Daoism and Cct

History and Sources

What is meant by the term “Chinese Community Traditions” (CCT)?

Much more ancient than religious or even earlier philosophical Daoism are the various currents of popular religious belief and practice that together comprise what will be referred to as Chinese Community Traditions or CCT. Historians of religion suggest that most Chinese who engage in public expression of religious beliefs actually belong to this broad popular stream. Many of their beliefs have Daoist connections, but, unlike Daoism as such, CCT has not been associated with formal religious institutions such as priesthood and monastic orders, and does not possess a scriptural canon. Many beliefs and practices now widespread in popular tradition also have roots in ancient Confucian and Imperial cultic institutions, and in Buddhism as well.

Countless CCT temples began to appear in towns and villages several centuries ago. Since they do not have their own resident ritual specialists, these temples often enlist the services of Daoist priests, but their day-to-day services are often handled by dedicated laypeople. Many such temples are associated with families, who maintain them as a public service and a family tradition. Some elements of CCT also appear in temples ostensibly identified as Buddhist. A Guan Yin temple in Honolulu, for example, combines Buddhist rituals with a host of other popular practices. Though the main image is that of the Buddha, numerous other icons are prominently displayed. That particular temple is run by a group of Chinese Buddhist nuns who are especially concerned with preserving the image that theirs is a purely Buddhist temple, in spite of the obvious diversity within it. Recently, when a visitor asked permission to snap a few photos inside, the nun in charge agreed. But whenever she thought his camera lens was wandering toward Confucius or another icon, she tugged his sleeve and waved a disapproving finger at him. “Only Buddha,” she insisted. Just a few blocks away, above a small upholstery shop, is the Lum family temple. There, all the deities are clearly of the CCT variety, even though some are often inaccurately identified as Daoist.

A life-sized statue of the Yellow Emperor in a glass case in Bao An Gong temple, Taipei, Taiwan.


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