Ritual and Scripture in Chinese Popular Religion [cap. I-III]


pp. 3-54 – 1. Robert L. Chard : Rituals and Scriptures of the Stove Cult".

pp. 5-6 apparition of stove-god, according to the Fen-su t>un yi 8.360-1 by Yin S^ao (of late 2nd century Chr.E.)

p. 5

"The Records of Han (Han chi) says : "Yin Tzu-fang of Nan-yang ... took delight in making offerings to the stove. On the La day ... at dawn, the god of the stove appeared to him. ...

p. 6

[Yin Tzu-fang’s] descendants regularly sacrificed a brown sheep to the god of the stove on the La day."" {cf. ram of Vaidik fire-god Agni}

pp. 9-11, 17 rites for the stove-deity





custom in T>an capital C^>an-an :- "On New Year’s Eve the people of the capital ... attach stove god images (tsao ma) above the stove ... . At night they burn a lamp inside the stove, calling it ‘illuminating the wasting consumption’ (chao hsu: hao)."

Nien hsia sui s^ih c^i


late Southern Sun celebration of New Year in the capital Lin-an (Hangchow) :- "On the twenty-fourth day, everyone ... prepares ... malt sugar (hsing), and beans to sacrifice to the stove. On this day ... people hawk ... malt candy (chiao ya hsing), and winnowing-basket beans [c^i tou]."

Men lian lu 6.181


Southern Sun, in Wu county "west of modern Soochow" :- "on the twenty-fourth of the La-month, ...

A pig’s head is [cooked] ..., and the Lord of the Stove is delighted."

La yueh ts>un t>ien yueh fu by Fan C^>en-ta


"The sweet offerings ... are often smeared directly onto the god’s mouth ... . They are said ..., ... more commonly, to glue his jaws shut and enforce his silence in the presence of the Jade Thearch."


p. 16 "the stove god ... might be compared to Santa Claus."

p. 14 image of the stove-god , by region

region of China


the north

"larger and more elaborate, with the god’s wife, called "Grandmother King [Queen] of the Stove" (Tsao Wang Nai-nai)"

"middle Yangtze region and the southwest"

"the god is accompanied by two female figures, said to be the god’s principal wife and concubine."


"the god is alone, often with five or six children groups under him"

p. 38 benefits from reading the True Scripture of the King of the Stove




good fortune, longevity


"entire family will be secure".


"whole village may be protected.


"entire country will be aided.

pp. 38-39 benefits from transmitting printed copies of the True Scripture of the King of the Stove






"illnesses cannot arise.



"whole family is guaranteed to be secure".



"escape water, fire, and wind."



"escape baleful and slaughtering stars."



"You name will be great on the announcement board of Heaven."



"good fortune".


several 10,000s

"It will always be green through summer and winter."



"longevity line the pine."


pp. 55-103 – 2. David Johnson : "Mu-lien in Pao-chu:an".

pp. 79-80 encounters of Ta-mo (Bodhi-dharma) with S^en-kuan

p. 79

S^en-kuan "strikes Bodhidharma in the face with his "white beats" (su-chu) ... . Bodhidharma ... then transforms the ten beads into the lords of the ten courts of Hell and disappears."

p. 80

S^en-kuan "encounters Bodhidharma and is wounded by his Knife of Discipline (chieh tao). Shen-kuang then "faces the wall" in meditation for nine years".

pp. 80-86 ancestors & ancestress of Mu-lien, according to the Yu-min Pao-c^>uan


relation to Mu-lien

name etc.

Y-m P-c^>


father’s father’s father

Fu T>ien-tou


father’s father

C^>un son of Fu T>ien-tou



Hsian son of C^>un



Liu C^>in-t>i. "The Venerable Mother of the Jade Pool (Yao-ch>ih lao-mu) ... commands Cassia Branch, an immortal, to be rborn as Madame Liu’s son. ... The Venerable Mother transforms Cassia Branch into a jewel-like radish over a foot long. ["Lo-pu is the large white variety known ... by its Japanese name, daikon." (fn. 74)] A mysterious peddler gives the supernatural radish to Fu Hsiang ... . Madame Liu ...




smashes it to bits. ... The fragments give off such a beautiful aroma that she devours them all ... . This makes her pregnant, and in due course she gives birth to a son, whom they name Radish ... . ...


