers held collective religious activities and were inspected and examined by the Celestial Masters Tradition. After Zhang Lu surrendered to Cao Cao, the political power of the sect disappeared, and Dioceses thus became places simply for religious activities. The Outer Register Ritual of the Magical Writ of the Orthodox Oneness ( 正一法文外錄儀 Zhengyi Fawen Wailu Yi ) says, "Every male or female master establishes a Diocese, where the Daoist priests treat each other according to their positions, and conduct themselves in conformity to the rituals. They should realize that their future study attaches importance to perfection from the fact that the previous teachings neglect Dao." It cites The Particular Garden ( 異苑 Yiyuan ) written by Liu Shujing of the Song of the Southern Dynasties, saying, "In the evening when Du Mingshi dreamed of someone entering his temple, Xie Lingyun was born in Guiji. Thinking that it is rare to bear sons, his family sent him to be brought up in Du's Diocese." The temple mentioned above is just the Diocese of Du Mingshi (Zigong), or the room inside the Diocese.

The term of Daoist Guan (temple) began to appear in the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Chen Guofu cites the Interpretations of the Terms ( 釋名 Shiming ), saying, "a temple (guan) is a place from which one can look afar." He also cites the annotations, saying, "the word ' Temple' means " to observe". Two temples or observation towers are set up on either side of the palace gate. One can live in the temple or climb up the temple to look afar. Hence the term ' temple'." According to some scholars, Daoists' calling their temples as observation towers is related to their valuing the observation of the heavens, such as astronomy and the observation of clouds. In the Tang dynasty, the name of temples for worshiping the venerable spirits was changed to ' Gong', meaning ' palace'. For example, in the second Tianbao year, emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty ordered to change the name of the Xuanyuan Temple (miao) in the western capital to Supreme Clarity Palace (gong) ( 太清宮 Taiqing Gong ), that of the temple in the eastern capital to Supreme Subtlety Palace (gong) ( 太微宮 Taiwei Gong ), and that of all the Dioceses to Purple Extremity Palace (gong) ( 紫極宮 Ziji Gong ). It is certainly the emperor's privilege to change the name to gong, but this change is nonetheless based on specific Daoist cultural views. As a matter of fact, the world of Immortals in Daoist imagination is one with a strict hierarchy. Just like the political system of the human world, Heaven is governed by the highest venerable spirits, who have their respective subjects. Those having attained Immortality could build Immortal Palaces in Heaven or in other places in the Realm of Immortals. Therefore, the Dioceses of the venerable spirits could also be Palaces. If the temple in the human world served to worship such kinds of spirits, it could certainly be called a' palace' (gong), too. For example, in the Tang dynasty, Laozi was revered as the Supreme Patriarch, the Emperor of the Mysterious Origin ( 太祖玄元皇帝 Taizu Xuanyuan Huangdi ), so his temple was entitled Gong. To sum up, both the appearance and evolution of temples are based on the religious ideas and cultural content peculiar to Daoism.

As for Daoist priests, they think that the establishment of temples follows the principles of the world of Immortals they believe in. The scripture Instructions for Conducting Rituals and Commandments for Worshiping Dao of the Three Grottoes of the Pervasive Mystery of the Numinous Treasure ( 洞玄靈寶三洞奉道科戒營始 Dongxuan Lingbao Sandong Fengdao Kejie Yingshi ) says, " The Dioceses of sages exist in the realm of the Three Pristine Ones ( 三清 Sanqing ), the Five Continents, the famous mountains such as the Five Sacred Mountains ( 五嶽 Wuyue ), the Grotto Heavens ( 洞天 Dongtian ), and in space. Some are towers and halls made of Vital Breath ( 氣 Qi ), some are pavilions and houses made of clouds, some are located at the gate of the sun, the moon and stars, and some are located in clouds. Some are transmutations from nature, are some are made by divine force. Some are built up over a long period of time, and some at one time. The Dioceses are named Penglai, Fangzhang, Yuanqiao, Yingzhou, Pingpu, Langfeng, Kunlun, Xuanpu, or named the Twelve Jade Towers and the Three Thousand Golden Gates. Their names are uncountable. They are traces of the Heavenly Lords ( 天尊 Tianzun ) or Supreme Spirits and the places governed by Sages, Perfect Men and Immortals. This is explained in many scriptures, so here we give no detailed account. These Dioceses are established to transform Man and Heaven and separate the realms of virtuous and foolish people. The numinous temples are set up to imitate Heaven. As Blissful Realms ( 福地 Fudi ), they are the Abodes of Immortals. Their arrangement observes their respective rules.

