The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library
Daoist Texts Collection
Ritual Texts in Hong Kong and Macau
Lai, Chi Tim
Daoism is an indigenous religion of China, and a profoundly significant repository of Chinese religious culture. In Chinese society, Daoism has always been a native religious tradition of great spiritual influence. One may say that Daoism’s peculiarity as a religious belief rests on the fact that it relates to the quest for transcendence from the mundane world, verified in all sectors of Chinese society. From a certain perspective, Daoism is a religion whose teachings are based on ritual. Given its indigenous identity, Daoism expresses, in its rituals of Zhai Retreat and Jiao Offering, Chinese religious conceptions of prayer, repentance, atonement, liberation, salvation, etc., in a spontaneous manner. One may say that Daoism is a “liturgical” religion. The religious beliefs as reflected in its rituals of Retreat and Offering are extremely rich, permeating Chinese people’s life and customs.
Concerning the origins of Daoist ritual traditions of Hong Kong and Macau, it is believed that such traditions were transmitted to both areas through the ramifications of Daoist altars originally located at the Pearl River Delta region of Guangdong. For example, the copy of the famous ritual for salvation of the deceased, the Xiantian hushi jilian youke 先天斛食濟煉幽科, currently in vogue at both the Fung Ying Seen Koon 蓬瀛仙館 and the Ching Chung Koon 青松觀 in Hong Kong, basically originates from the Tongzhi 同治 edition of the Jilian quanke 濟煉全科 (1861), which came from the Sanyuan Gong 三元宮 in Guangzhou. As for the majority of Daoist Halls worshiping the Ancestral Master of Pure Yang Lüzu, the copy of their Lüzu wuji baochan 呂祖無極寶懺 was introduced to Hong Kong during the 1940s,from the Yunquan Xianguan 雲泉仙館, located at Mount Xiqiao 西樵山, Nanhai county.
Also, there is the Zhengyi Daoist ritual tradition of Macau. Since the mid-19th century, Zhengyi householder masters have been providing all sorts of Daoist meritorious ritual services for the local population. For example, Wu Zhihe 吳致和 (Daoist name: Ye Yuan 謁元), the founder of the Wu Qingyun Daoist Hall 吳慶雲道院 whose rich collection of Daoist ritual documents we borrowed for scanning on this occasion, moved from Shunde 順德 to Macau during the Guangxu period, end of the Qing dynasty, and initiated in Macau an enterprise of Zhengyi rituals that was transmitted through four generations to the present day. In 2011, Wu Bingzhi 吳炳鋕, the fourth generation in the transmission lineage of the Wu Qingyun Daoist Hall, as the representative of Macau’s Daoist ritual music, submitted an application and successfully inscribed the item on the Extended Representative List of State-level Intangible Cultural Heritage items.
Daoist ritual services are divided into two categories: the Yang services and the Yin services. The Yang services refer to pure and auspicious services, which are used to supplicate for good fortune, express gratitude for received grace, worship the stars, pay ritual homage to the constellations, reward the deities, celebrate, consecrate, present offerings, practice repentance rituals, conduct morning and evening ritual services, etc. As for the Yin services, they refer to meritorious ritual services with the goal of saving the deceased ones, and are used to summon the souls of the deceased, carry out libations and bridge rituals, destroy the infernos, distribute flowers in order to dissolve ties, feed the hungry ghosts and perform salvation by means of sublimation, etc.
In order to preserve ritual documents concerning the history of Daoism in Hong Kong and Macau, the Wu Qingyun Daoist Hall of Macau, the Fung Ying Seen Koon of Hong Kong, the Yunquan Xianguan as well as the Cuibai Xiandong 翠柏仙洞 support the development of the second phase of the Daoist Texts Collection of The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library by providing 35 types of their representative and extremely precious ritual documents for digitalization and inclusion in the Library’s Daoist Texts Collection, so that scholars and common readers may benefit from them.
The important value of this set of ritual documents, which relate to the history of Daoism in Hong Kong and Macau, and appeared between the Qing and the Republican periods, lies in their remarkable contribution to the research of the history of Daoism and local customs in the two areas. Daoist scholars seldom took seriously the study of primary documents concerning Daoist developments in Hong Kong and Macau. Even today, only a few scholars dedicate themselves to the research of the history of Daoist ritual in Hong Kong and Macau. Some scholars even suppose wrongly that Daoism was in decline from the Qing dynasty until the Republican period.
The 35 types of ritual documents collected this time include many Qing-dynasty rare editions of Daoist ritual books circulating in Hong Kong and Macau. For example, there are the Guangxu 光緒 original edition of the Jiutian daluo yudu shixiang Lüsheng zhenjun wuji baochan 九天大羅玉都師相呂聖真君無極寶懺 (abbreviation: Lüzu wuji baochan 呂祖無極寶懺, 1893), the Tongzhi editions of the Taishang xuanmen zaotang gongke jing 太上玄門早堂功課經 (1865) and the Taishang xuanmen wantang gongke jing 太上玄門晚堂功課經 (1865) stored at the Sanyuan Gong in Guangzhou, the Guangxu edition of the Yushan jinggong youke 玉山淨供幽科 (1880), from the Taihe Daoist Hall 太和道院, and the Guangxu edition of the Qingxuan jiyao liandu shishi keyi 青玄集要煉度施食科儀 (1885) preserved by the Donglai Jingge 東來經閣,etc.
In order to elevate the value of Daoist scriptures in academic research, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library established the Daoist Texts Collection. Using modern computational technologies, it scanned and digitalized all the above-mentioned Daoist ritual documents of Hong Kong and Macau provenance, allowing readers to have a more convenient and deeper online access. I profoundly believe that the Daoist Texts Collection will contribute to augmenting the study, research and appreciation of Chinese traditional scriptural wisdom on the part of admirers of Daoist culture.