Abstract

In Chinese religions, “spirit-writing” is an oracular technique that channels communication between the realm of deities and groups of devotees. Popular in 19th-century China, there is little evidence that it was particularly Daoist and that spirit-written scriptures contained in the Ming Daozang emerged directly from traditional Daoist doctrine. However, its adoption in the Qing greatly influenced the development of the religion, sparking the growth of lay practice. Beginning in the early 17th century, literati-led spirit-writing altars flourished, devoted to the immortal Lü Dongbin. Small but widespread groups centering on altars since then have represented a third facet of the religion, besides monastic and fire-dwelling Daoism. Not founded by monks or priests, these groups are lay congregations centering on spirit-writing cults to Patriarch Lü. They place strong emphasis on the personal aspect of devotion and self-cultivation through internal alchemy and other methods, commonly revealed through spirit-writing. Central to their belief structure is a shift from institutionalized to local and personal religion, opening a different path to salvation and exploring new forms of meditative processes. The compilation, production, and circulation of different editions of their texts, such as the spirit-written Lüzu quanshu, shows an association network devoted to lay Daoist spirit-writing cults not only in the main centers of Wuchang, Changzhou, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Beijing, Guangdong, and elsewhere.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1941-5524
Pages
pp. 112-133
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Open Access
No
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