Lüshan jiao (Sannai jiao)

Lüshan jiao (Sannai jiao)
Regional religious tradition
The ‘Religious Teaching of Mount Lü’ (Lüshan jiao), or ‘Religious Teaching of the Three Ladies’ (Sannai jiao), is a Daoist ritual tradition of southern China (Fujian, southern Zhejiang and Taiwan) whose origins are still unclear. Very active today, it is related to the cult of Chen Jinggu (767–90), who was enfeoffed as ‘Linshui furen’ or ‘Shunyi furen’, and is one of the most important cults of this region. According to her myths as a goddess, she was an avatar of Guanyin, born from a drop of blood of this bodhisattva, and caused the demons of the Kingdom of Min (909–45) in Fujian to submit to her power. The Master of Lüshan is the Perfected Lord Xu (Xu Xun), founder of the ‘Way of Filial Piety’ (Xiaodao) based at the Wanshou Palace north of Nanchang, Jiangxi. Connections also can be found between this tradition and the rituals of the Yao and Zhuang (see Yao, culture of; Zhuang, culture of; Daoism among minority nationalities), and it is also present among the Hakka (see Hakka, culture of). In the field, the Lüshan jiao is often opposed to the Maoshan ritual tradition and related to the Wang laomu religion.
The Lüshan jiao, shamanistic in its essence, is complementary and very much connected with the tradition of the Daoist (Zhengyi tradition) masters, even if it remains specific. It is a healing, exorcistic, martial tradition and also reveals certain features derived from Tantric Buddhism. The rituals are performed by ‘Masters of Ritual Methods’ (fashi) (see vernacular priests(Daoist/Buddhist)), who work closely together with spirit-mediums, especially in Taiwan and the Penghu Islands.
The Masters perform rituals as the head of celestial troops, the soldiers of the five directions, while invoking the ‘Three Ladies’ (sannai): Chen Jinggu and her two disciples, Lin Jiuniang and Li Sanniang, who, like herself, had suffered a bad death. Though the Masters are men, in performance they wear the ritual red skirt of Chen Jinggu and a crown or headdress with the words ‘Three Ladies’ painted on it (or a martial one). They also wear red turbans, which is the reason they are called ‘red head’ (hongtou) Masters, especially in Taiwan. Their ritual instruments include: a divine pewter or buffalo horn; a wooden seal on which are carved the seven stars of the Dipper; a hempen whip with a serpent handle to frighten demons; and a curved root of bamboo, also called a whip, used to ‘recall souls’ (tiaohun); a bell, sometimes with a vajra handle; and a small gong.
A whole pantheon comes with these beliefs, and the Masters of Lüshan possess ritual paintings that represent it. They are initiated by receiving a ‘register’ (lu) listing the spirits that submit to their banners that they lead in performance. The magical treasures of the Masters include, in addition to ritual texts, a body of written ‘talismans’ (fu) for exorcism, curing and protection which are transmitted from generation to generation. These appear sometimes to be true scriptural rituals. The Masters of Lüshan are equally celebrated for their ‘hand-seals’ (mudras), reputed to be very efficacious and associated with secret mantras, which recall the practices of the magical ‘arts of thunder’ (leifa) performed by Daoist priests.
The ritual substrata of the Lüshan are mainly rites of healing and of exorcism often performed along with a ‘substitute’ (tishen; often a spirit-medium), the fachang ritual, and xietu, an ‘exorcism of earth evils’ and of the White Tiger. They also perform a ‘transformation of the destiny’ (gaiyun) ritual, a Dipper (beidou) ritual, and rites for ‘calling the souls’ of the living or dead (shoujing/tiaohun). The rituals performed for women, called ‘cultivating flowers’ (caihua), and for children, called ‘crossing the passes’ (guoguan), are closely related to the cultic worship of Chen Jinggu. Finally, they have a shamanistic voyage rite called ‘crossing the roads and the passes’ (guo luguan).
The Masters perform community rites during pilgrimages and gods’ festivals (see temple fairs), such as ‘presenting or dividing incense’ (jinxiang fenxiang), which is related to incense-burner (local temple) communities. They take part in the seasonal rites of passage. A ritual for rain and the re-establishment of cosmic harmony had been performed by Chen Jinggu herself, who died on one such occasion while pregnant, which is why she is obligated to protect women (especially during childbirth) and children. In certain parts of Taiwan and Fujian, Masters also carry out the Jiao or Daoist ‘offering’ ritual. The liandu ritual, a kind of posthumous rite of passage, and the chaodu death ritual have been adopted by some Lüshan Masters on occasion, though they are more often concerned with rituals for the living.
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