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Sacred Songs of the Central Altar: Texts and Histories of the Ritual Master in the Religious World of Southern Taiwan

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Title:Sacred Songs of the Central Altar: Texts and Histories of the Ritual Master in the Religious World of Southern Taiwan
Authors:Flanigan, Stephen McIver
Contributors:Davis, Edward L. (advisor)
History (department)
Keywords:Asian history
Asian literature
Popular Religion
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Date Issued:2019
Publisher:University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Abstract:This study examines the ritual manuscripts used by Ritual Masters in the Táinán region of southern Táiwān and shows that the kind of lyric invocations used in this and similar traditions employ literary conventions, ritual techniques, and religious symbols that developed in tandem with the broader Ritual Master tradition during the Sòng dynasty. In turn, the specific characteristics of these lyric invocations directly express the central elements of the Ritual Master tradition, while the history of these invocations and their related texts helps illuminate the historical formation of the tradition as a whole. To account for the nature of this broader tradition and its specific manifestations, I build on an earlier generation of scholarship to argue that the Ritual Master phenomenon is best understood as a historic movement, produced by interaction among Tantric adepts, Spirit-mediums, and Daoist exorcists, and that this movement manifests in two hemispheres or domains: one I call Tantric-Popular, and one more fully Daoist. Historical inquiry shows, however, that symbols and textual developments arising from ancient Daoist exorcism directly informed the entire movement and the genre of lyric invocations that would become the basis of those used across southeastern China, including in the Mínnán littoral and its diasporic communities.
In examining the ritual world of temple religion, I argue that there is a fundamental linkage between healing rites for individuals and the cultic life of community temples, and that this essential linkage is reflected in the integrated symbols of the religious system. Moreover, the Ritual Master or Minor Rite tradition in the Mínnán littoral does not merely provide individual-oriented “minor rites” of healing, but is rather the main ritual tradition responsible for the establishment, reproduction, and maintenance of the temple cult itself, and that this role exhibits great historical depth, as fundamental elements of the Tantric-Popular Ritual Master tradition have become universally embedded within the structure of the temple-cult throughout the wider region, while certain Ritual Master rites are deemed mandatory to the establishment and maintenance of the temple-cult and its precinct.
Furthermore, the extent of Daoist integration within the networked temples of the Common Religion is overwhelmingly expressed in the general orientation of temples toward the symbols of a Daoist Heaven as experienced through the Daoist Jiào altar and its analogue, the Lord of Heaven Temple. Within a single temple’s precinct, the Ritual Master and Spirit-medium tend to predominate, but where multiple temples are joined into temple-alliance networks, rites which mobilize the entire extended network tend to be large-scale Daoist Jiào. Hence there is a direct relationship between temple precinct organizations and the performance of Daoist ritual in Táinán (and elsewhere), though previous Western scholarship of Daoism in Táinán has not taken notice of these precinct alliance networks despite their central importance.
This study also argues that in Chinese historical sources of all kinds, the terms Wū 巫 and Wū-xí 巫覡, which originally meant “Spirit-medium,” acquired a dual reference following the emergence of the Tantric-Popular Ritual Master in the Sòng, and that where historical texts of many kinds refer to both Spirit-mediums and Ritual Masters as Wū, such usage is not merely the result of confusion or conflation, but reflects the specific relationships, historical and performative, that bind these two primary ritual experts of the Common Religion together. While Tantric-Popular Ritual Masters came to be labeled as Wū in these sources, Daoists are consistently excluded from this category, which further indicates the specificity with which historical authors used these terms. From late imperial gazetteers and other sources, we can observe the cultural and geographic ubiquity of Ritual Masters and Spirit-mediums in Fújiàn and Táiwān from the Sòng dynasty and into the 20th century.
Pages/Duration:769 pages
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - History

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