Daoism and Cct

Signs and Symbols

Are statues and other visual imagery important in Daoist and CCT temples?

With the notable exception of major Confucian and Imperial temples, Chinese ritual spaces are almost always filled with images of deities and other sacred figures. Principal deities occupy main altar spaces, but they often share the central spot with smaller images of other sacred figures arranged below the main image and toward the front of the altar. For many centuries Daoists and practitioners of CCT evidently felt no need for anthropomorphic depictions of their deities. The advent of Buddhism, with its growing iconographic repertoire, seems to have been an important factor in the development of Chinese religious representational imagery. Images of Daoist deities, and of those that originated outside Daoist circles but are often identified as Daoist by association, run a wide gamut. Some of the deities are of divine origin. Others began as human beings, either historical or legendary, and achieved divine status either in life or after death. In addition to statues, colorful banners, low relief carvings in stone and other media, and mural paintings depict mythological and other scenes meant to keep the worshipper in the proper frame of mind. Even temples that began as Buddhist institutions and which still display distinctively Buddhist imagery in their main shrines and altars have often become transformed into CCT temples by accretion over the centuries. Whatever the individual deity’s life story, anthropomorphic images abound.


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