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188 Grand Offering in Hong Kong LIVIA KOHN The Grand Offering (dajiao 大醮) is traditionally held once every sixty years to renew the world, pray for peace, and enhance community cohe‑ sion. An elaborate event that can last from three days to several weeks, it involves the establishment of temporary altar facilities, the participation of several Daoist troupes, the invitation of major deities, and continued ritual services with full community participation. Historically the succes‑ sor of the medieval purgation (zhai 齋), the first Grand Offering was held in 759 to pray for peace and stability after the devastation of the An Lushan rebellion. In the Song dynasty, the Offering became the main venue of public Daoist ritual, and various detailed descriptions survive from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. No major Daoist rites were held in China from 1947 to 1993, when a first Grand Offering took place at the Whilte Cloud Temple in Beijing. This was followed by a ceremony on Mount Min in Shanxi in 2001. In addition, Offerings were held in Taiwan in 1980 (Gaoxiong), 1984 (Tainan), and 1998 (Taipei, at the Lü Dongbin temple). The most recent was a Grand Offering to the Highest Heaven (luotian dajiao 羅天大醮) held in Hong Kong in November, 2007. The Hong Kong Offering The specific purpose of this Offering, which lasted for eleven days, was to pray for world peace, the harmony of yin and yang, and the cessation of all disasters, as well as to give thanks for ten years of mainland rule Kohn, “Grand Offering in Hong Kong” / 189 over Hong Kong and forty years of successful activities of the Hong Kong Taoist Association. The ceremony was sponsored by various Daoist organizations in Hong Kong and was accompanied by a lecture series, an international conference, an art exhibion, a martial arts competition as well as several concerts and book publications. It took place at the Yuen‑Yuen Institute, a Daoist center in Tsuen Wan in the southwest part of the New Territo‑ ries. The Institute, which has both resident and visitor facilities and can easily accommodate large crowds for vegetatian meals, has ample space behind its main halls. Situated auspiciously on a north‑south axis, protected in the back by gorgeous mountains and overlooking both city and ocean, the sacred space was filled with six temporary halls plus an imposing triple gate for the ceremony. The timing was auspicious as well: activities began on the fourth of the tenth lunar month (Nov. 13), the day of the traditional La Festival, and ended on the fifteenth (Nov. 24), the full moon day which was also the day of Lower Prime Festival, the last of the Three Primes of the ancient Daoist calendar. Over 400 Daoists, many of them women and including numerous lay disciples, participated in continuous ritual activities for those eleven days, with the exception of the eleventh (Nov. 20), which was considered unlucky. They came in groups of various sizes, representing Daoist insti‑ tutions and bringing their various forms of Daoist ritual and incantation to the meeting. Groups came form Hong Kong (18), mainlnad China (14), Singapore (3), Taiwan (1), Macao (1), and Hawai’i (1). Daoist Gods The Offering was dedicated to the Highest Heaven and involved the presence of numerous Daoist deities, representing the entire pantheon. They were arranged in six halls. The Three Pure Ones (Sanqing), central to the main heavens, schools, and scriptures, were placed in the main sanctuary at the far end of the sacred compound. It was the site for the most important rites, in which all different groups participated. To its right was a hall to the Jade Emperor, a popular deity adopted into the pantheon who is in charge of the celestial administration. To the left of the main sanctuary was the hall to stellar deities, such as the Dip‑ 190 / Journal of Daoist Studies 1 (2008) per, Pole Star, and Purple Tenuity. Next were two halls for divinities as‑ sociated with specific schools. On the right was the Celestial Masters Hall with an altar for Zhang Daoling. Opposite was a hall dedicated to Lü Dongbin, the Eight Immortals, as well as the founder of Complete Perfection, Wang Chongyang, and his main disciples...


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pp. 188-191
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