Introduction to Wudang Taoism
( chinadaily.com.cn )
Overview of Wudang Taoism
Wudang Taoism came into being during the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279) and became popular across the country during the Ming (1368-1644), thanks to that dynasty’s 3rd emperor Zhu Di.
To stabilize his regime, the emperor promoted the idea of the divine right of kings, saying that the god Zhenwu (whose shrine is on the mountain) protected him and supported Taoism.
In 1412, he sent a minister, Zhang Xin, and his son-in-law, Mu Xin, at the head of an army of 300,000 soldiers, civilians and craftsmen to Wudang for a large construction project. After 13 year period and a ton of money, they had produced 33 complexes on Wudang Mountain. After Zhu Di, the emperors, nobility, local officials and followers continued to expand the temples and palaces on Wudang on a large scale.
The Ming Dynasty emperors were in charge of the Taoist rites directly and sent eunuchs and ministers to oversee things on the mountain. The royal family granted titles to the mountain, such as "Da Yue" and "Zhi Shi Xuan Yue", and respected it as the main family temple.
Wudang Mountain occupied a prominent position among the four sacred national mountains and is known as the biggest site of royal Taoist rites.
Wudang Taoist priests
The Taoist priests on Wudang are divided into two schools: the Quanzhen, and Zhengyi, the first one a vegetarian sect without wives or a husband; the second of which allows marriage and a normal way of life.
The rules for addressing a Taoist priest are not the same as those for colleagues or kinfolk,which are taboo. Usually, we call a male Taoist priest, Qian Tao, and a female priest, Kun Tao, or just Tao Zhang for either male or female.
Among Taoist priests of the same age, no matter what their gender or school, they call each other Taoist friend or Tao Zhang.
Elder Taoist priests there are addressed as Ye and the surname. For instance, if the priest's surname is Li, you can call him Li Ye. Some will attach their work title and call them manager or chairman.
More than a millioin pilgrims come to Wudang annually and if it involves honest praying, then Wudang always makes it work out and satisfies people's desires. There are four common reasons for praying: asking for a child, where childless people ask the god Zhenwu for help; longevity, where Xuanwu is the god mainly in charge, and stood for immortality in the past; wealth, happiness, job promotion, and education; and finally for a cure for some disease, or safety, and a happy life, in which case you turn to the god Zhenwu.
Wudang Taoist rites
There are three types of rites: cultivation, commemoration and Chai-Chiao.
Cultivation is the most basic and the daily work of Taoist priests, in the sense of self-cultivation, which includes reading classic texts as morning and evening exercises.
Commemoration mainly involves celebrating festivals, such as the birthday of the god Zhenwu and the Lantern Festival, which is the third day of the third lunar month.
Chai-Chiao is mainly a death ritual, to bless and recite the merits of the dead.