Daoism beyond China

Daoism beyond China

Often you can read everywhere about China as a main cultural center of Asia from which culture of other countries originates. Ancient China is regarded as major source of culture, inventions, philosophy,  architecture, science, system of governance and beliefs in Asia same as ancient Greece and Rome were for Europe. Not only via Silk Road but via sea trade China was expanding its influence in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Asia. Also China was open for foreign influence too mostly during Han and Tang dynasties in terms of commodities, foreign migrants, clothing, religion and cuisine. Furthermore China was influencing culture, state system, beliefs, tradition and science of Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Chinese merchants in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia were spreading their influence in terms of culture too.

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But it is often spoken about  influence culture,  trade, political system, science, philosophy, Buddhism and literature what I wrote in chapters about history. It is rarely spoken about presence and influence of Daoism a spiritual philosophy of Chinese people in Asia and in other countries. So lets review it today in which forms Daoism exists in different countries.

 

Daoism in Vietnam

For long period of its history Vietnam had strong ties with imperial China. During some period whole Vietnam was under Chinese dominance and at least its northern parts for even longer period. Vietnam was tributary state of China until 1885 and had to pay tribute and acknowledge supremacy of China. Despite often wars in history between China and Vietnam China left great influence on Vietnamese culture, state system,  architecture, language, customs, clothing, philosophy and beliefs. In 11th century Vietnam established similar state system and examinations based on Confucianism. Chan Buddhism entered Vietnam from China and got new local name- Thien Buddhism. Daoism and Chinese folk religion as inseparable part of Chinese culture and philosophy left great influence on culture, philosophy and folk religion in Vietnam. Daoism entered Vietnam during Tang dynasty peacefully and was gaining more influence on Vietnamese folk religion. In 11th century King Ly Nhan Tong of Ly dynasty incorporated Daoism in state service examinations what was in China since Tang dynasty. Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were 3 official teachings in Vietnam same as in China. With Qing dynasty and fall of imperial China Daoist influence was weakening. Daoism in Vietnam doesn’t exist in its pure and official form today but it left definite influence in todays perception of life, folk religion and martial arts of Vietnam.

tao viet
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/448741550347202795/

Daoist principles are present in minds and hearts of Vietnamese people both in cities and villages. There is only one Daoist temple in Hanoi. In Buddhist temples in Vietnam you can see yin yang same as in traditional houses. Yin Yang is definitely important concept in Vietnamese philosophy and religion in relations to nature, balance, harmony, human relations and universe. Ancestral worship, myths, exorcism and rituals are deeply under influence of Daoism. Daoist values  such as simplicity, patience and compassion are also deeply present in Vietnamese folk religion as well as closeness to nature. Still in temples and home shrines in Vietnam there are present deities and mythological beings which originate from Daoism. Mostly worshipped gods in Vietnam are gods of nature( fire, water, earth), Jade Emperor, Guanyin( Quan Am in Vietnam), Budai or Fat Buddha( Bo Dai in Vietnamese) and other. In Vietnamese mythology dragons, phoenixes, qilins and turtles are present as well. Legendary sovereign Shen Nong is present under name of Than Nong. Chinese mythological monkey king Sun Wukong is present in Vietnamese mythology under name Ton Ngo Kong. Mazu a Chinese goddess of sailors and fishermen is popular in Vietnam under name Thien Hau. Vuong Mau is a Vietnamese name for Xiwangmu( Queen Mother of the West) one of oldest Chinese goddesses. However Vietnamese mythology has some other figures which are not present in Daoism such as  4 immortals and 12 midwives but probably their concept is combination of Vietnamese original beliefs and Daoism. Daoism was also inspiration for many Vietnamese poets and writers. In Vietnamese version of Chan( Zen) Buddhism known as Thien principles of Daoism are present.

 

Mountains in Vietnamese folk religion also play an important role like in Daoism and Chinese folk religion where they present bridge between Heaven and Earth. Therefore there are several sacred mountains like in China with temples. People in Vietnam come to mountains as pilgrims to worship Heaven, worship deities, pray for balance and good fortune. Most sacred mountain in Vietnam is Yen Tu on which top legendarily a Daoist scholar turned into rock and achieved immortality.

Various festivals and holidays of Vietnam are interrelated to those Chinese which are linked with Daoism. Most famous Vietnamese holiday is Tet which is name for Spring Festival or lunar New Year in Vietnam.  Tet is celebrated similarly like in China with a lot of  lanterns and dances of dragons and lions. It has same zodiac signs as Chinese but instead of rabbit there is cat in Vietnamese version.

Except that Daoist teaching served as basis for Cao Dai a Vietnamese institutionalized religion established in 1926.  Instead of term Dao there is concept of Highest Power which can be seen as equivalent to Dao. It incorporates concept of Daoist virtues, Yin Yang for explaining universe, nature and balance. Among Caodaist deities are Guanyin and Jade Emperor.

Cao-Dai-Temple
Cao Dai Temple, https://vietnamculturaltours.com/cultural-tours/religions/taoism-in-vietnam.html

Martial arts in Vietnam are also under influence of Chinese Daoist martial arts from Wudang. Tai Chi is widely popular in Vietnam. Many people practice it every morning in Vietnamese cities. There are also a lot of Tai Chi clubs. In Vietnam there are local martial arts such as Bin Dinh which incorporate concepts of Yin Yang and balance between mind and body.

Martial-arts1
https://tourguide.edu.vn/student-tours/martial-arts.html

 

Daoism in Korea

China during history also had great influence in Korea in terms of culture, political system, education,  tradition, clothing, architecture, philosophy and religion. Korean Gogureyo, Baekje and Silla Kingdoms and later Goreyo and Joseon Kingdoms often fought wars against Chinese empire. During Han dynasty almost whole Korea was under Chinese dominance but in later centuries Korean Kingdoms often had tributary status and recognized supremacy of China until 1895. Despite often conflicts cultural exchange was great. Besides culture and export of Chan Buddhism ( Seon in Korea) Daoism also left significant impact in Korea.

korean flag explained
Korean flag explained, http://www.koreansentry.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4597

With founding of Tang dynasty at beginning of 7th century Daoism was becoming again popular in China. Emperor Gaozu of Tang dynasty sent Daoist scholars to Gogureyo Kingdom who brought Dao De Jing and Zhuangtzu. Gogureyo King favored Daoism and built a lot of Daoist temples. Moreover Daoism was during 7th century popular among elite of Korean Gogureyo. During Tang dynasty Baekje Kingdom didn’t spread Daoism much while it was popular in Silla Kingdom. Silla Kingdom in 8th century introduced Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism as major teachings for royal examinations on example of China. Silla sent its scholars to China to study Daoism. Elite armed forces of Silla were trained under Daoist principles. During Goreyo Kingdom Daoism was very popular with rising number of temples, priests and followers. King Yejong( reign 1105-1125) was most interested Goreyo King in Daoism from all of them.

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Daoist murals next to Buddhist ones in Korean Buddhist Temple, http://koreamosaic.net/PhotosHTML/CountryPhotos/Korea/k_buddhistOther.htm

With arrival of Neoconfucianism, Mongols and later Ming dynasty Daoism started to decline in Korea. Ming court wasn’t open anymore for promoting Chinese culture abroad and Confucianism dominated in China and in Korea too. Neoconfucianism served as great tool for keeping stability and strict rule of dynasty in Joseon Kingdom.  Still between 16th and 18th centuries there were intellectuals who were interested in Daoism and also hermits who lived in temples in mountains and practiced inner alchemy, meditation and martial arts. There was famous master Blue Crane from 17th century who left a lot of scripts on meditation, immortality, harmony with nature and balance between mind and body. Most of intellectuals interested in Daoism were marginalized by Korean court and Confucian scholars thus Daoism was dying out during 19th century. Confucianism and Seon Buddhism were predominating Korean society of 19th century. Several apocalyptic movements similar to Taiping in China incorporated some Daoist ideas during late 19th and early 20th century. With imposed Japanese dominance from 1895 and total occupation between 1910 and 1945 Daoism and Confucianism were in decline. Japan tried to completely marginalize Korean culture and establish complete dominance in all spheres of life of Koreans. By late 19th century and early 20th Christian evangelist missionaries contributed to demonization of Korean tradition and Daoism.

Only in second half of 20th century Daoism experiences partial revival in Korea. In 1967 was established Korean Daoist Association. Not many Koreans call themselves Daoists today but Daoism has important place in culture, perception of life and Korean folk beliefs( Shindo a way of gods). Shindo is combination of shamanic practices, Daoist concepts, Korean mythology and Korean and Daoist view on the world. Among core concepts here is Taegeuk or Taiji( in Chinese) a supreme ultimate. It has meaning of supreme balance between nature, beings, mind and body, elements and cycles. Taegeuk is so important that it is on Korean national flag since end of 19th century. It is today on flag of South Korea and it has 4 trigrams around Yin Yang which symbolize heaven, sun( fire), moon( water) and earth. Except Taegeuk in Korean Shindo dominates idea of qi energy and sacredness of mountains. Both in Korean shamanism and Korean Daoism like in original Daoism mountains are sacred bridges between Heaven and Earth and great sources of qi energy. Many mountains were places of worship for centuries and centuries. Today mountains in Korea are widely visited because of hobby in hiking but also because of spiritual feelings and belief that visiting mountain will bring balance to your mind and body. Mountains of Korea have a lot of Buddhist and few Daoist temples. However there are a lot of cliffs and caves with Daoist inscriptions where Daoist hermits lived in past. Today trend of Daoist hermits going and staying at mountains for long time is in revival together with revival of Daoism in Korea.  There are also a small groups of people who go on occasional Daoist retreat in mountains. They mostly practice meditation, martial arts and relax in nature. When it comes to priests there are not many Daoist priests in Korea today but there are many shamans both in cities and villages who also practice Daoist teachings. Shamans practice worships, rituals and exorcism.

When it comes to deities and spirits there are hundreds of them in Korea.  Except those local and who originate from Shindo there are Daoist ones such as Three Purities, Guanyin( in Korea Gwan Eum), Jade Emperor( Hwanin) and Queen Mother of the West( in China Xiwangmu and Korea Seowangmo).  Among bigger Korean holidays such as Lunar New Year there is a lot of Chinese and Daoist influence. Korean zodiac is same as Chinese one.  Korean martial arts are also under Daoist influence like in case of China and Vietnam. For example most famous Korean martial art Taekwondo contains word Do( Dao, a Way or principle). In poetry of Korea during history Daoism also played significant role.

korean mount

http://koreamosaic.net/PhotosHTML/CountryPhotos/Korea/k_buddhistOther.htm

In case of North Korea it is hard to say how much Daoism remained since state forbids religion. But question is how much Daoism plays role in lives and thoughts of ordinary people.