Therefore, in the Daoist priests' minds, temples are ideal places, the realm of Immortals in this world. Their cultural implication is self-evident.

Besides, the design of temples fully expresses the special ideas of Daoist culture. It goes without saying that every part of their content is closely related to the needs of the religious life of Daoism, and even its form often reflects or symbolizes a certain idea. For example, in the Hall of the Three Pristine Ones ( 三清殿 Sanqing Dian ) in the Black Sheep Temple ( 青羊宮 Qingyang Gong ) in Chengdu, there are 36 huge pillars. Among them, there are 8 wooden pillars, which symbolize the eight Heavenly Kings Who Guard Laws, and 28 stone pillars, which symbolize the Twenty-Eight Constellations. The whole design for the construction of the Celestial Masters Mansion ( 天師府 Tianshi Fu ) on the Tiger and Dragon Mountain (Mt. Longhu) is modeled on the arrangement of the Eight Trigrams ( 八卦 Bagua ). For example, the third Hall for Introspection in the Celestial Masters Mansion is in the central position identical to that of the Supreme Ultimate ( 太極 Taiji ). Daoism regards the Eight Trigrams as the embodiment of the rules of the changes of Yin and Yang, and regards the central Supreme Ultimate as the gate for the entrance and exit of Yin and Yang, where the Four Images ( 四象 Sixiang ) get together and the Five Agents ( 五行 Wuxing ) are converged. Therefore, the Eight-Trigram-shaped building implies that the Celestial Masters Mansion follows and embodies the rules of the changes of Yin and Yang. That the Celestial Master is in the position of the Supreme Ultimate signifies that he is in the venerable position where he communicates between man and spirits and controls the changes of Yin and Yang.

Wudang Mountain is designed to follow the shapes of the mountains and water. It is natural and reflects the Daoist idea that "Dao imitates Spontaneity". Moreover, the buildings are basically arranged in line with the legend of the mysterious emperor's cultivation of Immortality. When people go on pilgrimage or travel, they will spontaneously recall the stories about the Highest Emperor of the Mysterious Northern Heaven and the Daoist beliefs and spirit contained in them. As for the divine statues, the seven-star banner, the five-thunder tablet, and other objects in the temple, all of them manifest Daoist views of spirits and of the universe and the methods of religious practice peculiar to Daoism.

In brief, temples are the reflection of Daoist ideas and the symbolization of Daoist features. They are outstanding signs that make people with a little common religious knowledge realize that they are religious sanctuaries peculiar to Daoism and distinguish them at first sight from those of other religions such as Buddhism and Christianity.

A Major Place that Integrates Daoist Culture

As a huge system, Daoist culture consists of complex and numerous elements. Though we are usually in contact only with a certain part of Daoist culture, we can always feel its characteristic qualities and atmosphere as a whole, and be aware of its peculiar flavor which is not shared by any other worldly or religious culture. This is because Daoist culture is an integral entity whose cultural spirit and outlook on the universe, outlook on life, and view of life, and the way in which they are expressed, have permeated its every ingredient. The culture displays itself to the world with an integrated and unified appearance. Its integration is based on its characteristic cultural spirit and its internal soul, yet the integration should be seen in a certain background of time and space as well. Temples, in this sense, are the glue for the integration of Daoist culture.

