Pure Offerings for the Supreme Peace

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Pure Offerings for the Supreme Peace ( 太平清醮Taiping Qingjiao ), also called Pure Offerings Assembly ( 清醮會Qingjiao Hui ), Giving Pure Offerings ( 打清醮Da Qingjiao ), and Pure Auspicious Offerings ( 清吉醮Qingji Jiao ), have the function of protecting the peace of the area. The ritual was once widespread in many areas all over the country, especially Sichuan, Fujian and Guangdong. Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, which have the same customs as other areas of the motherland such as Guangdong and Fujian, are areas where Pure Offerings for the Supreme Peace prevail today.

Pure Offerings for the Supreme Peace are a kind of large-scale Offering Ritual with strong local features, funded by local people and held by invited Daoists. Often they are held by a regional unit such as a village or town. Because Chinese extended families usually live together, the ritual is tinted with a color of family activity. The ritual is presided by invited Daoist priests. It lasts three or five days. As a large-scale religious and family activity requiring a great expense and a long time for fundraising, it is held once every 10, 20 or even 30 years in one area.

Pure Offerings for the Supreme Peace, including Daoist rituals and folk activities to please the deities, have been a part of folk custom. As a large-scale ritual, Pure Offerings for the Supreme Peace are actually an assemblage of many rituals. They often include all kinds of sacrificing rituals, competition fairs, universal salvation, rites for sending away the god of plague ( 送瘟神Song Wenshen ), etc. Every ritual contains many parts. Let's take the Offering Ritual as an example. While always centering on the big temple of the Earth Spirit or an important deity, it invites all the Immortals, Buddhas and local deities in the area into the ritual. Often invoked are the Motherly Matriarch ( 媽祖Mazu ), Guanyin ( 觀音Guanyin ), Emperor Guan ( 關帝Guandi ), the City God ( 城隍Chenghuang ), the Earth Spirit ( 土地Tudi ), etc. First the ritual masters entice the deities, lifting the images or symbols of the deities into the divine tent. Besides setting up the altar, offering petitions, recitation and repentance, the main rites also include the salvation of lone souls, and sending away the God of Plague on prepared colorful ships cast adrift into the sea or a river after the ritual. Moreover, the ritual is often accompanied by such activities as setting lives free and floating lotus lanterns. During the ritual period, as a rule, operas are played all night from the eve before the ritual till its ending. The plays mainly entertain the deities, and also the people. The operas, being familiar to the audience and played till late night, are not often followed by many people. But it doesn't influence the actors' performances. To embody Heaven's virtue of loving life, killing is forbidden during the ritual period. Meanwhile, carrying excrement is forbidden, for fear that the smell would offend the spirits flying by in the heavens. In some areas, to protect the security of the whole area, Daoists first set up altars, recite scriptures, prostrate in temples, then empty water rice along the streets as food for souls and present numinous talismans to each family. The Pure Offering Ritual for the Supreme Peace is entirely aimed at pacifying the area, dispelling misfortune, and begging for auspicious blessings. Some books examine the ritual in combination with ancient exorcism rituals ( 儺禮Nuo Li ). The Zhongjiang County Annal says, "In March of the spring season, towns and villages all hold exorcism rituals called Pure Offering Rituals for the Supreme Peace." So the ritual is related to ancient exorcism rituals aiming to exorcise the ghosts of plague and evil spirits, and protect the security of the area. At least, they are the same kind of activity. Therefore, they have a strong folk flavour.

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