When Radish is still a boy, his father, Fu Hsiang, is told by a divine messenger that he is going to die soon. ... Fu Hsiang passes away. After mourning with great piety for three years ..., Radish ... goes to Hangchow in search of a teacher, accompanied by the faithful family servant, I-li. His mother is left alone with three villains, Liu-the-liar, Li-the-dog, and Chin-the-hunchback. ...



An elder of the district reproves her for her bad faith, and she in a rage attacks him with a hoe and kills him. ... a fire cannot be started in the stove, and in retaliation she orders a chamberpot emptied on it.




... a monk and a priest ... warn her, and they too are killed. Finally the defiled stove god reports her enormities to the Jade Emperor, and he despatches hungry ghosts to drag her down to Hell for punishment ... .


At that very moment Radish, now Mu-lien, is on his way home with I-li from Hangchow, where he received the Way from Master K>ai-shih ["Master K>ai-shih secretly transmits to him the doctrines of the Great Way of Former Heaven at the Hui-kuang temple in Hangchow" (p. 81)]; he and the hungry ghosts will arrive at the Fu house almost simultaneously. While Mu-lien is still en route, Liu-the-liar is struck dead by a divine thunderbolt. ... Mu-lien arrives. ...



[Mu-lien’s mother] began to beat I-li with a club ... . Mu-lien stops her; she then ... swears by Heaven and Earth ... . No sooner has she spoken than the tall sunflowers burst into flame. She collapses, and ... Mu-lien revives her ... . ...




Just then the troop of hungry ghosts despatched by the Jade emperor arrives, armed with brass hammers and iron tridents. They beat the soul out of her, and take it, "alive," down to Hell.


Mu-lien sings a long lament and then makes preparations for his mother’s funeral. Shortly thereafter, Li-the-dog and Chin-the-hunchback die ... and are buried, only to have their remains exhumed by thunderbolts and their heads eaten by dogs. ... Madame Liu’s soul ... had been shattered by the blows of the demons, and the malignant soul (hsiung sha) was left behind. Her true soul (chen hun) is sent back to fetch it by order of the Law Official of the Three Bureaus (san-ts>ao fa-kuan) ... . When she arrives, guarded by demons, the door guards ... let her pass. She goes first to the main hall, ... and the visits every room. ... She ... then comes to a mirror. "She took one look and saw that her face was hideously ugly, not that of a living person. ..." ... She clings desperately to Mu-lien, who has fallen asleep during his night-long vigil, and his spiritual power is such that the demons dare not approach her. They [the demons] ask the help of the guardian spirit of the Fu family ... and ... the god of the family tears her away from her son and throws her down at the demons’ feet. They snatch at her ... and take her away ... . ...



Mu-lien awakes. In his dream he has seen everything that has just taken place, including his mother’s plea that he go to the Western Heaven to obtain ... an order that will save her from the tortures of Hell. He is at a loss how to proceed, when Kuan-yin appears to him in the guise




of an old woman an tells him how ... . He must journey to the west, wearing a saddle {cf. the "saddled" (GI, p. 334) Aristoteles, for whom the woman Kampaspe gathered the herb mint of (GM 31.d) the death-realm : Aristoteles’s (CDCM, s.v. "Battus") mother Phronime was accused of a debauched lifestyle, cf. Mu-lien’s mother} on his back and reciting the book she will give him ..., bowing every three paces and kneeling every five. He sets off at once, beginning the epic journey to Heaven and Hell ... . ...


After several adventures in the trackless wilderness, Mu-lien comes to Hungry Tiger Mountain. {cf. the "tiger" (GM 27.c) of Dionusos} Suddenly a tiger pounces, and he is about to be devoured when two tiger-catching generals appear and save him. They greet him cheerfully, and he sees that they are none other than I-li (the faithful family servant) and Yu-ta, ... who is ... the Chin-kang Star sent down to earth. ...

Mu-lien presses on through more adventures until the time comes for him to ... enter the Western Heaven. A white monkey, sent by Kuan-yin, steals Mu-lien’s saddle and book as he is drinking from a stream. Mu-lien chases him until the monkey, clutching the book, leaps into the flames of a raging fire. ... Mu-lien ...




leaps into the flames – and awakens in the throne room of ... the Western Heaven ... . ...


