(Zhengyi tradition)
Zhengyi is a very loosely organized Daoist lineage that combines an ancient and very sophisticated liturgy, named Qingwei Lingbao, and the nominal authority of the Zhang Heavenly Master (Zhang tianshi), who held court on Mount Longhu in Jiangxi until the 1930s. Both the liturgy and the Heavenly Master institution can be traced back to the second century and both took their modern form during the Song dynasty (960–1276). Zhengyi priests, who take pride in their highly literate tradition, insist on their distinction from other priests, often called ‘ritual masters’ (fashi) who perform a more vernacular liturgy (see fachang; Lüshan jiao (Sannai jiao); vernacular priests (Daoist/Buddhist)). However, the connections between the two kinds of liturgies, and their performers, are always close, and vary from one place to the next. Studies on Daoist liturgy, prompted by more traditional folklore and performing arts research and by the opening of the countryside to fieldwork, have only begun since the 1990s to address the richness and complexity of these traditions (see Minsu quyi (Min-su ch’ü-i)).
In contrast to Quanzhen clerics (see Daoism (Quanzhen order)), Zhengyi priests do not usually live in a temple, although they are normally affiliated with one. They very rarely travel around the country, as they are members of families of hereditary priests and serve local communities. After the 1950s, when local communities ceased to invite them to perform rituals either because these were illegal or because the temples had been destroyed, the Zhengyi priests lived on as farmers or professionals. During the Cultural Revolution, many managed to hide and hang on to their liturgical manuscripts. Since the 1980s, some have begun to officiate anew, in the areas where rituals are more or less tolerated, and to train a new generation.
The situation varies very much from one district to the next, because of pre-existing differences in traditional local practices, or local differences in persecution experienced in the recent past, or the ever sharper variations in the present-day application of religious policy in local areas. The number of Zhengyi priests is very difficult to estimate, but fieldwork suggests that they are quite numerous throughout the country, especially in the south, and in any case much higher than that of Quanzhen clerics.
The situation of the Zhengyi order within the Daoist Association, whose role is to certify clerics, is rather ambivalent. The Quanzhen dominance of the Daoist Association has ensured that Quanzhen ordinations have been organized first. Indeed, the question of the married Zhengyi priests has long tormented the Association. Finally, a Zhengyi ordination took place on Mount Longhu in 1991 for priests outside the mainland, and in 1995 for 191 ordinees for priests on the mainland. Zhengyi priests are now welcome to join the Association, even though many have not done so yet, either because of reluctance or because it has proved too complicated for them to establish a local branch of the Daoist Association. Another problem is the status of the Zhang Heavenly Master—the sixty-third holder of the title, Zhang Enpu (1904–69), fled to Taiwan in 1949, and his successor is not widely recognized in the PRC. Members of the Zhang family occupy important functions in the Daoist Association, notably the priest-scholar Zhang Jiyu, but none has yet claimed the title of Heavenly Master. Given the continued charisma of the Zhang family and the temples now restored on Mount Longhu, there is most certainly a bright future for them in Chinese culture.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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