Daoism in Japan

Even when Japan was never officially a tributary of China it largely adopted Chinese culture and state apparatus through history. During Tang dynasty Japan sent many scholars and politicians to learn from Chinese example. Japan adopted Chinese system of governance, a lot of cultural norms, clothing and religious beliefs. Daoism wasn’t accepted as official teaching but was highly respected and many of its values and concepts were incorporated in Japanese culture, beliefs, martial arts and perception of life. Japan often sent during history scholars to China to study Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism.  During most of history Daoism had great impact on painting and poetry of Japan. It had some influence on Japanese folk religion Shinto. Some concepts in Shinto were upgraded with Daoist perceptions, concepts, values, rituals and practices. Talismans , ancestral worship, meditation, balance with nature, exorcism and worship on sacred mountains are common things shared by Daoism and Shinto. On basis of Daoism, Shinto and Buddhism was created small religious teaching known as Shugendo which focuses on mountain retreats and meditation. Daoist concept of hard and soft in martial arts was incorporated in Japanese martial arts as well such as Karate, Aikido and other. Today in Japan there are very few Daoist temples.  In Japan deities such as Guanyin, Budai( Hotei) and Queen Mother of the West( Seiobo) are also common.

 Sakado_Xientengong_Honden_1

Daoism in Singapore

Population of Singapore is composed of 74% Han Chinese, 13 Malays and 10% Indians. 30 years ago about 30% of population considered themselves as Daoists. Today this number is about 12% while Buddhists count about 35%, Muslims 15%, Christians 18% and Hindus 5% and irreligious 18%. This decline in Daoism is seen as result of unclear distinction between Daoism and Buddhism in Singapore which are very similar and some people can follow both teachings. Many people who practice Buddhism are actually inspired by Daoist principles what is case in China too. Also there was rise in atheism in Singapore.

Singapore-Yu-Huang-Gong_6

http://www.ghettosingapore.com/singapore-yu-huang-gong-former-keng-teck-whay/

There is a Daoist Association of Singapore and Daoist College. In Singapore there are about 500 Daoist temples devoted to different Daoist deities. Usual Daoist deities are worshipped in Singapore like in China. Various rituals, celebrations, customs  and talisman writing are practiced. Most of Daoist teaching in Singapore is based on Zhengyi Dao sect. Except 3 Purities, Guanyin and Budai( Maitreya in Chinese Buddhism and Daoist god of luck and wealth) in Singapore are popular Mazu( goddess guardian  of sailors), Ji Gong( god of luck and joy) and Guan Yu( god of war, guardian of property and house). Daoist martial arts are also popular in Singapore such as Tai Chi. Large number of people practices Tai Chi with different purposes. Daoist priests are serving their communities with rituals and consecrations, offering fortune telling and exorcism, guiding celebrations and teaching martial arts.

Daoism in Malaysia

Daoists count only 2% of all religions in Malaysia where Islam predominates( 60%) and followed by Buddhism( 30%). Because of large number of Chinese inhabitants in Malaysia there are many Buddhists and Daoists. It is considered that a lot of those who consider themselves as Buddhists practice Daoist principles too or both. Zhengyi Dao is dominant school of Daoism in Malaysia and influences rituals, exorcism, celebrations and martial arts.  Local folk beliefs and superstitions influenced Daoist practices in this country.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyBwHOpfXMc

Daoism in Indonesia

In Indonesia Buddhists compose less than 1% of population while Muslims 87%. Daoists classify themselves as Buddhists since Daoism isn’t officially recognized as religion in Indonesia. Most of Daoists and Buddhists here have mixed beliefs between two teachings.

In Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore Daoism arrived with Chinese settlers who came as merchants during imperial China,

 

Daoism in Europe, Americas and Australia

Takes minor place in these continents as official teaching but its aspects attract quite  a lot of people. Qi Gong clubs, Tai Chi clubs and associations and meditation clubs exist in Europe, Americas and Australia. There are at least thousands of fans and exercisers Tai Chi and Qi Gong in these continents. Many of them function as independent exercisers. This is primarily practiced as source of relaxation and alternative to modern lifestyle but more rarely as source of spiritual inspiration. Moreover Traditional Chinese Medicine is quite popular in Western world. Daoist books especially Dao De Qing and Zhuangtzu are important subject of study among fans of philosophy and academics and were translated into many languages. Among those interested not only in philosophical side but in spiritual side of Daoism Yi Jing is popular for reading and studying. When it comes to Daoist official associations there are few of them in South America, USA and Europe. In Europe most famous are in UK, Germany, Italy and France. In USA, Brazil, UK, Germany, Italy and France there are few newly established Daoist temples where typical Daoist deities are worshipped. In general speaking these associations do not have more than between few hundreds and few thousand followers. These associations focus on practice of Daoism in its full specter. In Europe only recognized by Chinese Daoist Association is Daoist Association of Italy. There is also an European Daoist Association seated in Germany which soon will be recognized by Chinese Daoist Association.

europe dao
http://european-daoist-association.com/dao%20temple/index.html

Sources:

http://www.indonesiamatters.com/3778/taoism/

https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Taoism%20in%20Malaysia

http://www.vietnam-culture.com/articles-108-16/Taoism.aspx

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/japanese-taoism.html

file:///C:/Users/Danilo/Downloads/Taoism-Korean-Mnts.pdf

https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Taoism%20in%20Korea&item_type=topic

https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Taoism%20in%20Singapore&item_type=topic

https://wallpaperscraft.com/download/yin-yang_stones_earth_symbol_harmony_76585/3840×2160

Roots of Daoism( Dao before Daoism)

Roots of Daoism( Dao before Daoism)

Nobody knows whats before Dao actually neither how Dao appeared. But Dao as a term was coined by Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu is often seen as founder of Daoism but it is particularly true only. Lao Tzu actually did systematized different Daoist ideas, principles and values and named them Dao. However even when Dao as term was used large Daoist movement didn’t exist for almost 700 years since Lao Tzu until Way of Celestial Masters was founded. It was first organized Daoist movement. These stories are often mentioned but what about Daoism before Lao Tzu? Daoism actually existed but it wasn’t called like that until Lao Tzu. It can be seen as pre Daoist teaching or part of proto Chinese folk religion.

Most of these initial Daoist concepts were used, broadened and further explained by Lao Tzu. So basically they existed much before Lao Tzu but were not put under term Dao. It is usually spoken today about Lao Tzu and development of Daoism after Lao Tzu and until today. But lets review how pre Daoism looked like.

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Beginnings and Sources

It is really hard to search for traces of Daoism as they originate from prehistoric period and are linked to Chinese proto religion. Chinese proto religion actually still exists today in form of Chinese folk religion and Daoism.  In past times before even Xia dynasty people mostly believed in natural forces and worshipped them.

When it comes to peoples beliefs they were mostly related to worshiping nature and living in harmony with nature. Worship of nature, sun, moon, heaven, earth and worship of ancestors was common. They celebrated Lunar New Year too. People believed that nature is source of everything what comes whether its good or bad and in that order they believed that they have to worship it. Many things during that time depended on nature such as harvests and nature could produce good weather, little rain but also cold or too hot weather and storms. Basically such system of beliefs is considered as shamanism. This was mostly developing in areas of Yangtze and Hoanghe rivers where Chinese civilization was born. Together with cultivation of crops, irrigation and pottery  system of beliefs was developing too.  In todays Henan, Hunan, Sichuan and Shandong was found evidence of carvings of various symbols such as heaven, earth, sun, moon and carvings of some legendary beings. Also about 8000 years old jade dragon figure was excavated.

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Yi Jing hexagrams,  https://www.flickr.com/photos/lcisa/4537374715

Oldest written source of proto Daoism is Yi Jing what literally can be translated as Book of Changes. Yi Jing is first Chinese book of divination and one of oldest Chinese classics. There are explained concepts of Yin Yang, balance, harmony, Bagua, worship, static and dynamic in nature and  cycles of changes. Book gives guidance how to use these concepts in worship. It is basis of Chinese proto religion, Daoism and folk religion of Chinese people. Yi Jing contains important ideas which were later used in Dao de jing, Zhuangtzu, Daozang, various other Daoist and folk religion books and in creation of Taiji Quan. It is considered that book dates from 10th century BC according to oldest found versions on bamboo slips and inscriptions on bronze. Legendarily author is regarded as Fu Xi a legendary figure and First Emperor in Chinese mythology. But actually according to legend he lived at least 1000 years earlier than oldest discovered versions of Yi Jing. Other scholars believe that real author of Yi Jing is King Wen of Zhou a father of founder of Zhou dynasty. King Wen of Zhou is seen as great cosmologist and creator of different concepts of Yin Yang than that one by Fu Xi. Yi Jing served as main religious book during Western and Eastern Zhou dynasties or in other words during Spring and Autumn Period and also during Warring States Period.

Concepts 

Already mentioned in other chapters but lets remind basic concepts..

Wuji and Taiji

Wuji represents constant stillness, non changes and statics. Second is Taiji which is translated as supreme ultimate. It is something that  constantly changes, moves, circles and is constantly flexible. Taiji is constant change of day and night, winter and summer, spring and autumn, good and bad, flowing water, rain and sun,  beautiful and ugly, new and old, love and hate…It is considered that Taiji is name for all relative things and that nothing is absolute that there is thin line between all contrary things.  Wuji and Taiji together give a Yin Yang which symbolizes contradictious harmony. Daoists today still believe that all things in nature, in life and in world exist in harmony even when they are contrary to each other and thus make good balance. Simply Yin Yang is also a depiction of concept of growth and waning. Simply both concepts Wuji and Taiji were widely used by Lao Tzu and other new formed Daoist movements. Taiji concept served as basis for establishment Taiji Quan, a major Daoist martial art.

5 Elements or Wu Xing.

Is another pre Daoist concept which involves Wood, Metal, Fire, Earth and Water. Each of these elements has its qualities and some interaction which can be positive or negative. Positive one is- Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates ashes on Earth, Earth has Metals, Metal collects Water and Water supports growth of Wood. Negative one is- Wood creates cracks on Earth, Earth absorbs Water, Water extinguishes Fire, Fire melts Metal and Metal chops Wood. This is how in ancient times harmony between elements and interactions were explained. Such concept is still widely used in Daoism and traditional medicine.

