Origin of the Title of Chief Cantor
The Chief Cantor is the title for a type of servant in the performance of Daoist rituals. Together with the High Priest ( 高功 Gaogong ) and the Inspector of Fasts ( 監齋 Jianzhai ), the Chief Cantor is one of "the three Ritual Masters ( 法師 Fashi ) " who conduct Daoist rituals of Fasts and Offerings ( 齋醮 Zhaijiao ) together. The early Daoist rituals were fairly simple, so there was no position of Chief Cantor. The Regulations and Penalties for the Use of Lanterns and Candles in the Pervasive Mysterious Offerings ( 洞玄靈寶齋說光燭戒罰燈祝願儀 Dongxuan Lingbao Zhaishuo Guangzhu Jiefa Deng Zhuyuan Yi ) compiled by Lu Xiujing (406-477), an eminent Daoist priest of the Southern dynasties, contains the first mention of the title of Chief Cantor. After the Tang and Five dynasties, the title of Chief Cantor began to be widely used in Daoist rituals, and it is still used today. But owing to the addition of another post, that of Inverted Bell Attendant ( 侍磬 Shiqing ), the functions of the Chief Cantor have been reduced.
Position and Functions
According to the Regulations and Penalties for the Use of Lanterns and Candles in the Pervasive Mysterious Offerings, the Chief Cantor "is talented and familiar with rituals. At this post, when performing fasting rituals, the Chief Cantor leads the ritual master first and then the officials to pay homage and chant". According to the Preaching of the Commandments for Assigning Tasks During the Great Fasts of the Golden Register ( 金籙大齋補職說戒儀 Jinlu Dazhai Buzhi Shuojie Yi ) of the Tang and Five Dynasties, the Daoist priest in this position must "master and be familiar with rituals, regulate the chanting rites, and lead the group". That is to say, the Daoist priest should have a good command of the procedures of the rituals, be proficient in rituals and chanting, elaborate on and carry forward the Dao, and link up men and spirits. The Chief Cantor and the High Priest both hold the highest rank at the ritual altar.