Firstly, temples provide a container for the integration of the various conceptual elements in Daoist culture. As a huge system, Daoist culture has a large conceptual system including all the teachings about its peculiar beliefs and philosophical ideas, morality and ideals, theories of Immortals, and art works such as architecture, painting, sculptures and music, and the scriptures which record all of the above. The systems of these concepts have their respective characteristic development and their relatively independent history. However, they usually converge and mix up and are indistinguishable in temples. A temple is an integrated entity of these concepts or their reflections. First of all, it is constructed, as has been mentioned above, according to some religious ideas, so it is where the various teachings and theories are most evident. Simultaneously, in temples the sculptures of spirits are often set up and stories concerning the major spirit worshiped in the temple are always painted. In the Hall of the Three Pristine Ones in the Eternal Happiness Temple ( 永樂宮 Yongle Gong ) in Shanxi, in line with the Primeval Lord of Heaven ( 元始天尊 Yuanshi Tianzun ), the Supreme Sovereign of the Great Dao ( 太上大道君 Taishang Dadao Jun ), and the Supreme Venerable Sovereign ( 太上老君 Taishang Laojun ) worshiped in it, there is a large-scale fresco named the Chart for Facing the Origin ( 朝元圖 Chaoyuan Tu ), which is magnificent and lively. In the Hall of Chunyang, the story of Zhongli Quan's salvation of Lu Dongbin is depicted in a picture, in which the models of the characters are quite vivid. Yet all these are closely related to the essential belief of Daoism and the special function of the Eternal Happiness Temple as worshiping Lu Dongbin (Chunyangzi). The vivid artistic images embody profound teachings, and the abstract teachings are reflected through the temple buildings and the artistic images. The mutual fusion of several elements constitutes the whole Daoist culture. This is true not only of the Eternal Happiness Temple. Ordinary temples are the same, except that they are of different influences and qualities. Different elements of temples, such as their architecture, sculptures of spirits, frescoes, couplets hung at the doors, inscriptions on tablets, and music played in rituals, combine the conceptual elements of Daoist culture and display them to people.

Secondly, temples realize the integration of the concepts, behaviour and rules of Daoist culture. Daoist culture is an integral entity that contains different kinds of essential elements. They can be generally divided into the three aspects of concepts, behaviour, and rules, which are integrated in temples. The behavioural system of Daoist culture is mainly reflected in the Skills for Cultivation and Refinement aimed at controlling one's own transformations and the Talismans, Registers, and Magic Arts aimed at controlling demons, spirits and the changes of the things outside oneself, as well as the rituals of Fasts and Offerings. Temples are the major places for the conducting of rituals and for Daoists' cultivation and religious activities at ordinary times. The so-called system of rules mainly refers to the commandments that Daoists must observe and to the rules and regulations of temples and Daoist organizations. It also includes taboos in their broad sense. They both reflect and guarantee Daoist priests' beliefs, morality and forms of organization. Simultaneously, the Daoist system of behaviour is restrained by Daoist rules. When talking about the relation between the practice of Daoist Skills and following Daoist commandments, Zhang Yuchu, the Celestial Master ( 天師 Tianshi ) of the 43rd generation of the Ming dynasty, says, "all those who practice Daoism must put commandments in the first place and their study in the second place." The observance of commandments is even more important than the study of concrete Skills. Life in temples is in essence a life restrained by various kinds of rules. As a matter of fact, during the period of the Tradition of the Mighty Commonwealth of Orthodox Oneness ( 正一盟威道 Zhengyi Mengwei Dao ), one purpose for the Celestial Masters to establish Dioceses was to make Daoist believers lead their religious life correctly under certain rules. Master Lu's General Daoist Rituals says, " The Celestial Masters establish Dioceses and positions just as the officials of counties and districts govern people. Daoist believers are all registered and their hiearchical relations are determined. They are ordered to assemble three times a year on the seventh day of the first month of the lunar calendar, the seventh day of the seventh month, and the fifth day of the tenth month. They should assemble in the Dioceses they belong to. At that time the Celestial Masters should amend the registers of their Diocese, deleting the names of dead ones and adding the newborn. Also, they should count the number of households and the population, so as to rectify the register. They promulgate orders time and again to make the people understand the laws. On these three days, the Heavenly Officials and Earthly Spirits assemble in the Dioceses to check the registers. Both the Celestial Masters and the people should keep calm and serious and should not drink wine or eat meat, nor make an uproar. After returning home when the assembly is over, the people must teach their family the rituals and taboos they have learned and ensure that the whole family practices them together. Hence the Daoist teachings are widespread and both the family and the nation enjoy great peace.