5 ele

Qi

It  is very important pre Daoist concept. It is life energy which circulates through our bodies which can be felt and distributed by breathing in and out and with different moves from Qi Gong and Taiji. Qi is considered as strongest force in body which is important for connection between mind and body, physical and psychical well being and self control. Qi is considered as bodily reflection of universe and thus must be in balance on basis of yin yang. Qi is human manifestation of yin and yang in mind and body.  Heaven and Earth and static and dynamic. As you probably already know Qi concept was used since ancient times in Qi Gong breathing and body movement exercises. Controlling and moving Qi is point also of Daoist meditation and Taiji.  Focus on Qi was common during sexual intercourse.

Yin Yang

Yin Yang is definitely core concept in Chinese proto religion as well as in todays Daoism and folk religion of Chinese people. It is often considered as oldest concept of world of Chinese people which dates from prehistoric period. Real origin of this concept is unknown. Simply yin yang can be described as polarity that holds universe in balance and is composed of one static or passive side and one dynamic and active.

According to oldest concepts of  Yin Yang Heaven is seen as dynamic and flexible and Earth as static and rigid and they create perfect balance in nature. They  are considered as supreme contradictory and harmonized poles. Lets just imagine all interactions between Heaven and Earth- rain, snow, sunny weather, day, night, light or dark. It shows us really which pole is active and which passive in this interaction. Nature is seen as manifestation of interaction between Heaven and Earth.  It is believed that humans also exist in this energetic field which are created by these two forces Heaven and Earth.  Therefore humans should pray and worship these forces in order to regulate these two energies on their own behalf.  Humans should look to find balance within own minds and bodies by navigating qi energy. Between these two supreme poles there is water which mediates and can be both active and passive as we know that water can be in form of river, lake or ice. Mountains are often seen as connections between Heaven and Earth and therefore people in China go there to pray for both energies and for better balance between Heaven and Earth believing it will affect their inner balance of qi energy. That’s reason why mountains are sacred for Chinese people. Another manifestation of Yin Yang is seen in mountains and rivers. Here mountains represent rigidity, static and passivity while rivers present flexibility, dynamic and activity. Therefore mountains and water are seen as perfect example of Yin Yang together with Heaven and Earth.  It is believed that Yin and Yang are everywhere and in everyone.  Yin and Yang is seen as manifestation of Dao or path, what was proposed by Lao Tzu much later.

Bagua

According to Yi Jing core concept around Yin Yang is Bagua. It includes 8 concepts which present the reality- Wuji is one, Taiji is two, Yin Yang 3 and other are hexagrams of different cycles and concepts which relate to smaller or younger yin and bigger  or old yin( Moon is absolute yin) and  to smaller or younger yang and bigger or older yang(Sun absolute yang).  In total there are 64 hexagrams of changes, cycles, statics and dynamics. Bagua is simply so important that it represents functioning of world, statics, dynamics, natural cycles and so on.

There is Primordial Bagua known as Earlier Heaven. These are its components:

  • Heaven- South, Summer, Father, Creative, Expansive energy
  • Wind- Southwest, Summer, Eldest daughter, Gentle, flexibility,
  • Water- West, Autumn, Middle son, Abyss, River, Moon
  • Mountain- Northwest, Autumn, Youngest son, Still, Immovability
  • Earth- North, Winter, Mother, Receptive, Receptive energy
  • Thunder- Northeast, Winter, Eldest son, Arousing, Excitation,
  • Fire- East, Spring, Middle daughter, clinging, Rapid, Sun
  • Lake- Southeast, Spring, Youngest daughter, Joys, Satisfaction
yin yang
Primordial Bagua

This Bagua is oldest concept of universe in ancient China. It dates approximately from Neolithic period and was widely used during Xia and Shang dynasties.  Traditionally this Primordial Bagua is called  Bagua of Fu Xi as according to legends Fu Xi created this concept. Primordial Bagua represents perfect balance between nature, humans and universe. It is state of pure harmony This Primordial Bagua is still used today in temples, rituals, making talismans, exorcism and in burial ceremonies. Because this Primordial Bagua depicts perfect balance of contradictory forces it is used in prayers, talismans and similar things in order to call it out and bring order and harmony.

By end of Shang dynasty with rise house of Zhou appeared Manifested Bagua or Later Heaven. It is also a Bagua of King Wen who is considered as important author of Yi Jing.  Manifested Bagua is more complicated and is differently positioned and includes animals and colors. It is actually Bagua of constant interaction between elements, humans, beings, phenomena and Heaven and Earth.

manifested bagua yin yang
http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/Chinese_Customs/bagua.htm

In this Bagua disbalance and disharmony is also possible. There are constant interactions in this concept of Bagua. Manifested Bagua is used in Feng Shui compassing for construction of buildings, astrology and traditional medicine. So basically both concepts of Bagua are important and present binary existence of universe.

Manifested Bagua chart 1

Manifested bagua 2

Deities

As mentioned before Chinese folk beliefs, Daoism and Chan Buddhism have about 1000 deities all together. Not all deities are same today as they were few thousand years ago. Before forming a Way of Celestial Masters in 2nd century CE there were already hundreds of deities. First supernatural beings of Chinese people were spirits which lived everywhere in nature. First deities were animal like and most worshipped being was dragon. Major dragons were 4 Dragons of Cardinal Directions and 4 Seas. It is really hard to determine when first dragons were worshipped but probably they date from Neolithic period of Chinese civilization. There were worshipped gods of rain, sun, moon, earth, heaven and other.  Oldest, most famous and most important deities and legendary figures   in proto Daoism were 3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors.

3 Sovereigns are:

  • Fu Xi- is probably most important Chinese deity of past together with Nu Wa. Traditionally is believed that he lived around 3000BC for 200 years. It was believed that he is creator of humans, marriage, hunting and fishery.   It was believed also that he had body of snake and face of human.  Legendarily he lived in Kunlun mountains. He isn’t worshipped today anymore but is considered as legendary hero.
  • Nuwa- is a sister of Fuxi with body of snake and head of human. She assisted Fu Xi in creating humanity from clay. She is also not worshipped today.  Nu Wa is seen as completely equal to Fu Xi from which roots equality of male and female in Daoism.
  • Shen Nong- is a first completely human deity. He is considered to be a first legendary doctor and herbalist. Legendarily Shennong is creator of tea, Chinese medicine and agriculture. Regarded as legendary hero today not worshipped.
Fuxi-scroll-painting
Fu Xi,  http://www.zeigua.com/iching/iching_fuxi.html

5 Emperors  are considered as successors of 3 Sovereigns. Yellow Emperor( Huangdi)- Legendarily he lived in 2600ies and 2500ies BC. He is considered as creator of Chinese civilization, inventions, state and Chinese culture. Legendarily Yellow Emperor was sent from Heaven to govern on Earth. Idea of emperor as Son of Heaven comes from this concept.  He is rarely worshipped today, but shrines devoted to him exist. Traditionally his successors were Emperor Zhuanxu, Emperor Shun, Emperor Yao and Emperor Kun. They are considered as legendary figures who ruled Chinese lands until approximately 2100BC when Xia dynasty was established. According to legends all 5 emperors were responsible in establishing governance system, hierarch, ruled justly and bravely fought wars. Also they cared about harvests of people what was basis for later Mandate of Heaven what was basis for legitimacy of Chinese rulers from Zhou dynasty ( 771BC) until 1912.  It is likely that they were figures who in legendary stories described transition from Neolithic society to feudal one. There is possibility that they really existed maybe not holding this names and tittles but that they were rulers of different clans and tribes between Hoanghe and Yangtze who were establishing statehood and feudal system. They are not usually worshipped but several temples are devoted to them. According to legend Yu the Great a founder of Xia dynasty is their descendant. Bamboo Annals and Records of Grand Historian are primary sources about these legends.

Jade Emperor

Parallel with 3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors there was developing legend of Jade Emperor. He is oldest still worshipped deity of Chinese people. He is often not related much to 3 Sovereigns but is separate legend. In some stories he is creator of people by clay in others he is human manifestation of universe and ruler of cosmos, Heaven and Earth. Unlike  5 Emperors Jade Emperor governs on Heaven in heavenly palace and is coordinating rain, sun, spring, summer, winter, thunder and responsible for holding balance between Heaven and Earth. After Lao Tzu he is regarded as manifestation of Dao. Daoists during Warring States Period and Han dynasty widely worshipped him. Jade Emperor reincarnated into Yuanshi Tianzun one of Three Purities which were defined during Han dynasty. Jade Emperor is still widely worshipped independently or as reincarnation in shape of Yuanshi Tianzun. He was since legendary stories more considered as superhuman and divine as he was ruler in Heaven and 5 Emperors on Earth and thus that can be reason why was venerated by Daoists and worshipped till today. 5 Emperors were considered as ordinary rulers and part of history in past while Jade Emperor as powerful deity for strength and good luck.

Queen Mother of the West or Xiwangmu

Is one of oldest Chinese humanlike deities.  She is regarded as goddess of life and immortality.  Queen Mother was regarded as deity living in peach orchards in paradise on western Kunlun mountains.  According to legend prior to her humanlike appearance she was spirit of mountain who looked like half leopard half human.  Queen Mother of the West was cultivating garden of peace with rare plants and flowers and sacred peach trees. Peach tree is symbol of immortality. In legends she was teacher of Yu the Great a founder of Xia dynasty. Also some accounts say that King Mu of Zhou dynasty met with her. During Warring States Period  and Han dynasty Daoist movements frequently worshipped her. In systematization  of pantheon by Way of Celestial Masters she was regarded as  one of core Daoist deities. Today she is still worshipped. Queen Mother of the West attributes were incorporated in Guanyin a goddess which was venerated later. Guanyin is often seen as incarnation of Queen Mother of the West. During Shang dynasty existed female pre Daoist deity known as Cihang Zhenren. Some Daoists consider Guanyin as incarnation of Cihang Zhenren too.

