Daoism and Cct

Customs and Rituals

Do Daoists and practitioners of CCT make pilgrimages?

Pilgrimage has long been integral to most of the major Chinese religious traditions. The Chinese term typically translated as “making pilgrimage” (chao shan jin xiang) actually means “paying respects to a mountain by presenting incense.” Beginning in at least the fourth century C.E. and growing dramatically from the eighth to twelfth centuries, pilgrimage practices of the various traditions came to be identified with certain specific mountains, with some mountains claimed by more than one tradition. Once identified as a particularly sacred place, a mountain became the site of one or more temples. Eventually Daoists and others developed elaborate sacred geographies mapped out with reference to the major sacred peaks or ranges. Pilgrimage to the sacred mountains thus became a symbolic journey through the universe. On some mountains, such as Wu Dang Shan, Daoists have constructed miniature versions of the macrocosm, identifying its subdivisions with such enchanting names as Jade Void, Primordial Harmony, Purple Empyrean, and Perfect Felicity. Mountains are the dwelling places of the gods and immortals and as such naturally became favorite places of retreat for Daoist scholars and masters. Mountain settings have other, more primal, symbolism for Daoists as well. They embody the perfect harmony of male Yang and female Yin. Deep within mountain caves spiritual seekers could contact the eternal feminine energies.

Popular pilgrimage has generally revolved around visits to the mountain temples rather than around extended spiritual retreat. A deity called generically the Old Man of the Mountain, often depicted with his pet tiger, appears in many temples all over Asia, including Buddhist sites, making a symbolic pilgrimage possible even for those who cannot manage the actual journey. Today, various organizations arrange pilgrimage tours to any of several dozen sacred sites in the People’s Republic and in Taiwan.


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