Therefore, one purpose for the establishment of Dioceses is to check and strengthen the teachings of the Daoist patriarchs by studying and practicing rituals, i.e., what we call rules, through the religious life. Later, temples grew from early Chambers of Silence and Dioceses into common Daoist temples, and their functions of holding rituals, restraining Daoist believers, and advocating Daoist teachings were further perfected. Temples are not only places for preaching scriptures and the Dao, but also the abodes of the ritual altars, and even of ancestral altars. For example, the Ancestral Altar of All Skills ( 萬法宗壇 Zhengyi Pai ) of the Orthodox Oneness Sect ( 正一派 Zhengyi Pai ) was originally located in the Celestial Masters' Mansion. Moreover, apart from announcing and observing the common rules and commandments of Daoism, temples also compile their own special rules such as placards of rules for punishment. Hence when Wang Chongyang established religious rules, he took "living in temples" to be the first regulation. "All those who leave home must firstly dwell in temples. The temple is the house where one's body belongs and where one's mind becomes peaceful. When the Vital Breath and the spirit are in harmony, one enters the true Dao."

Thirdly, the integration of refined and popular Daoist culture is mainly accomplished in temples. Besides its profound philosophies and its Skills that ordinary people can hardly understand, Daoist culture contains elements that common believers are able to understand and participate in. The former is refined while the latter is popular, the former is high while the latter is low in rank. However, in temples, the superior and the inferior, the refined and the popular are combined harmoniously, naturally and peacefully without any conflict. Undoubtedly, temples are important places for spreading advanced Daoist culture. Hence in ancient temples there was always a scripture-writing office and a ritual hall. "A ritual regulates that a scripture-writing office must be firstly set up in any temple. It should be set up in a single yard, which ordinary people cannot enter." "A ritual regulates that all the ritual halls, the places for preaching teachings and educating people, should be established behind the main hall, and they should not hold too many people." Some of the regulations about temples are aimed at Daoist priests and are thus relatively profound, but most of them are aimed at ordinary believers and are thus easy to understand and accept. As a result, the bounds between the refined and the popular are broken. Religious activities in temples must be held by Ritual Masters ( 法師 Fashi ) with high quality so as to win the faith of the people, and the rituals set for the people must be comprehensible, so the rituals' form, conduct, music and symbols must be what the people love to see and hear. Then the difficult and profound secrets of the way of practicing the Daoist rites come to be understood and taken up by ordinary people to some degree. This is another example of the integration of the refined and the popular. Moreover, temples are usually the centre of activities for eliminating disasters and praying for good fortune, such as the inspection tours of spirits and the celebration of the birthdays of spirits. As far as their social function is concerned, these activities are folk customs that can be developed only in temples or with temples as their actual initiator. For example, the fifteenth day of the second month of the lunar calendar is the birthday of the Supreme Venerable Sovereign. Its celebration has been considered important since the Tang dynasty and was not abandoned after the Song dynasty. In Hangzhou, the capital of the Southern Song dynasty, "the Venerable Sovereign's commemoration is held every year at the Tianqing Temple. At the festival, ten thousand lamps are lighted, and offerings are given to sages and fasts are practiced to pray for good fortune for the people. Both officials and ordinary people in large numbers present incense and worship the spirit." Similarly, similar folk customs are held on the birthday of the Great Jade Emperor ( 玉皇大帝 Yuhuang Dadi ). According to the customs in the region of Suzhou in the Qing dynasty, "the ninth day of the first month of the lunar calendar is the Heavenly Birthday (i.e., the birthday of the Great Jade Emperor). On this day the Daoist priests of the Qingzhen temple converge at the court and render offerings to the Jade Emperor. The rite is locally named ' Rendering Offerings to Heaven'." Since the Ming and the Qing dynasties, the worship of Lu Dongbin has been flourishing among the common people, and the shrine of Patriarch Lu has been an important centre for the people's worship of the spirit. Generally speaking, apart from these venerable spirits, all the temples having a certain influence in local areas hold a central position in these folk customs. Related to the celebration of spirits' birthdays and to the spirits' inspection tours, temples always become places for the display of popular cultural recreation. In old times, theatres only existed in cities, and popular operas were connected with offering sacrifices to spirits. Therefore, in fairly big temples, there were usually stages. Thus ties were formed between temples and the common people who watched operas.