 

queen_mother_of_the_west_liang_yuanjiang
https://thinkingmystic.wordpress.com/tag/queen-mother-of-the-west/

Practices

Before Way of Celestial Masters only smaller and disunited Daoist sects existed. Prior to them were independent shamans called as Wu in ancient China. They practiced communication with spirits and deities and worshipped them. Also they practiced meditation and fortune telling. Some sects lived isolated life in mountains and practiced meditation, qi gong and searched for balance with nature.  Other sects lived in towns and villages and practiced prayers and worships, rituals, consecrating objects, guiding people in rituals, creating talismans, traditional medicine, fortune telling and astrology. But also they practiced retreats to nature where they meditated and did qi gong exercises. In rituals music from drums and bells, fire and smoke of incense were present.  Tea and fruits were given to deities as gifts. Together with all this sacrifice of humans and animals was performed as gift to deities. Human sacrifice of prisoners and slaves was common during Xia and Shang dynasties. First King of Zhou dynast abolished human sacrifice as he considered it too cruel and allowed only animal sacrifice. Also since Zhou dynasty priests from capital city participated in annual Worship of Heaven with emperor. Ancestral worship was common as well.

dao chant
Daoist chanting has  roots much before official Daoism, http://daoistgate.com/music-chanting/

Sources

https://www.thoughtco.com/the-shamanic-origins-of-taoism-3182893

http://taoist-sorcery.blogspot.rs/2014/01/the-power-of-bagua.html

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/Chinese_Customs/bagua.htm

http://www.ancient.eu/Jade_Emperor/

https://www.thoughtco.com/chinas-three-sovereigns-and-five-emperors-195258  

cover photo source- http://leadershipbyvirtue.blogspot.rs/2014/04/dao-de-jing.html

Chinese Folk Beliefs,Practices and Superstitions

Chinese Folk  Beliefs,Practices and Superstitions

China is so big and diverse so its beliefs and religious customs are. As you probably know China didn’t have and doesn’t have official religion. Therefore China was great country for development of various religions and teachings such as Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. In various areas different teachings were influencing life and beliefs of people but mostly Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

incense burning
source: https://mediadiversified.org/2013/11/14/photo-gallery-taiwan-through-the-lens-of-the-people/11-prayers-and-incense-offered-at-longshan-temple-both-buddhist-and-taoist-by-benedict-young/

 

Around 70% of Chinese claim that they are no religious  but they are not atheists in European terms. Most of them do not believe in one god but in some higher power, energy, power of nature, several gods, spirits , reincarnation and karma. Various beliefs , superstitions and ethical principles are part of their tradition, culture and spirituality.   Most of them respect Taoist or Buddhist traditions and often do worships. It is according to preference of people which teaching influences them more.  Some of them inherit it from ancestors while others can choose according to their preference whether they find themselves more familiar to Taoist or Buddhist beliefs. Many of them worship ancestors what is Confucian tradition and have some Confucian ethical beliefs such as importance of education, respect of family, self-achievement and respect of elders. For example one my Chinese friend founds himself more as a Taoist and goes to temple few times per year. Another of mine Chinese acquaintance finds Buddhism more close to him than Taoism, wears chaplets and occasionally goes to temple while his mother is declaring herself as Buddhist.

home shrine
typical home shrine

These 70% are often said to belong Chinese folk religion what is combination of all different Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian beliefs, teachings principles and customs. To this category belong also most of party and government officials and even army officers. Those who identify themselves as Taoists are either Taoist priests or those who are registered at Chinese Taoist Association and mostly follow Taoist beliefs. Same is applicable for Buddhists in China. Those who are not members of any official groups are considered as followers of folk or traditional religion and they vary between those more related to Taoism or Buddhism and those who are following some principles of all these teachings. Chinese folk religion is not  only created as influence by Taoism and Buddhism but folk beliefs influenced creation of Taoism, You will see many similar concepts in folk religion and Taoism.

Chinese folk religion has many names in China and most common is shenjiao what means religion of spirits.

talisman
Fulu or Talisman, http://taoisttalisman.blogspot.rs/2006/

Shenjiao doesn’t have single source neither one founder. It is collection of different beliefs, forms and rituals. Various legends,  Yi Jing, Daodejing, Daozang and Zhuangtzu are major sources of Chinese folk beliefs. Things which Shenjiao has in common across all China are below:

Tian(Heaven)- as major cosmic  and transcendent force often seen as source of creation, interaction and changes. Heaven worship is one of oldest and still present worships among people. People pray to Heaven for good harvest, success at job, health, stable family, fertility and love.

heaven worp
Worshipping Heaven in Temple of Heaven is performed again

Qi- life energy which circulates through our bodies which can be felt and distributed by breathing in and out and with different moves from Qi Gong and Taiji. Qi is considered as strongest force in body which is important for connection between mind and body, physical and psychical well being and self control. Qi is considered as bodily reflection of universe and thus must be in balance on basis of yin yang. Qi is human manifestation of yin and yang in mind and body.  Heaven and Earth and static and dynamic.

 

Jingzu– ancestor worship as Chinese people consider that ancestral spirits deserve respect and attention. Many houses have little shrines with tablets with written names of ancestors or photos of ancestors. People offer them incense, food and fake money as they believe that ancestors need money in spiritual realm too. They pray for well being of ancestors and ask them for blessings.

burning money
In Beijing people burn fake money for Chinese New Year as offering for ancestors, http://www.goodorient.com/blog/?p=481

Ming Yun and Yuan Fen- Ming Yun is personal destiny. It is belief that it is given condition to a being in this world. It is considered as circumstance and choice thus isn’t completely fixed but is flexible as well. Yuan Fen is fateful coincidence what relates to positive and negative chances and potential relationships.  Correlation of both sides creates one owns harmony and his harmony with other people and nature.  It is considered that if something on surface appears as good or bad when it is deeper researched it can be found how it shapes destiny and life. It is considered that destiny isn’t completely fixed neither is completely in hands of  individual but is created by moves and decisions of individual within some frame.  Here is important concept of Wu  which is actually ones own awareness to his/her destiny and possibilities and it produces his/her responsibility towards oneself and others.

fortune teller
Chinese fortune teller, http://www.goodorient.com/blog/?p=481

Wu Wei is one of most famous Taoist concepts often important in folk religion too. It literally means non-action. Taoists believe that life is series of spontaneous changes and that we should take effortless action or action without action. It is often hard to interpret what they actually meant by it but I can try to interpret it on basis of some Taoist interpretations. It can be considered as not attaching too much into your emotions or actions since they can be non-permanent but can be permanent too. By non attaching it can be considered to enjoy them but if something bad happens contrary to your expectations to continue your way and to rise after the fall not to stay overinvolved and than suffer when you lost something. Also it of course calls for making efforts in private or professional life for achieving your goals but to be flexible with them to change goals or adapt to other circumstances that may unexpectedly appear. It can be said that you can do your best but not to go beyond borders which can disturb your balance and make you damage. It is important to know what are your limits and to try carefully to go beyond them but if it doesn’t go like that than to accept it and go further. You never have to exaggerate and exhaust yourself and bother with something that you cannot change and not to blame yourself when you didn’t achieve something.

Yin and Yang which I often mentioned before. In roots these two words mean shady and sunny. Simply yin yang can be described as polarity that holds universe in balance and is composed of one static or passive side and one dynamic and active.  This concept existed before Taoism but also was expanded in Taoism in following manner- Wuji represents constant stillness, non changes and statics. Second is Taiji which is translated as supreme ultimate. It is something that  constantly changes, moves, circles and is constantly flexible. Taiji is constant change of day and night, winter and summer, spring and autumn, good and bad, flowing water, rain and sun,  beautiful and ugly, new and old, love and hate…It is considered that Taiji is name for all relative things and that nothing is absolute that there is thin line between all contrary things.  Wuji and Taiji together give a Yin Yang which symbolizes contradictious harmony. Taoists believe that all things in nature, in life and in world exist in harmony even when they are contrary to each other and thus make good balance. Simply Yin Yang is also a depiction of concept of growth and waning.  With development of duality Tian( Heaven) is often not seen as completely supreme but as being in harmony with Di( Earth). Thus Heaven is seen as dynamic and flexible and Earth as static and rigid and they create perfect balance in nature. They  are considered as supreme contradictory and harmonized poles. Lets just imagine all interactions between Heaven and Earth- rain, snow, sunny weather, day, night, light or dark. It shows us really which pole is active and which passive in this interaction. Nature is seen as manifestation of interaction between Heaven and Earth.  It is believed that humans also exist in this energetic field which are created by these two forces Heaven and Earth.  Therefore humans should pray and worship these forces in order to regulate these two energies on their own behalf.  Humans should look to find balance within own minds and bodies by navigating qi energy. Between these two supreme poles there is water which mediates and can be both active and passive as we know that water can be in form of river, lake or ice. Mountains are often seen as connections between Heaven and Earth and therefore people in China go there to pray for both energies and for better balance between Heaven and Earth believing it will affect their inner balance of qi energy. That’s reason why mountains are sacred for Chinese people. Another manifestation of Yin Yang is seen in mountains and rivers. Here mountains represent rigidity, static and passivity while rivers present flexibility, dynamic and activity. Therefore mountains and water are seen as perfect example of Yin Yang together with Heaven and Earth.  It is believed that Yin and Yang are everywhere and in everyone.  Yin and Yang is seen as manifestation of Dao or path.

yin yang

Gods and spirits

Spirits and Gods in Chinese Folk Religion count up to 1000. Not all of them are worshipped today neither all people worship same deities or spirits. Initially most of them were spirits of nature such as sun, moon, stream, lake, mountains, woods and so on. Various mythological beings such as dragons were worshipped. Later these shamanic beliefs transferred to human like deities.  It is believed that humans are not completely inferior to spiritual forces and dities but that they can actively engage with them in order to shape their destinies.

When it is about deities people personally choose which deities they prefer and can set small home altar based from smaller or bigger figures of deities that they respect.  They can combine both Buddhist or Taoist deities but that doesn’t determine whether their beliefs are more Taoist or Buddhist.  Custom is to worship deities by giving them fruits and tea in front of altar twice a month and burn 3 incense sticks twice a day. However not all people do the same some do it more often some more rare. While they pray they believe that incense smoke will reach Heaven or deities and make your prayers heard. Except praying and offerings they often wear beads or pendants( of some deity).

Jade Emperor

Considered as one of first humanlike Chinese gods and first manifestation of Dao in shape of human. He is considered to be god of strength and success and therefore often worshipped. He is among 5 most popular Chinese deities today. Jade Emperor originates from pre Daoist beliefs.

jade emp
source below,

Guanyin-   goddess of compassion, fertility and guardian of women and children. She is worshipped at least since Han dynasty when Buddhism arrived to China. Daoists believe that she is incarnation of Queen Mother of the West( originates a long ago before Daoism) or incarnation of Cihang Zhenren( a pre Daoist deity from Shang dynasty). Buddhists consider her as female incarnation of Avalokitesvara a Buddhist deity of same mission. She is among most popular Chinese deities today.

Guanyin poster room 3

3 Pure Ones-   Daoist trinity of 3 supreme gods- Yuanshi Tianzun( Lord of Primordial Beginning)  considered as manifestation of Jade Emperor, Lingbao Tianzun( a supreme pure one who considered as manifestation of Yin Yang ) and Taishang Laojun( a deification of Lao Tzu). They are definitely among most frequently worshipped Chinese gods and Jade Emperor is mostly worshipped together as member of 3 Pure Ones in form of Yuanshi Tianzun. Lao Tzu is only worshipped in his divine manifestation of Taishang Laojun as member of 3 Pure Ones. They are mostly worshipped for balance, good fortune and family happiness. This concept of 3 Pure Ones was defined during Han dynasty mostly by Way of Celestial Masters.