After many pleas by Mu-lien, ... a "decree" ... will enable him to enter Hell and search for his mother. After a flashback that recounts the interrogation of Madame Liu and the others in the first court of Hell ...,



Mu-lien begins his tour of the Underworld, ... at the Ghost Gate Pass (kuei men kuan), the entrance to the domain of Hell,



with a detailed description of what happens to souls after death ...,



from one court of Hell to the next. In each one, ... Mu-lien discovers that his mother has been sent on to the next court. In the fifth court he encounters Emperor Yama (Yen-lo t>ien-tzu), who makes a wager with him : if he fails in his quest, he must stay n Hell as Yama’s subject; if he succeeds, Yama will bow down to him ... . ... Finally Mu-lien learns that his mother has been sent to the Avici Hell, which is not one of the ten courts ... . When he reaches it, "he could see nothing but layer upon layer of darkness; he could not see the starry Dipper. Walls of molten iron many yards high surrounded it, and from it hung the names of every kind of sin" ... . (Twelve categories of sin are listed ... .) Mu-lien floats over the wall on a magic cloud, but cannot make his way through the blinding smoke, and returns to the Western Heaven to ask help ... again ... .



After overcoming ... objections to his continual attempts to obtain special treatment for his mother ..., Mu-lien is given the ... staff, which can open the gates of the Avici Hell, and a red pearl that can illuminate the darkness there, and returns to the Underworld. He brandishes his staff, the gates fly open, and with the pearl illuminating the gloom he enters ... . All the demons who are imprisoned there escape, but Mu-lien ignores




them – he is concerned only with finding his mother, and soon does. they sing an emotional duet, at the end of which Mu-lien faints from excessive weeping ... .


When he revives, his mother is gone – she has been taken away to the tenth court to be reborn. ... Mu-lien rushes off to the tenth court, but when he gets there his mother has already been sent back into the world. Mu-lien does not believe this until he looks for himself into the ledgers of life and death and reads that his mother has been reborn in P>ing-yang county, Shansi – as a white dog. So he returns to the world, too ... .



As soon as he reaches home, he ... sets out for Shansi. When he reaches P>ing-yang he sees a sign warning of a vicious dog, and at once understands that it must be his mother. The dog’s master watches in amazement as it comes up to Mu-lien and begins weeping. The man gives the dog to Mu-lien ... . ... He returns to the Western Heaven, and begs ... to help his mother recover her human form. ... the dog ... was instantly transformed into a human. ...



Madame Liu ... answered at once, ‘I’ll take the forbidden food.’ When ... with a flip of ... whisk ... changed her back into a dog again. When Mu-lien saw what had happened he fell to the ground in tears. ...


Then are listed the noble titles bestowed on Fu Hsiang, Chang Yu-ta, I-li, Mu-lien, and Madame Liu. (She is made Lion’s Roar Buddha, and is to roar three times every full and new moon ... . {cf. Lion’s [Lioness’s] Roar of Queen S`ri-Mala} ...



Mu-lien was reborn as the T>ang rebel Huang Ch>ao in order to recapture the eight million hungry ghosts he had let loose upon the world when he broke down the gates of the Avici Hell, and after that he became Ti-tsang Bodhisattva, the King of Hell." ["(In the end, when Mu-lien is made King of Hell [Ti-tsang wang, Ksitigarbha], Yama does indeed become his subordinate." (p. 85) {/Ks.iti-garbha/, like every Vajra-yana deity, is of Daoist provenience; the very term /-garbha/ ‘embryo’ would suggest a Daoist origin.}]


GI = E’mile Ma^le (transl. by Dora Nussey) : Religious Art in France, XIII Century. 1913. (reprinted under the title The Gothic Image. Westview Pr, 1972) http://books.google.com/books?id=1xHGIyT0akEC&pg=PA335&lpg=PA335&dq="legend+of+Aristotle"&source=bl&ots=7Qf3SSREQB&sig=A8ZtSw6QuBSh2udhG1BtXMI-bkE&hl=en&ei=MNMnSvL1EoGHtgeh-OTpBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9#PPA334,M1

pp. 95-96 description of Avici hell, according to Mu-lien Pien-wen ll. 672-688




"Sword-trees reached upward for a thousand fathoms ... .