In brief, both the refined and the popular aspects of Daoist culture are manifested in temples. Furthermore, related to each other, they appear in the same time and space so as to appeal to all.

The temple's function of cultural integration enables it not only to preserve Daoist culture, but also to mix up its various elements. The continuous process of mixing causes the fashions of different ages and the doctrinal changes within Daoism to merge into the culture gradually, so as to reflect the dynamic integration of Daoist culture.

An Important Carrier for Passing on Daoist Culture

As carriers of the existence of Daoist culture, temples are an important channel to spread it and a major place for the transmission of Daoist skills.

A culture must first be understood in order to be accepted. Men always explore the strange world outside firstly through their senses. Temples are places that can be felt, seen and heard for people to discover Daoist culture. For the majority, they are actually their first place of contact with Daoist culture. With their solemn divine statues, their winding incense smoke and the harmonious sounding of bells, temples give most people a very strong first impression, which, though possibly shallow and superficial, is vivid and lively and quite different from that gotten from rumors or books. Temples, especially celebrated ones, are usually famous scenic spots that appeal to tourists from all directions and are widely popular. As early as the 1920s, when investigating the temple fair on Mt. Miaofeng in the suburbs of Beijing City, the famous historian Gu Zhegang said something that had keen insight: " Buddhist and Daoist Temples receiving offerings spread in every place. For example, in Suzhou, there are the Mysterious Sublimity Temple ( 玄妙觀 Xuanmiao Guan ), the Northern Temple, Mt. Qizi, Mt. Qionglong, Mt. Shangfang, Mt. Guanyin, and so on. Such places, however, are not influencial. They receive offerings from a radius of only a hundred li. The powerful temples, such as West Lake and Mt. Putuo in Zhejiang, Mt. Tai in Shandong, Mt. Jiuhua in Anhui, Mt. Wutai in Shanxi, Mt. Emei in Sichuan, Mt. Luofu in Guangdong, and Mt. Qixia and Mt. Mao in Jiangsu, etc., can attract offerings from within a thousand li or even several thousand li. This is because their landscapes are especially splendid and provide pilgrims with satisfactory beauty, which adds marvelous bearings to the spirits in their imagination. The wonder of Beijing lies in the best scenic regions round the capital and Zhili, where there are high and steep mountain ranges, dense apricot orchards and pine trees, the torrential Hun River and babbling springs. Therefore, the temples (on Mt. Miaofeng) attract offerings from the capital, from the northern part of Zhili (Mt. Tai attracts offerings from the southern part of Zhili), and from people who sojourn in the capital and Zhili."

Here Mr. Gu gives a general account of the Buddhist and Daoist temples, but he focuses on the temple fair of Mt. Miaofeng that worships the Primordial Lady of the Emerald Cloud ( 碧霞元君Bixia Yuanjun ). It seems a bit simple to explain the cause of the numerous pilgrims as the beautiful landscape, but it is true that temples can attract a large number of tourists, and it is sure that the main motive of the tourists' climbing the mountain is their pilgrimage. Certainly, some tourists only visit the mountains for leisure, and few are scholars like Mr. Gu who go for specific research purposes. Although tourists are not necessarily pilgrims, the temples they visit give them a basic knowledge of Daoist culture. Based on this knowledge, some of them will have an interest and impulsion to engage in further study of Daoism. As for many pilgrims, who begin by entering temples to burn incense, pray for good fortune and blessings, or save the souls of the dead, they gradually deepen their attachment to Daoism and improve their understanding of Daoist culture. As the major places for displaying Daoist culture, temples are natural bases for spreading it. To put it in today's words, temples are strong and solid sources for propagating Daoist cultural information.