3 pure ones

https://www.thoughtco.com/the-three-purities-of-taoism-3182932

Caishen- god of wealth, one of oldest Chinese deities

Amituofo- a Buddha from Pure Land, if people chant his name believe will be reborn in Pure Land where it is easier to achieve enlightenment.

Milafo- Maitreya Buddha depicted as fat laughing bald man. He is god of wealth, prosperity and luck. He is worshipped at least since 10th century and is one of most important Chinese deities today.

8 Immortals- 8 Taoist mythological beings and each of them helps in different sphere of life.

Ji Gong– a god of luck and joy.  Believed to be one of Buddhist Arhats. Ji Gong is worshipped since 13th century.Ji Gong is worshipped both among Daoists and Buddhists.

Wenshou or Manjushri- a Buddhist deity of wisdom and is widely worshipped in China. Worshipped  at least since arrival of Buddhism to China.

Di Zang or Ksitigarbha- a Buddhist deity widely worshipped in China. Ksitigarbha is a guardian in hell with mission to relief from suffering those who are in hell. Worshipped since at least arrival of Buddhism to China.

Xiwangmu(Queen Mother of the West)- a queen of Kunlunshan a mountain where fictionally paradise exists. She is goddess of immortality and is still quite frequently worshipped.

Mazu- Goddess guardian of sailors and fishermen, believed to be incarnation of Guanyin.

Jiutian Xuannu- goddess of sexuality, war and longevity.

4 Dragons- Gods of 4 directions, Black Dragon, Red Dragon, White Dragon and Purple Dragon.

Guan Yu- god of war and guardian of property, worshipped at least since 3rd century.

There are much more of Chinese gods, deities and spirits.

Chinese folk religion isn’t systematized teaching neither single institution with hierarchy. It is often composed of rural or urban self-taught teachers and priests who can teach some of their students as well. All of this is mostly on unofficial level.  They usually act as feng shui advisors, fortune tellers, astrologists, cosmologists, healers and consecrators. All this is allowed and legal until they act irrationally when they propose extremist or apocalyptic beliefs or lie to people.  Those people are usually called fashi what means magician. Fashi are on lower rank than Daoshi( Daoist priest) and must be ordained by Daoist priest to perform rituals. Magicians can perform some exorcism rituals, make fortune telling, healing,  perform rituals on some festivals, consecrate house, calculate feng shui of objects and give business advices.

lotus hungry ghost
Hungry ghost festival, https://www.thoughtco.com/hungry-ghosts-449825
daoist-ritual
Daoist ritual, http://sevenmountainskungfu.com/tao-lu-kata/

Magicians can also act as medians between humans and spirits. Both in cities and villages many constructors still ask fashi for advice about best position for new construction in order to have a balance in nature. Higher Daoshi priests are higher educated Daoist priests who perform more complex rituals related to burial, birth, marriage, festivals, making talismans, cleaning house or objects from evil spirits. They can communicate on higher level than fashi with spirits, deities and ancestors.

lion dance
Lion dance for Spring Festival, http://arhiva.dalje.com/en/foto.php?id=19&rbr=20354&idrf=850356
mazu bday
Mazu Birthday ceremony, https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/npr/128672542/china-s-leaders-harness-folk-religion-for-their-aims

Superstitions 

There are really much more than many of them and vary by region. Some of them are:

  • Red is color of luck and thus must be worn during New Year day and on wedding day in order to attract good fortune for next year and for marriage.
  • Number 4 should be avoided since it reminds on pronunciation of death.
  • 8, 5 and 9 are considered as lucky numbers.
  • Nails shouldn’t be cut after midnight as noise of cutting them can be heard by ghosts.
  • Newborn for the first month shouldn’t be praised neither birth should be celebrated in order not to attract evil spirits.
  • Day before New Year house should be cleaned during New Year shouldn’t in order to avoid cleaning of good luck.
  • Front part of new house should never face North.
  • If a baby cries without stopping in night it is believed it hears or sees ghosts.
  • Turtle shouldn’t be kept as pet as it is believed it will bring slow progress in the family.
  • If dog barks during night for too long it is believed that someone died somewhere.
  • Relationship between partners with age difference 3 or 6 years should be avoided as it is believed it will bring bad luck.
  • While eating noodles they shouldn’t be cut since it is believed that noodles length symbolizes longevity.

 

mystics china
mystics in Rural China, https://fstoppers.com/portraits/series-captures-ethereal-mysticism-chinese-lunar-new-year-festival-9427

 

Similar concepts of folk beliefs and practices exist in Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.

Some used sources:

https://popculture.knoji.com/15-top-chinese-superstitions/

http://www.religionfacts.com/chinese-religion/practices

https://fstoppers.com/portraits/series-captures-ethereal-mysticism-chinese-lunar-new-year-festival-9427 source of cover photo

Dragon Boat Festival- ancient legend and todays customs!

Dragon Boat Festival- ancient legend and todays customs!

Legend says that festival is held since at least 278BC when Qu Yuan a famous Chinese poet committed suicide because of love of his country. He was poet, politician, idealist and diplomat. He served in state of Chu during Warring States Period. It happened when Chu  state was defeated by Qin state.  After that Qu Yuan understood that his state is about to collapse and he didn’t want to be captured neither to serve others. Therefore Qu Yuan took stone and jumped into Miluo river( todays Hunan province).  Today he is referred as real patriot and is admired.

qun yuan
Qun Yuan and search of his body,

Legend goes that villagers came on boats trying to save Qu Yuan but it was too late. In order to protect his body from fishes and evil spirits villagers came back with zongzi( dumplings filled with rice) and were throwing them into water so fishes and evil spirits wouldn’t eat his body. Also they were beating the drums and splashing water with paddles in order to chase spirits. Still they were racing around river to find his body but unsuccessfully. One night Qu Yuans his spirit appeared in front of his friends and he told them that they must throw every year zongzis in order to calm the dragon of the river. Since that time his day is celebrated as Dragon Boat Festival which is also known as Poets Day.

Dragon Boat Festival falls on 5th day of 5th lunar month and this year it is 30th May of 2017.  It is celebrated in various parts of China but also in Korea and Vietnam. These special boats have a shape of the dragon. There are 3 functions of its use during festival/ ceremonial, commemorative and competitive. So one of most important actions on this festival are Dragon races. People get into dragon shaped boats and race. They race in terms of ceremony and showing respect to the dragon a most important mythological being of China. Also they commemorate event of searching Qu Yuans body like it was more than 2000 years ago. Since end of 1970ies race became a competition too as kind of sport competition and thus became even more popular.

dragon boat bj

Crew is composed of paddlers, drummer and sweep.  Paddlers logically have job to move the boat while drummer beats the drums in order to guide frequency and synchronize movements of paddlers. Also drummers function is symbolic since it more than 2000 years ago each boat had a drummer in order to chase evil spirits from Qu Yuans body.  Sweep is today usually professional coach and is responsible for managing direction of boat and taking care of safety of the whole crew, Each boat has the same crew composition.

boats

Before the race there are various worships of gods and of dragon. Symbolically often two paper roosters are put on boat as it is believed that they protect the crew.

fenghuang

Festival is much more than race and it includes other customs related to worship and pray for better fortune. Still since ancient times on this day people hang calamus and wormwood on the door frames because of pleasant aroma. Prior function was not only because of aroma but because of belief to chase away evil spirits. Today it is still practiced in order to attract good luck and have pleasant aroma. People used to put perfume pouches on that day in their pocket. Perfume pouche is a small cloth bag stuffed with herbs and flower petals which make pleasant smell. Primary use of this small bags is attracting good fortune.  In past it was a must but today it is still often practiced is a wearing five color bracelet. Usually children wear it since sunrise of the Dragon Boat Festival. Bracelet has red, yellow, black, green and white colors for different 5 mysterious powers which are supposed to chase away 5 misfortunes. Usually they are supposed to wear it until first rain after Dragon Boat and than throw it away.

 

dragon boat meal
Zongzi, source:

As an every festival in China rich cuisine is part of Dragon Boat http://young.hyundai.com/magazine/campus/detail.do?seq=12363Festival too. Among various Chinese meals most important is Zongzi a special dumplings with rice filling wrapped in bamboo leafs. During Spring and Autumn Period( 771BC-476BC) it served exclusively for worshiping deities and ancestors and was put in their altars.  Zongzi were thrown into water in order to feed fishes and evil spirits while searching for Qu Yuan. Since that day people eat Zongzi on that festival. Drinking strong wine is also typical on Dragon Boat Festival as on many Chinese occasions it is typical on this one too.

In rural China there are even more specific beliefs related to this festival. One of such customs is bathing in herbs. People boil specific herbs in water and than they take a bath in that water with belief that this herbs protect their health.  Also in rural China people at noon go to pick herbs in mountain believing that they have special healing power on this day. Most of village people take a shot of wine for a healthy day on Dragon Boat Festival. After the race in rural China many people wash their faces with river or sea water in order to wash away misfortune.

ENjoy China 😉

source of cover image

http://www.newportccc.com/chinesetradition.html

Colorful ethnic diversity of China- just imagine!!!

Colorful ethnic diversity of China- just imagine!!!

 

China is much more ethnically diverse than you could imagine. In total there are 56 different ethnicities living in China. Not counting foreign expats and students but just citizens of China. Chinese people are too broad term and it includes all ethnic groups including majority one. When we speak about Chinese people we mostly refer to Han people a majority population which counts 90% of total population of China. Most of history, culture, tradition, cuisine, customs and religion that I wrote so far is related to this people majority population of China.  They are largest ethnic group in world. Even Han people are very diverse in terms of traditions, language, cuisine, customs and clothing across all China. Chinese people say for China Zhonguo what means middle land or middle kingdom. Chinese people is said in Chinese Zhonguoren what mostly refers to all Chinese people not just Han but ethnic minorities.A lso there is term known as Zhonghua minzu which means Chinese nation which includes all ethnicities too. Hanzu refers only to Han majority population.  Han people counts for about 1 billion. When it comes to language Chinese language is said in Chinese Hanyi or Zhongwen and it is language of the Han people but is official language of China. Official language is Mandarin Chinese or Putonghua in Chinese. It is one of two standardized versions of Chinese. Mandarin is official in all China except in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong official standardized language is Cantonese. Mandarin was used by bureaucrats and officials during imperial China while ordinary people spoke regional dialects. Later it was imposed as obligatory  and official language so all people could learn and speak one dialect and communicate easier. But in provinces are spoken many unstandardized dialects in unofficial communication. Only in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou regional dialect is standardized which is known as Cantonese.  Mandarin itself has many dialects and subdialects determined by province and smaller areas than province but are informal. There are other dialects sucha sGuan, Wu, Min, Yue, Haka and Xiang.  All of them have regional variations.

