Daoism and Cct

Customs and Rituals

What rites do worshippers practice in Daoist and CCT temples?

One of the most important and easily observable temple rituals involves the offering of incense. Worshippers buy three slender sticks of incense at a small temple shop that supplies a variety of materials for different sorts of offerings. Devotees can make their offerings either at the main altar or at any of a number of side or subordinate altars, depending on the size of the temple and which deity they choose to address. Those who wish to worship at the main shrine may first approach the large incense kettle that normally stands in the central courtyard. Igniting their incense sticks, they hold them upright between folded hands, wave them before the deity, and bow from the waist toward the object of their devotion. After prayer they insert the handles of the burning incense wands into the sand and ashes in the kettle. On some occasions a devotee might have his or her sticks placed in a holder on an altar. Some worshippers take incense ash home for use as a curative medicine.

Equally important is a more ritually generic type of devotional prayer in which devotees supplicate the various deities for favors. Worshippers generally kneel to address the chosen deity, praying either aloud or in silence, either bowing humbly or looking at the image. Offerings other than incense include a variety of foods, most commonly fruits, rice, vegetables, wine, and sweets. When worshippers make such offerings, they often have a temple staff member light a candle for them on the altar. Toward the end of a typical episode of temple worship, devotees will burn symbolic imitation paper money as an offering. All temples provide one or more small furnaces in which worshippers offer gold paper to the deities and silver to ancestors. These burnt offerings symbolize personal sacrifice in hope of blessing and commitment to the ongoing well-being of departed family members.


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