Temples are basic places for propagation and education. One can study and investigate Daoism and Daoist culture in many ways. For example, to begin with texts is one way, to obtain Skills from an extraordinary person is another way, and to study because of some predestined relationship may be another possible way. However, the most common way is to formally acknowledge someone as one's teacher and learn knowledge and Skills from him in temples, because temples are the major places to preserve Daoist rituals, and temples with ancestral altars are also sacred places for keeping and transmitting Talismans and Registers. They may also possess a ritual altar for the transmission of commandments of the Complete Perfection Sect ( 全真派 Quanzhen Pai ). It is true that at certain times in history, Daoist Skills were formerly not transmitted to Daoist priests. During the Southern Song dynasty, Ning Quanzhen transmitted the Donghua Numinous Treasure ( 靈寶 Lingbao ) Skills. Having inherited the great Skills from the master, Liu Nengzhen, the Left Daoist Official in Charge of Registers, slandered him afterward and caused him to be put in jail for a time and almost put to death. So Ning Quanzhen took an oath, saying, "The Donghua Numinous Treasure Skills belong to a superior Daoist sect. They must be transmitted only between Perfect Men and must not be passed on to Daoist priests." Ning Quanzhen's indignant words were a special case in the Daoist history of transmission. Moreover, his proposition failed to be carried out over a long period of time. During the Yuan dyansty, Lin Gao, an important descendent of the Donghua sect, was appointed the preacher of the Doctrine of Mysteries of the Wenzhou branch, and later was promoted to be the Daoist official in charge of registers of this branch. Zhang Sicheng, the Celestial Master of the 39th generation, entitled him the Numinous Treasure Magical Master Who Communicates with Mysteries and Enhances Teachings ( 靈寶通玄弘教法師 Lingbao Tongxuan Hongjiao Fashi ) and an eminent Daoist priest, and let him preside over the Tianqing Temple of Wenzhou. Thus having gone round, the Donghua Numinous Treasure skills finally returned to the Daoist temple. In fact, Daoist skills may be kept in private families, but it is difficult to keep them for a long term and continue passing them on from generation to generation. Furthermore, ritual texts just kept in some places are stagnant; they can be passed on continuously in an active form only by transmitting, learning, demonstrating and practicing them continuously. This is our view of the transmission of Daoist skills. As Daoist skills are one of the essential components of Daoist culture, the conclusion applicable to the transmission of Daoist skills also suits the whole Daoist culture. The Daoist culture kept and transmitted in temples is a living vigorous one.

Many products of Daoist culture have lasted for several hundred or even over a thousand years and been preserved in temples. Some of them have become precious cultural relics. Such cases are quite easy to find. We need not mention the group of buildings of the Ming dynasty on Mt. Wudang, the temple at the foot of Mt. Tai, the Dipper Tower, the Southern Heavenly Gate on the way up the mountain, the Jade Emperor Summit and the Shrine of the Emerald Cloud at the top of the mountain, which, together with the whole region, have already been acknowledged by the United Nations to be world heritage sites. There are far more odd scraps of historic relics kept in ancient Daoist temples. Formerly on Mt. Mao, there were eight treasures for protecting the mountain, bestowed by an emperor of the Northern Song dynasty. Having experienced frequent difficulties for over a thousand years, four of them are still preserved today: the Jade Tablet, the Great Sovereign's Seal of the Nine Venerable Immortals, the Talisman for Pacifying the Mind, and the Cinnabar Inkstone. Among them, the Jade Tablet not only has peculiar designs, but also is better than ordinary materials at conducting heat. Its temperature is usually lower than that of the atmosphere, so vapors will coagulate on it in summer, and people say that it can "perspire". The Cinnabar Inkstone is made of something unknown which is somewhat transparent. Breath can be turned into water to temper the cinnabar, so people call it "Ha (breath) inkstone". They are both rare things. Ancient Daoist relics are not only found in ancient temples on famous mountains such as Mt. Mao, Mt. Wudang and Mt. Luofu. Various kinds of rare historic relics with ancient and profound flavor can be found in any temple of long age. Divine statues over one thousand years old, such as the fresco in the Eternal Happiness Temple in Shanxi, are uncountable in temples all over the country. Besides ancient man-made cultural relics, there are plenty of ancient trees, living cultural relics, in temples. The Venerable Sovereign's cypress for tying oxen in front of the Lookout Tower Platform ( 樓觀台 Louguantai ), the one-thousand-year old ginkgo in the Celestial Masters' Grotto on Mt. Qingcheng, the camphor tree said to have been planted by the Celestial Master in person at the ruins of the Temple of the Highest Clarity ( 上清宮 Shangqinggong ) on the Tiger and Dragon Mountain (Mt. Longhu) were either planted by Daoist priests or endowed with cultural flavors by the exaggeration of Daoist legends. They are still living today thanks to the protection by Daoist temples and Daoist priests through ages. Hong Kong Daoist temples have a shorter history than these ancient temples, but in them you can also enjoy the potted trees of the Ching Chung Taoist Association ( 青松觀 Qingsongguan ) and the big glossy ganoderma of the Fung Ying Seen Koon ( 蓬瀛仙館 Peng Ying Xian Guan ).