China_linguistic_map
languages of China
ethnic-groups-05
ethnic groups of China, http://www.nouahsark.com/img/ethnic-groups/ethnic-groups-map.php

There are 55 other ethnic groups of China which have unique language, customs, clothing, cuisine and beliefs. Some are more or less influenced by majority Han culture and customs and traditions. So as far as you know a lot from my writings and will know about Han people now it is time to write shortly about 55 minorities. They enjoy equal rights as majority Han population.  They can use own languages in some local administration, their children can attend school in native language but they learn Mandarin Chinese too. During one child policy between 1978 and 2015 they could have two children. Also they get different benefits such as smaller quota for entering universities.  In past most of minorities  were regionalized in particular areas and provinces but today they move to cities and different parts of China.  Some still stay indigenous in their home region in villages or towns. Yunnan province is home to most minorities there live 25 different ethnic groups and 16 million of them.  Lets review all

Zhuang–  ethnic group of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. There are almost 20 million of them and they were farmers traditionally. Now they live in various cities too. When it comes to beliefs they believe in animism, totemism and accepted Taoism partially. They have own language.

Manchu–  originate from Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning province. Their language belongs to Tungustic languages. In past they mostly held shamanistic beliefs while today most of them are followers of Tibetan Buddhism or Taoism. Twice they held big parts of China during  governance of Jin dynasty and during Qing they controlled all China.

Uighur- Turkic ethnic group with Islamic faith. They mostly live in Xinjiang autonomous region.

Mongol- traditionally were nomads and today they mostly live in Inner Mongolia autonomous region. During Yuan dynasty they governed all China. Most of them are followers of Tibetan Buddhism but still practice shamanic rituals.

Tibetan- mostly live in Tibetan autonomous region and on smaller scale in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan. Believe in Tibetan Buddhism but also in indigenous Bon practices.
Miao- mainly live in Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan, Hubei and Guangxi region. Most famous for handicrafts and colorful dance. They believe that everything in nature has spirit and they worship nature.

Nu or Mosuo- live near Lugu lake in Yunnan province. Live traditionally and is only ethnicity in world where matriarchate still exists. Women can have several lovers and children inherit their lineage. Mostly believe in natural worship while some believe in Taoism or Tibetan Buddhism.

Achang– live in Yunnan province and are famous as rice cultivators. Mostly believe in Buddhism and Taoism.

Bai- live in Yunnan, are good in arts and crafts and mostly follow natural worships and Buddhism.

Blang- still practice folk beliefs and mostly live nearby Dali in Yunnan province. Most of them are farmers.

Bonan- Their language descends from Mongolian. They are Muslims and are one of smallest ethnic groups in China and there are only 16 000 of them. They live in Gansu province mostly.

Boueyi– Live mostly in Guizhou province. They worship various deities of nature and believe in some Taoist beliefs too.

Chaoxia- are Koreans. Traditionally migrated from Korean peninsula to Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning province. Today live also in other parts of China. Some of them hold folk beliefs similar to Han, follow Taoism or Buddhism. Some of them are Christians.

Dai– Live  in Yunnan province mostly and are ancestors of Thai people which migrated to todays Thailand. It is actually Chinese name for Thai people. Most of them are Buddhists. Famous for sending some children to temples to learn ethics there.

Daur- A descendants of Khitan Mongols. Considerably small group.

Deang– Subgroup of Dai people in Yunnan and Buddhists.

 

chinese-ethnic-minorities-650
ethnic groups http://www.chinadiscovery.com/ethnic-minority-culture-tour/ethnic-minorities-in-china.html

 

Dong- They live in Hunan, Guizhou and Hubei. Still mostly live in villages and believe in spirits of nature.  Are similar to Zhuang people.

Dongxiang- Mostly live in Xinjiang and speak Mongolic language. A lot of them are Muslims. Are famous for sheepbreeding.

Dulong- language similar to Tibetan and mostly live in Tibet. Believe in spirits of nature.   One of smallest ethnic groups in China there are a bit more than 7000 of them.

Ewenki- live in Inner Mongolia. Mostly busy with cattlekeeping. Are traditional horse riders.  Still practice shamanism.

Gaoshan- mostly live in Chinese Taiwan, Zhejiang and Fujian. Belong to Malay-Indonesian origin. Mostly believe in spirits and wizardry but also there is impact of Taoism on their life.

Gelao- Live in Guizhou, Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang. Mostly live from agriculture. Believe in ancestral and natural spirits.

Gin- Mostly live in Guangxi Zhuang. Their language is similar to Vietnamese. When it comes to beliefs most of them follow Taoism and folk beliefs.

Hani- Live in Tibet mostly and are focused on agriculture. Believe in ancestral and natural spirits.

Hezhen- mostly live in Heilongjiang province. They are of Mongolic origin. Still practice shamanism.

Hui- are of Han origins but Islamized Han. Except Chinese they use some Arab and Persian which was inherited together with Islam during large trade during Tang dynasty. Majority of them lives in Ningxia autonomous region but they also live in almost every part of China.

 

 

 

 

Jingpo- mainly live in Yunnan and are famous for arts and crafts. Believe in shamanic ideas.

Jino- Live in Yunnan mostly famous for rice cultivation and animistic beliefs.

Kazakh- originate from neighboring Kazakhstan, believe in Islam and mostly live in Xinjiang.

Kyrgiz- originate from neighboring Kyrgistan, believe in Islam and mostly live in Xinjaing.

Lahu- mostly believe in Buddhism and live in Yunnan. Are of Burmese origin.

Lisu- Live in Sichuan and Yunnan. Are of Burmese origin and believe in animism.

Li- mostly live in Hainan. Famous for commerce. Belive in natural spirits.

Luoba–  live in Tibet and believe in spirits.

Maonan-  live in Guangxi region, famous for agriculture and follow Taoism.

Monba- live in Tibet and follow Buddhism. Famous for textile production.

Mulao- often work with rice and live in Guangxi. Practice folk beliefs, Taoism and Buddhism.

Naxi-  live in Yunnan. Traditionally famous as farmers and for very colorful traditional music and dance. Have folk spiritual beliefs but also there is some influence of Taoism and Buddhism.

Oroqen–  are of Manchu origin and live in Inner Mongolia. Mostly practice shamanism famous for hunting and boat building.

Pumi- most of them live in Sichuan and Qinghai. They practice Buddhism and Taoism.

Qiang- famous for handicrafts. Live in Sichuan mostly and believe in natural spirits.

Russians- originate from Russia mostly live in Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang. Unlike Russian expats they have Chinese citizenship. Mostly believe in Orthodox Christianity.

Salar- are of Turkic origin live in Qinghai, Gansu and Xinjiang. Famous for colorful dances and nice music. Most are Muslims.

She–  Most are famous for agriculture and music. Live in Fujian, Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangxi and Guangdong.  Mostly believe in natural and ancestral spirits.

Shui-  live in Guizhou province and most famous for making crafts and in arts. Believe in natural spirits.

Tajiks- are of Persian origin and mostly live in Xinjiang. Are Muslims.

Tatars– are of Turkic origin and mostly live in Xinjiang. Are Muslims.

Tu- mostly live in Qinghai and Gansu provinces. Are famous for very colorful traditional clothing. Most are Taoists and Buddhists.

Tujia- mostly live in Sichuan, Hunan, Henan and Hubei. Are Taoists and  Buddhists.

Uzbeks- are of Turkic origin and are Muslims. Mostly live in Xinjiang. Traditionally were good merchants

Wa- are of Khmer origin and mostly live in Yunnan. Traditionally were famous for agriculture. Most are Buddhists.

Xibe-  are of Tungustic origin. Live in Xinjiang, Jilin and Liaoning. Are Taoists and Buddhists.

Yao-  mostly live in Guangxi Zhuang, Yunnan, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hunan and Jiangxi. Believe in natural spirits and follow Taoism.

Yi- mostly live in Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang. Mostly were famous as farmers. Most believe in indigenous magic and Buddhism.

Yugur-  are of Mongolic origin. Mostly live in Gansu and are Buddhists.

ENjoy China 😉

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUrLAFXAB3k  video summary with all 56 ethnic groups and women in traditional costumes

 

 

Sources  https://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/nationality/56list.htm

Martial arts of China- Schools, History, Classifications and Characteristics + BONUS

Martial arts of China- Schools, History, Classifications and Characteristics + BONUS

Martial arts in China are not just Kung Fu movies about Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.  It is not just about Bruce Lee beating Chuck Norris in Colosseum also it is not just about Jackie Chan running and fighting gangsters in streets of Hong Kong or running  away  across buildings in Istanbul, New York or LA. It is not so simple as it seems and it is not just Kung Fu and only one temple- The Shaolin that are mostly mentioned. Those who practice martial arts know more about it. If you are interested in Chinese martial arts read this guide. First of all martial arts are not just a fight but a way of life. It is way of strengthening your mind and body, your character, discipline. They strengthen you both physically and psychically learn you how to stay tough be flexible and handle daily situations. Maybe it seems strange but I have personal experience and with more practicing and being disciplined you become disciplined, careful, tolerant and flexible in your life. That is like this because behind every martial arts style and techniques there is life philosophy that teaches you to be better person, be honest,  respect nature and other people and live in harmony with them, stay in tune and relaxed and  to defend your principles and do good.

Now I will tell you main division of martial arts in China.  Kung Fu isn’t specific martial art style.And term Kung Fu is related to any art and  relates to anything that needs devotion, patience, self-discipline, honor, strengthening mind and body finding peace and relaxing.  But mostly word Kung Fu is related to martial arts that require mentioned qualities. Another word that relates to martial arts is wu shu. Both Kung Fu and wu shu aren’t specific martial arts all Chinese martial arts are considered as some kind of Kung Fu or Wu Shu. So there is main division in martial arts in China according to few criteria: External/Internal, and  Buddhist/Taoist. Each style depends on particular philosophical teaching and region where it originates.

