Daoist ritual
Fachang (method-arena) is a technical term used by the Daoists of northern Taiwan to refer to rituals of an exorcistic sort done by fashi (specialist in methods). It is used in opposition to Daochang (Way-arena) rituals like the Jiao (offering), which are performed by Daoshi (Daoist priests). The language, vestments and ritual actions of the fachang are all less formal and closer to everyday life than the Daochang. The first is as theatrical as the second is solemn, and it is based on a vernacular text and improvisation, while the Jiao is based on a fixed text written in classical Chinese. The first aims at the healing of ill individuals and is done in their homes, while the second is primarily for temple-based communities. These differences may all be traced to the fact that the fachang belongs to the regional Lüshan jiao (Sannai jiao) Daoist tradition, while the Daochang belongs to the national Zhengyi and Lingbao traditions. The Daoists of northern Taiwan generally learn both men (doors, traditions).
The fachang takes place in a ritual area marked off by portraits of Lüshan divinities, of which the Sannai (Three Ladies) are chief. As their representative, the master must in certain rituals play the part of a woman, as in the ‘Presentation of the Memorial’, when he walks graciously—even seductively—on his way to the site of presentation in the heavens. Each ritual in the six-hour sequence symbolizes one or another aspect of the war on the forces of evil that have caused the illness. In the ‘Overturning of the Earth’, for example, the master rolls himself up in a straw mat, then springs up with the turned-over mat to symbolize the burial of negative energies and the bringing to the surface of positive ones. In the ‘Sendoff of the Yin-Fire’, the master first ‘sweeps’ up all negative (yin) energies with a lit torch, takes them into himself by swallowing the flame after each act of sweeping, then rushes to extinguish the torch outside the village.
Throughout, by means of invocation and consecration, objects from daily life are transformed into magic ritual objects that can be used to attack evil and drive it out of the ill person’s body, house and village. This, in addition to the role of improvisation in the fachang, is why the masters consider the exorcisms to be ‘alive’ and the Jiao to be ‘dead’.
Keupers, John (1977). ‘A Description of the Fach’ang Ritual as Practiced by the Lü Shan Taoists of Northern Taiwan’. In Michael Saso and David W.Chappell (eds), Buddhist and Taoist Studies 1. Honolulu : University of Hawai’i Press, 82–92.
Lagerwey, J. (1987). ‘Les têtes des demons tombent par milliers. Le fachang, rituel exorciste du nord de Taiwan’. L’Homme 101 (Jan.-Mar.): 101–16.
——(1988). ‘Les lignées taoistes du nord de Taiwan’. Cahiers d’Extrême Asie 4.
——(1989). ‘Les lignées taoistes du nord de Taiwan’. Cahiers d’Extrême Asie 5.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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