Temples record the evolutionary history of Daoist culture. A temple is a living history book of Daoist culture, the witness of its repeated changes and the embodiment of its tenacious vitality. Hence temples have profound and lasting historic and cultural implications, which are not possessed by any false antiques.

The Energy for the Creation and Renewal of Contemporary Daoist Culture

In the past one hundred years, China has stepped towards modernization and partly entered modern society. Daoism and its culture have also changed accordingly. With more and more media through which society and academic circles get information about Daoism, Daoist culture has further extended its influence. Having expanded beyond temples early on, it participates in the creation of ordinary human culture day by day, and its research and applications are not confined to temples or even to Daoism itself. However, the impetus or the basis for the development of contemporary Daoist culture is still primarily temples.

The value of Daoist culture is expressed in various aspects. Therefore, people have different ideas of its advantages and disadvantages, as well as what to advocate and what to avoid, and so what is propagated and what is criticized in reality varies greatly. Now a lot of people of insight affirm the sensible factors of this old cultural system, but what is accepted and what is rejected varies with each individual. Hence the affirmation and praise of Daoist culture by society, including academic circles, is always confined to certain aspects. For example, ever since the Tang and Song dynasties, some people in society have realized the value of Gymnastics ( 導引 Daoyin ), Vital Breath skills, and Inner Alchemy ( 內丹 Neidan ) skills, and some laymen have studied and practiced them. In modern times, Breathing Arts ( 氣功 Qigong ) have become prosperous, and Daoist Breathing Arts are quite favored by people. Some learn them, some probe into them, and some attempt to link them up with modern science so as to improve and develop them. Yet, those learning the skills do not necessarily know their position in Daoism or explore their inside information. They just get one ladle from the sea of Daoist culture. To carry forward Daoist culture comprehensively still depends on Daoist circles themselves and mainly on temples.

This is because, firstly, contemporary Daoism exists mainly with the temple as its basic unit. In history, the existence of Daoism has always been based on temples. Nevertheless, as most of the imperial courts through the ages have supported Daoism to varying degrees and intellectuals of certain wealth or social influence have been converted to Daoism, there have been quite a lot of Daoist priests among the common people or hermits in history. Some people of cultural creativity have occasionally appeared. They have given impetus to the development of Daoism and Daoist culture to some degree. Ning Quanzhen, the founder of the Donghua Numinous Treasure mentioned above, is a typical example. Since modern times, the vicissitudes of world affairs have caused the social structure to be greatly different from that of ancient times. Imperial courts have died out early on, Daoism now develops completely independently, and the groups of intellectuals of the so-called scholar-bureaucrat class of ancient times have evolved into the salaried class making a living on their technological skills, most of whom have no ultimate concern about this world, and few of whom are interested in Daoist culture or even ordinary culture. This further shifts the focus of the existence and development of Daoism to temples. The Orthodox Oneness sect has Daoist priests living scattered in society, and the Complete Perfection sect has lay Daoists. Together with the Daoist priests in temples, they constitute the whole Daoist community. In history, many of the lay Daoists of the Complete Perfection sect have had deep study and insight of culture, and even till modern times, there were still Daoist scholars like Chen Yingning. However, scholarly lay Daoists scattered in society and who cultivate themselves well are rarely seen in the contemporary age. This is directly related to the characteristics of the time of the whole intellectual class. The scattered Daoist priests of the Orthodox Oneness sect formerly constituted a large proportion of the community of all Daoists. Though conducting rituals while busy and engaged in industry or agriculture in their spare time, they generally keep learning Skills from teachers and pay attention to the transmission of Skills from teacher to disciple. As a result, they play an important role in the preservation and practice of Daoist Skills and the spread of Daoist culture. Yet this group has little creativity, and the renewal of their Skills and teachings primarily relies on the ancestral altars and big temples. Since modern times, the Daoist ancestral altars have declined successively, and the renewal of the scattered Daoists' Skills is even more problematic. Simultaneously, due to their limited cultural attainment, the scattered Daoists lack abilities in the other aspects of Daoist culture. Consequently, the existence and development of present-day Daoism relies on temples.