So lets start from the oldest one. Oldest one is Shaolin Kung Fu School.  It is whole set of different martial arts styles based on Buddhist teaching and external focus.  Shaolin Kung Fu originates since 5th  century in Shaolin Temple at Mountain Songshan( Henan Province). Bodhidarma is the founder of this school the same person that brought Buddhism to China. He is also founder of Chan ( Zen) Buddhism. Shaolin Kung Fu is focused on developing your external force skills. It teaches you strong discipline, focus on your mind and transferring your internal energy into external. Due to this Shaolin Kung Fu learners and masters can with right focus and power of mind break bricks with hands, break wooden sticks over each others heads and meditate on rocks for many hours while snow falls on them. Most of monks are slim but are very tough and have great abilities to stand various challenges and survive in combat. Their teaching doesn’t allow to use force first until it is necessary. Through the history Shaolin monks used it to combat robbers in order to protect temples and villages. Monks in other Buddhist temples formed sects that was hard to enter in order keep secret and quality of Shaolin Kung Fu. It was quite spreading to the south as warrior monks were invited to fight against pirates on the sea. Today there are many secular private teachers of Shaolin Kung Fu styles across China. But only most capable and most honest and compassionate can enter Shaolin Sect to practice Kung Fu there. In Shaolin Temple there is also possibility for foreigners to come to learn Kung Fu.   Shaolin Kung Fu has many styles that have developed across China but mostly in Southern areas. Most famous and most original is Shaolingquan- Fist of Shaolin. This one is oldest and most demanding styles that is taught only in Shaolin. Among most famous styles is 5 Animal Style that includes Tiger, Crane, Leopard, Snake and Dragon. There are special categories of moves that remind on each of 5 animals. However there are separated styles of each of these animals. For example only Tiger style, Dragon style, Snake style, Leopard style and Crane style and each is related to only 1 animal. Also within Shaolin Kung Fu there are other animal styles as separate forms: Bear,   Mantis, Monkey, Horse, Deer, Scorpion, Turtle, Crocodile, Panther, Swallow, Black Tiger,  Elephant Lizard, Hawk, Wolf, Lion, Frog, Eagle and some other.  Many of these styles are quite rare and it is very hard to find them today. Except animal forms there are Plum Blossom Fist, Arhat Style and Drunken Style. Today very famous and available in other countries is Wing Chun style.

Shaolin Warriors

Another school of Chinese Kung Fu is Wudang Kung Fu School. It originates from Wudang Mountain located in Hubei province. Wudang Kung Fu is set of Taoist internal or soft forms. In mysterious, remote and foggy Wudang Mountains since 13th century have been developing martial arts based on Taoism. Taoists from both Zhengyi and Quanzhen sects formed Wudang Sect that started practicing martial arts. The founder of Wudang Sect is Zhang Sanfeng. I already wrote before how he discovered Tai Chi. Tai Chi Quan is full name of basic and founding Wudang style. Its literate translation is supreme ultimate fist. If you have read my previous texts about Taoism you will understand following.Taoists consider that humans should live in harmony with themselves and with nature to respect all beings- plants and animals and to respect sky, sun and moon. Taoists believe that you should be powerful like water, to breach any barrier, constantly flow further towards your way and leaving worries far behind you. They say that power is in softness and their quote is- “bamboo that is bending is stronger than oak that is firmly standing” It means be flexible but still. All this concepts are embodied in Tai Chi In Taoist terms practicing tai chi develops peaceful but still mind, circulates your own qi( life energy) within your body in order to make balance between mind and body. That is achieved by awareness of yourself by strictly coordinated movements which must be very soft but very accurate. At the same time you have to know when to move which leg , whether to put one arm above to the right or another one down to the left or vice versa and whether to breath in or breath out. Each technique requires strict accuracy and starts with breathing in and ends with breathing out. Breaths and movements of body make your energy circulate which harmonizes   your mind and body and increases awareness of yourself and your place in nature. That is why this is considered as soft style and internal. As focus is on your own energy flow( from breath to other parts of your body) and on each of your moves which are soft in nature but you stand hardly and firmly.  Zhang Sanfeng used to say following:

Breathing Out –

Touching the Root of Heaven,

One’s heart opens;

The Dragon slips by like water..

Breathing In –

Standing on the Root of Earth,

One’s heart is still and deep;

The Tiger’s claw cannot be moved.

As you see Tai Chi is based both on softness and firmness but core is internal force. f you have read previous posts about Taoism you can easily understand how Tai Chi is connected to the Taoist teaching. Members of Wudang Sect saw it as continuation of following the Dao( Way) and harmonizing with nature.  As it is based on Taoist teaching except softness on one side and slow moves on another there is hardness and fast moves. Each of Tai Chi techniques can be done also very fast with very accurate moves but very fast. In such way it can be used in self-defense and fight. Both versions are equally taught on Wudang but basis is soft one. If you don’t know the soft and slow one then fast cant be applied easily. Point is that when you are attacked you should use same moves but fast but accurately and move faster then enemy avoid or block his strikes. You should circle around fastly but accurately like water avoiding barriers. When enemy gets tired you block his strikes and then strike fast and hard and defeat him. Also on Wudang there was created Tai Chi Jian what literally means supreme ultimate sword. It is very similar art as Tai Chi but instead of hands and fist swords are used also in slow and fast way both for harmonizing and for fighting. Also there is version of Tai Chi where you use spear as primary weapon.

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taoist on snow

On snow

Except Tai Chi other Wudang styles are: Tai Yi Quan, Xingyiquan, Xuanwu Quan(. Wudang Quan. Fuhu Quan, Baijiquan( hard one) and Baguazhang( an art where you mostly use palms both in slow and soft  but also in fast and hard form). With all these knowledge Wudang Sect kept its secrets and lived in mountains and learnt new followers their arts. Only those who proved that they share all Taoist virtues such as patience, , kindness and simplicity where accepted in sect.  Women were also accepted there. Main form was Sanfeng Style oldest style of Tai Chi that includes 13 forms that together compose around 60 moves. They led isolated lives( but many of them married with local village women) and they learnt except martial arts, meditation, qi gong, Chinese natural medicine, learnt to recite old Taoist scripts and share kindness and wisdom around.  Today there is currently 15th or 16th generation of Sanfeng Tai Chi masters that keeps lineage and tradition. There are some foreigners in that lineage too. Today Wudangshan is quite commercialized as they intend to attract fans of martial arts in order to show them real traditional life of Taoist monks and their exercising. They offer short staying and shorter exercising which can cost you around 300-400$ for few days( food,accommodation and training included). Also there is long term staying between one and 3 years and whole year costs around 4000$( including accommodation, food and training). It requires for you to have desired virtues and there is strong discipline.

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Beyond Wudang Tai Chi was spreading to other parts of China especially to the north.  Other 5 styles were created on concept of Sanfeng Style.  First one that appeared is Chen style. It was developed by  inhabitant of village who was surnamed Chen in XVII century in Henan province. It isn’t sure where he learnt Sanfeng style and modified it. Chen style has 108 movements. His family continued his tradition and Chen sect is first sect  and school of Tai Chi that wasn’t ordained as monastic. It is quite widespread today and its masters continue lineage of family Chen whether they have that surname or not. It has both slow and fast versions and uses of weapons. It can  be found today in foreign countries moderately often.

After Chen style in 1820s was founded next family style- Yang Style. Yang Lu Chan was a student of Chen Zhang in Chens village in Henan. Later Yang Lu Chan modified and created his own style and passed it to his sons.  Ancestors of Yang Lu Chan still hold this tradition in teaching Tai Chi. Today this style is most famous one and most widespread style and it be learn in almost any country in world.  There are most schools that are licensed by holders of lineage of Yang style to teach this style.  Most of people that you can see in parks or most of clubs teaching abroad are teaching Yang Style.

Another style that appeared from Yang sect is Wu Hao style. It is least popular and there is very little information about it. It is almost extinct and it is mostly focused on slow moves.

Another style that appeared is Wu style. Wu style was founded in Beijing by former student of Yang style Wu Quanyou.  Wu style was founded in 1870. Wu Quanyou was military officer in imperial army. He was ordered by emperor to teach his soldiers  Tai chi in order both to relax and harmonize but also to use it in combat. So Wu style is very good set of 108 moves that can be used slowly and softly but also in combat if you do moves very fast and firmly. Wu family heritage isn’t only in surname but in knowledge of this amazing style. It is moderately widespread today  in China. Some of them are held by members of Wu family or by holders of generation of masters with different surname. Except in China Wu schools exist in Australia, USA, Greece, France, Canada, Poland, Germany and maybe some other country. These schools are licensed by Wu family and its masters are listed in generation of masters.  Descendants of Wu Quanyou teach in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Canada. This style is very interesting and specific. I have chosen to learn this style because it offers both soft  and slow but also and firm and fast versions, isn’t too widespread ,isn’t too available,  isn’t too famous and commercialized what makes it unique and still mysterious and weapons can be used as well.  I currently know 30  moves and I think its sufficient for me both to relax and balance but also to defend myself. In my opinion you need between 20 and 30 moves of  Wu style Tai Chi for proper relaxation, improving concentration and for defense. I do it quite often few times per day including both versions. But also sometimes I use sword while doing Wu style Tai Chi.

Wu style 1

Last founded style is Sun style. It was founded in 1920 by Sun Lutang who was taught by teachers of Wu Hao style that was still not that rare. This style is less famous then other styles.

Emei sect-  Emei Sect was a Buddhist sect that formed third school of Chinese Kung Fu. So next to the Shaolin and Wudang Kung Fu there is Emei Kung Fu as well.  Emeishan mountain in Sichuan province was place where Taoist monks lived. They firstly developed martial arts that were based on Taoist teachings.  When Buddhism started to appear in China many Buddhist monks came to Emeishan. They brought their teachings and skills of Shaolin Kung Fu.  In the area were many robbers so in order to defend themselves both Buddhist and Taoists combined their skills in order for better defense of temples. Later on this mountain Buddhists predominated but basis of Taoist martial arts stayed as well. So Emei Kung Fu school is combination of Taoist and Buddhist teachings and techniques as well.  Main styles of Emei Kung Fu are Emei fist( Emeiquan) and Monkey style. Monkey style was created as inspiration of main inhabitants of mountain- monkeys.  Emei school was widespread nearby Mount Emei and its styles were taught in temples in Chengdu. Also they were taught by secular family teachers. Today this school is almost extinct. It can be found somewhere in Sichuan. But existence of Emei sect still remains a mystery, do they still exist? Are they among regular monks of Mount Emei? Is someone who still knows almost disappeared Monkey Style? I will go there and search one day.

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BONUS information Sacred mountains of China!

