Daoist ritual
Daoist rituals form a central part of festivals on the anniversaries of the local gods (see temple fairs). These rites are now being performed with increasing frequency and complexity in contemporary China, particularly in the south. A Jiao ritual can take many forms, depending on the specific Daoist ritual tradition of each locale. Most share certain basic features, however, such as the laying out of a sacred space, often marked by talismans, and the construction of a portable altar with images of the highest emanations of the Dao, the Three Pure Ones, and other Daoist deities. Within this over-coded and symbolically charged space, a series of rites unfold. First the deities are invited to the altar, and presented with pure offerings of incense, tea, wine and fruit, along with symbolic gifts of great value. Scriptures are recited, in a re-revelation of cosmic symbols of power which is said to generate merit for the community. The principal Daoist master performs mudras, recites words of power, and visualizes an audience with the high gods, before whom he presents a memorial, requesting blessings for the community. Finally, the gods are sent off and the sacred space is deconstructed.
The rites can last from one day to several weeks. Local musical traditions complement more broadly used Daoist hymns. The entire ritual is accompanied by music and percussion, and features dance, elaborate ritual vestments and intricate ritual artifacts. In certain ways, these rites mimic imperial court audiences, but at the same time they may include elements of humour and farce. Divination is frequently integrated into the performance. Depending on local traditions, the rites may take place in a closed temple before community representatives (usually selected by divination) or in open altars. Community offerings are blessed by the Daoist priests before being consumed in great feasts at the conclusion of the festivities.
See also: Daoist music; Gongde
Dean, Kenneth (1993). Taoist Ritual and Popular Cults of Southeast China. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Lagerwey, John (1987). Taoist Ritual in Chinese Society and History. New York: Macmillan.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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