The second reason is that as a religious culture, Daoist culture has belief has its core. It is determined to a great degree by the religious feeling founded upon faith, whether or not one attaches importance to Daoist culture or has interest in conversion to it. Out of their religious feeling, abbots and Daoists in temples once made great effort to maintain and carry forward Daoism and Daoist culture in the past, and some even shed blood and sacrificed themselves for it. Things have changed today, but most Daoists in temples still keep this feeling, which is the major spiritual impetus for them to endeavor continuously to advance the study and spread of Daoist culture. This feeling is not possessed by intellectuals having a sympathy for Daoism and is different from academic motivations.


Thirdly, it is related to the correspondent economic power necessarily possessed by Daoist culture and cultural studies. Even if some common people in society have good opinions of Daoist culture and are willing to study and promote the factors they consider beneficial to modern times and people, their ability always falls short of their wishes because of a lack of financial and material support. It seems only temples, especially those with a strong economic foundation, have this ability at present. In recent years, famous temples have been gradually restored in the interior of China. Those in charge of this are usually from Daoist circles or from the restoration committees made up of the Daoist believers of some temple. Moreover, famous Daoist temples in Hong Kong, such as the Ching Chung Taoist Association , the Fung Ying Seen Koon, and the Temple of Great Immortal Huang ( 黃大仙祠 Huangdaxian Ci ), have branches overseas, which have become the base for carrying forward Daoist culture abroad. The establishment of temples is the basis for advancing the development of other cultural undertakings. At present, big temples support the restoration of temples in relatively bad financial conditions. This is itself the extension and development of Daoist culture and provides conditions for the whole development of the Daoist culture as well. All the other affairs, such as preaching scriptures and teachings, publishing periodicals, training students, conducting academic research, etc., cannot be done without financial support, and certainly many of them have to rely on the temples' economic support.

Indeed, temples have the conditions and possibility of carrying forward Daoist culture, but this is also directly related to whether the abbot of the temple pays attention to culture and is willing to exert himself in cultural undertakings. Due to their low cultural quality and attainment, the abbots of some temples have no impetus for cultural pursuits. To describe them by citing the words of Mencius, they are not unable, but are unwilling to do anything. In comparison, the abbots of quite a number of temples have seen the importance of improving the cultural quality of temples. They have also realized that the cultural charm characteristic to Daoism itself is essential for it to hold a standing in the world and face up challenges from various other religions and popular cultures. As a result, they endeavor to improve the cultural content of their own temples and are devoted to contributing to different aspects of Daoism, such as academic and artistic pursuits. In recent years, temples in Hong Kong, the mainland of China and Taiwan have made many attempts to develop and advocate Daoist culture and improve the cultural content of temples within the new historic conditions. Some have set up Daoist colleges, some publish periodicals, and some establish web-sites to make the public enjoy the resources of Daoist culture by means of modern technology, and some assist the holding of academic conferences and research. This is quite worth praising. We expect that the leaders of the big temples, having the foresight to carry forward their own excellent culture and resolution, will be able to unite numerous people sympathizing and loving Daoism in society to shoulder together the heavy responsibility of developing Daoist culture under the new historic circumstances. If they can succeed, the Daoist culture created by the Chinese nation will undoubtedly be enhanced and bring benefit to China as well as to the whole world.