Probably you have already seen often mentioning mountains sacredness and their spiritual meaning. Have you ever wondered why?! Here is the answer mountains were sacred  since very ancient times since about 3000 years BC. Mountains have been perceived with awe and big respect. In ancient understanding that Heaven and Earth are two contradictory but balanced sides mountains are seen as bridges between two and best place to gain energy from both balanced sides. Many kings and emperors went to specific mountains to offer worships to Heaven and to pray for balance and harmony like one that exists between Heaven and Earth. Since ancient times Taoist and Buddhist monks used mountains as perfect place for retreat to nature. Taoists mostly came there to worship Heaven and Earth and be close to nature and find inner peace there surrounded by fog, trees and rocks.  Mountain in Taoism is seen as rigid, still and hard and as opposite to water which is flexible, soft and movable. Therefore mountain and water make balance and Taoist priests and followers still come there to follow their balance and reach own balance. Taoists use to spend time on mountains, to meditate, practice martial arts and make various  natural medicines. For Buddhists mountains are place of retreat, turning off senses, silencing mind, living modestly without suffering. Buddhists go on mountains to search peace and wisdom which Buddha encountered when lived isolated and ascetic life.

Many people all over China visit mountains looking for blessing of Heaven and Earth,  harmony in life, health, fortune, love, longevity… They usually spend a night on top and wait sunrise since it is believed that first morning rays are most important blessing known as infinite light, blessing of immortals and Buddha light.  It is said that who waits sunrise on one of 13 sacred mountains will live 100 years.

In China there are 13 sacred mountains divided on 5 great mountains, 4 Taoist mountains and 4 Buddhist mountains. There are hundreds of mountains in China with spiritual places of worship but these 13 are considered as core sacred mountains.

5 great mountains

These mountains are mixture of Taoist and Buddhist influence and are important both for followers of Buddhism and Taoism since they have temples and sacred sites of both.

  • Taishan- Is considered as most sacred mountain in China. It is 1.545m high and located in Shandong province. It is sacred at least since Zhou dynasty( 1046BC-256BC). At least 72 emperors visited it to offer prayers including Qin Shi Huang emperor founder of Qin dynasty and unifier of China. Also great philosopher Confucius visited it. Even founder of PRC Mao Zedong came there once to give respect to this place. Many poets and writers visited it in history to gain inspirations. Bixia Yuanjin is main deity of this mountain and it is translated as Heavenly Immortal Lady of Jade. She is considered to be daughter of Jade Emperor. Mountain has both Buddhist and Taoist temples and carved verses of both teachings.taishan 1
  • Hengshan- Is a sacred mountain in Hunan province. It is famous for old temples that date from Tang dynasty( 618-907).
  • Huashan- Is located in Shaanxi province. It is considered to be one of most dangerous mountains in the world. Come and you will see it its steep and dangerous cliffs. Be very careful but it is worth risk to see stunning view and check few old temples

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  • Hengshan- It is another Hengshan in Shanxi province. It is one of oldest sacred sites too at least since Zhou era.
  • Songshan- It is sacred mountain in Henan province. There are located several Buddhist and Taoist temples with many rock carvings which date from Tang dynasty.

4 Taoist Mountains

These are mountains which are mostly inhabited by Taoist monks and on which are located Taoist temples.

  • Wudangshan- it is most famous Taoist mountain. Wudangshan is located in Hubei province. There is famous 5 Dragons Temple which dates from Tang dynasty. In 13th century mountain was inhabited by immortal Zhang Sanfeng a founder of Tai Chi. This mountain is a home to Wudang branch of martial arts which are still practiced there. If you are fan of martial arts it is right place for you. Outskirts of this mountain are famous for being inhabited by Taoist hermits who came on their own to live in nature far from world.

wudang nature

  • Longhushan- It is located in Jiangxi province. Longhushan is another most famous Taoist mountain. It has been inhabited by Taoists since 1st century CE. Today there are many temples and headquarters of Zhengyi Dao sect.
  • Qingchengshan- It is located nearby Chengdu in Sichuan province. According to legend Jade Emperor came there once. There are many Taoist temples which have very old Taoist scriptures. Also conservation center for pandas is located there.

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  • Qiyunshan- It is located in Anhui province. This mountain is famous for many inscriptions on rocks and few temples.

 

4 Buddhist Mountains

These mountains are mostly related to Chan school of Buddhism.

  • Emeishan- Is located in Sichuan province. Emeishan is highest sacred mountain and is high over 3000m. Mountain is mostly devoted to Puxian a Buddhist deity which helps other beings.There are old Buddhist sites which date from 1st century CE. There are located more than 76 Buddhist sites.  Emeishan is inhabited by monkeys so it is really interesting to walk there. This mountain provides one of most beautiful sunrises so come here and see it.

emeisunrise

  • Wutaishan- It is a mountain located in Shanxi province and devoted to Wenshu boddhisatva a deity of wisdom.  There are more than 20 Buddhist sites on this mountain.
  • Jiuhuashan- Is Buddhist mountain in Anhui province. It is devoted to Ksitigarbha a deity which protects beings from dangers of hell and evil spirits. This mountain was visited by Tang dynasty poet Li Bai. Since pre Tang era this mountain is inhabited by Buddhist followers.
  • Putuoshan- It is island mountain in Zhejiang province located in East China Sea. It is devoted to Guanyin a goddess of compassion, children and women. It has very interesting combination of natural landscape and architecture.

 

 

Chinese wedding- tradition and ceremony!

Chinese wedding- tradition and ceremony!

We are approaching one interesting, bright and beautiful topic. It is a wedding an official confirmation of love between couples, in front of friend , family and heaven. But this time we are going to review Chinese traditional wedding.

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Mark & Marianne Earthy earthyphotography.com

It always played an important role for Chinese people and society. According to Confucians it had meaning of establishing strong social bond and making relationship official by which family is established. In that way marriage symbolized building of family in which women respects men and children respect parents and thus it was ideal family according to Confucius. In Taoist tradition it is affirmation of love and strengthening bond in front of heaven and call for harmonious relations and happiness. In Taoism men and women were considered as equals and two sides of yin yang.

China is so diverse and big so different culture practices different wedding customs. Especially diverse was in past when even polygamy was common. Custom was that when first wife got a bit older a man could marry another younger one so she could support household. In some remote parts of Yunnan province polyandry still exists. It is in a village of one ethnic minority where matriarchate dominates and women could have more husbands.

We will review some common practices of majority population. In todays China some customs dominate from Taoist tradition and some social principles from Confucian tradition.

There are some premarital customs such as choosing partner. In past most of weddings were prearranged by parents. Parents were considered responsible for choosing future partner for their children. It was even by law in imperial China prohibited for children to choose partner on their own since it was considered as offense to parents, elders and ancestors and social harmony. Today young Chinese couples choose wedding partner on their own. Often they spend some time with partner in a relationship before wedding itself. In past parents were going to matchmaker who according to zodiac sign, birthdate, our of birth and other criteria was matching who will suit the most as a couple and be happy and prosperous. Today couples usually go to astrologist in order to hear about how prosperous and happy their marriage will be and some advices how to avoid bad luck or how to overcome crises in future. Some young Chinese and their parents still go to matchmaker to according to zodiac and other indicators find future partner who applied for matchmaking service of searching perfect boyfriend or girlfriend. This is still often practiced in rural areas but in modern towns because of lack of time for socializing as there is too much work.  Parents or children go to matchmaker to search for perfect match. Today except zodiac matching matchmaker looks for preferences, interests, education, profession and similar criteria when matching future couple. Prior to arranging marriage date father and son go to future brides house to ask her father for official proposal. They usually bring nice gifts or money in red envelopes. On day of proposal family of future bride offers some meal to future groom and his father.  Today this is just customarily practiced and already pre agreed between future bride and groom.  Couples usually visit astrologist in order to arrange date of marriage like in past times. In past it was of crucial importance today it is more customary to visit astrologist in order to determine which day will be perfect for guaranteeing happy and fortunate marriage. When day of marriage is already determined wedding ceremony starts on that happy and fortunate day.

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captionhttps://elsoulblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/chinese-wedding/

Groom with his parents, relatives and wider family and his friends in early morning come to brides house. They are welcomed there by bride, her parents, wider family and friends. They are hosted with some food and drinks and they together go to grooms home. Before going to grooms home in tradition bride had to cry as a symbol of sorrow for leaving her home. Today it is more rarely practiced. When they reach grooms home official establishment of marriage occurs. Before going to special chamber bride and groom have to bow 3 times. First they bow for Heaven and Earth to get blessing for their marriage, second bow is for parents and ancestors and third bow is to each other. Today couples usually bow for times as second bow to home shrine. There they bow to deities respected by Chinese families such as Guanyin, Jade Emperor, Three Pure Ones and Maitreya Buddha. Before going to chamber or another room for uncovering veil they serve the tea to their parents as sign of respect and thankfulness.  In past they used to enter special chamber and there groom had to uncover the veil which stretched over  brides face. Today they do it in a empty room of the home usually but some families still prepare chamber. After uncovering face from veil they officially become married.

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https://elsoulblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/chinese-wedding/

After bowing and veil uncovering couple is married under Chinese tradition. Then next step is that new couple receives gifts from family or friends. They receive usually money in red envelopes. On envelopes there are often in golden color depicted dragon and phoenix a symbol of love,  balanced and fortunate marriage and endless bond between couples. Dragon and phoenix and symbol of double fortune are also put on banners for good luck and on walls of the grooms home.

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http://m.chinadaily.com.cn/en/2015-10/09/content_22137647.htm
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http://china-in-english.blogspot.rs/2013/03/a-beautys-traditional-chinese-wedding.html

\In past usually banquet was held in grooms home now it is usually in reserved restaurant. Then all people go to restaurant to have large lunch. Banquet consists usually of many meals but really many meals and a lot of drinks. Usually celebration lasts until late hours of the night or early morning. Today some pop band is invited to play to entertain people while they sing or dance. Custom is that groom must drink a shot of baijiu with all of his friends and family members and usually it looks like this: he has to visit every table where guests sit and he must as sign of respect drink on every table a glass of baijiu. It isn’t an easy task usually. People chat, socialize, make jokes, speak cheerful topics, sign and dance.  Lilies are decorating tables not only because of beauty but because of symbolic meaning. Lily in Chinese is said Baihe and sounds similar to idiom Bainian haohe what means happy union for hundred years.  Orchids are also used as they symbolize happy love, wealth and fortune.

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After banquet all company escorts couple to grooms home. They are supposed to escort them in front of sleeping room where they have to spend night. But before they leave them alone they try to make fun on them as much as possible and make them tired as it is part of custom and game to play tricks on new couple. Only when guests had enough of making fun on married couple they leave them alone to spend night.

dragonphonex

ENjoy China 😉

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