Knife-mountains soared ten thousand rods ... . ...

Sword-wheels whirled, ... of starry brightness.

Iron snakes belched fire ... .

Copper dogs breathed smoke, barking impetuously ... .

Metal thorns descended chaotically from mid-air, piercing the chests of the men.


Awls and augers flew in every which way, gouging the backs of the women.

Iron rakes flailed at their eyes, causing red blood to flow to the west.

Copper pitchforks stabbed at their loins until white fat oozed to the east. ..."

{living metallic snakes and living metallic hounds are typically Daoist}

pp. 97-98 details in the Yu-min Pao-c^>uan 92a-93b

p. 97

"The Bureau of the Dead was utterly dark, and stretched on forever;

He could hear the legions of souls whimpering and crying ... . ...

Then he saw a cage where ... the demons were cruel.

They bound the sinners hand and foot ...;

Everyone was screaming ... . ...

He saw the Hell of Tendon Pulling, where ... their tendons were pulled out ... . {cf. Akhilleus} ...

Then he saw the Hell of Ice ... .

Iron tridents were used to drive sinners off to one side.

They were stripped naked ... . ...

‘To see the torments of Hell is truly terrifying; ...

You must never poison fish and shrimps {to catch fish and shrimps by putting paralyzing poison into their waters}, which angers Heaven above.

To induce people to gamble ... is no trivial sin;

To incite people to ... sue is also a transgression. ...’ ...

p. 98

The King of the Five Offices said, ‘The sins of your mother are as weighty as a mountain; she is to be punished in each Court. ...’ "


pp. 104-136 – 3. Patricia Ebrey : "The Liturgies for Sacrifices to Ancestors in Successive Versions of the Family Rituals".

pp. 104-105 domestic worship-rite

"During the progress of the worship they all knelt down five times, and while on their knees bowed their heads simultaneously three times." (SLCh, p. 235)

SLCh = Justus Doolittle : Social Life of the Chinese. NY : Harper, 1865.

p. 107 authorship of Family Rituals

"The Family Rituals was drafted by the Neo-Confucian philosopher Chu Hsi during the late twelfth century, based closely on

a more detailed manual written by Ssu-ma Kuang (1019-1086) in the late eleventh century, itself based on ...

the T>ang government’s Ritual of the K>ai-yuan Period (K>ai-yuan li)."

pp. 111-114 steps of the Family Ritual






"Near the end of the preceding month a date for the sacrifice is selected by a divination performed in front of the ancestral shrine. ... In advance he selects three possible dates. He proposes the first date, and if the blocks indicate that it is auspicious the divination is complete. If not he proposes the second date. If that also is not auspicious, he settles on the third date, not checking on its acceptability. The liturgist then opens the door of the ancestral shrine ... . ...



The liturgist ... kneels to read a report to the ancestors giving the date for the sacrifice."



"Three days before the sacrifice purification begins."



"The day before the sacrifice, the men, women, and attendants each have specific tasks to accomplish by way of preparation."



"At daybreak, both the men and women dress formally".



"When it is fully bright, all family members line up in front of the ancestral shrine in order (that is the men on one side, the women on the other, each in rows according to generation, with the oldest in each generation toward the center). The presiding man ascends the steps, lights the incense, the addresses all the ancestors and ancestresses separately by title. He reports ... that he is moving them to the larger room. ...



The tablets are then arranged on the tables in the main room where their places were earlier set."



"The spirits are greeted."



"The spirits are invoked."



"The presiding man and woman ... set out many small dishes of food".



"elder brother puts out grilled meat."



"The presiding woman adds more grilled meat".



"guest adds more grilled meat".



"The spirits are urged to eat."



"The door is closed. This is to allow the spirits to eat in private."



"The door is opened. The liturgist does this after coughing three times as a warning. The presiding man and woman then serve the ancestors tea."



"The food is removed."



"Everyone bows to take leave of the spirits."



"The tablets are put back by the presiding man and woman".



"The presiding woman supervises clearing away the dishes."



"In separate quarters the men and women have family feasts."


PUBLICATIONS OF THE CHINESE POPULAR LITERATURE PROJECT, 3 = David Johnson (ed.) : Ritual and Scripture in Chinese Popular Religion. Institute of East Asian Studies Publ, U of CA, 1995.