Names of the Three Fasts
Origin of the Three Registers Fasts ( 三籙齋名 Sanlu Zhai Ming )
The ' Fast' is the traditional name for Daoist worshiping rites. The Most High Efficient Fasting Ritual of the Yellow Register ( 《無上黃籙大齋立成儀》 Wushang Huanglu Licheng Yi ) says, "Burning incense, practicing Dao, and repentance of sin are called Fasts." Early Daoism had its own very simple rites for worshiping the Three Official of Heaven, Earth and Waters ( 三官 Sanguan ). The rites gradually became complicated with various newly created items. The Items of the Three Register Fasts are traditional categories of the realms and functions of different rites. The Great Skills of the Highest Clarity and Numinous Treasure ( 《上清靈寶大法》 Shangqing Lingbao Dafa ) says, "Fasts originated in the middle ancient ages. The Gentleman of Simplicity and Tranquility ( 簡寂先生 Jianji Xiansheng ) of the Jin and Song Dynasties fist classified the Three Grottoes and Four Complements ( 三洞四輔 Sandong Sifu ), and revised and itemized the Fasts. Then in the Tang Dynasty, Zhang Qingdu arranged them but didn't achieve completeness. It was only after Gentleman Guangcheng's collecting and compiling that the Yellow Register rites became perfect and detailed." On the basis of collecting and revising Daoist Fasts, Lu Xiujing, a famous Daoist of the Southern Liu Song Dynasty, classified the rites into nine Fasts and twelve rituals. Among them, the Three Registers Fasts spread till today.
The Contents of and Differences between the Items of the Three Registers Fasts
The Three Registers refer to the Golden Register Ritual ( 金籙齋 Jinlu Zhai ), the Jade Register Ritual ( 玉籙齋 Yulu Zhai ) and the Yellow Register Ritual. According to the Sayings of Perfect Man Bai of Haiqiong ( 《海瓊白真人語錄》 Haiqiong Bai Zhenren Yulu ), "Among the Three Register Rituals, the Golden Register Ritual can extinguish disasters and protect kings and is used only by emperors. The Jade Register Ritual can save people through begging blessings and repentance of sins and is used only by princesses and ministers. The Yellow Register Ritual can benefit the living and save the dead even in the Hells of the Nine Darknesses, and is used by the common people." So we can know that the realms of the Three Register Rituals change with the social status of the subjects. According to the Jade Mirror of Numinous Treasure ( 《靈寶玉鑒》 Lingbao Yujian ) of the Southern Song Dynasty, the Golden Register Ritual "can pacify the two extremes ( 兩儀 Liangyi ), aid Heaven and Earth, beg eternal longevity, cause auspicious omens for the state, and protect national security for thousands of years. All these are the emperor's affairs and so the ritual is conducted only under the emperor's decree." All seventeen classics with the title of Golden Register collected in the Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era ( 《正統道藏》 Zhengtong Daozang ) of the Ming Dynasty are related to royal affairs, such as begging for longevity, prolonging life, freeing captured animals, repentance, salvation, and offering Tablets ( 投簡 Toujian ). The Jade Register Ritual, conducted by marquises and kings, can strengthen the state and protect the royal family; conducted by ministers or generals, it can bless the people, pacify the country, and harmonize Yin and Yang. The common people can't conduct this ritual." The Daoist Canon of the Ming Dynasty contains about eight classics entitled Jade Registers. They often contain such words as "offering under His Majesty's decree" or praise for the emperor and empress. But the process is almost the same with that of the Jade Register Ritual. The Yellow Register Ritual is especially used for the salvation of the dead. The Jade Mirror of Numinous Treasure says, "Stars miss their track, the sun and moon lose brightness, rains last too long, the climate is in disorder, wars do not end, diseases spread, people suffer starvation, lone souls wander in a strange land, the newly dead cry of hatred. In these situations, the Yellow Register ritual, if conducted in accordance to rules, can extinguish disasters and benefit the living and the dead. Anyone from the emperor to the common man can conduct a Yellow Register ritual." The Daoist Canon contains numerous ritual classics entitled Yellow Register. Jiang Shuyu's Most High Efficient Fasting Ritual of the Yellow Register says, "The Yellow Register ritual can save seven generations of ancestors, and liberate sentient beings in the Three Ill Realms ( 三途 Santu ). So it is the greatest."
Ritual Items of Contemporary Daoism
After the Ming Dynasty, the names of Fasts and Offerings have often been used interchangeably. Many rites formerly classified as Fasts have been included in Great Offerings. With the development and change of social life, and especially since the end of the Qing dynasty, little literature about Golden Register and Jade Register rituals has appeared. Only when praying for world peace and national wealth will contemporary Daoist temples conduct Golden Register rituals. The rituals ordinary Daoists conduct usually fall in the category of Yellow Register rituals, such as the Pristine and Bright Yellow Register Ritual for Universal Salvation ( 清明普度黃籙法會 Qingming Huanglu Pudu Fahui ), etc.