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JIAO . The Chinese term jiao (sacrifice) in ancient times referred to a pledge in wine at the wedding ceremony or at the coming of age of a son. But the common meaning that we shall consider here is the sacrificial part of major Daoist services. In this connection jiao has historically been associated with zhai, the rites of abstinence and penitence. Under Buddhist influence, zhai took the form of rituals for the salvation of the individual and ancestors, whereas jiao sacrifices were performed by ordained Daoist priests to renew the community's covenant with the highest powers for blessings and protection. As practiced in Taiwan today, both these functions are generally covered by the single term jiao.

Although a dozen varieties of jiao are differentiated according to their purpose, in effect only four are performed nowadays with any frequency in Taiwan: (1) for peace and safety (ping'an jiao), (2) for the prevention of epidemics (wen jiao), (3) for blessings in general (qingcheng jiao), and (4) for protection from fire (huo jiao). Services may be held either at fixed intervals or irregularly, but the latter is much more common. However, in this as in the matter of their duration (from one to as many as seven days and nights) there is considerable variation according to custom and circumstance.

The essential difference between the Jiao and other large-scale religious services is that the powers addressed in the Jiao are the Three Pure Ones (San Qing), hypostases of the Dao, rather than the gods of popular religion. These Daoist powers receive only "pure" offeringswine, tea, cakes, fruitin contrast to the "blood sacrifices" of the popular cults. The public is allowed to attend and participate in the rituals of popular religion, but it is strictly barred from the sacred arena where the Daoists perform the Jiao. However, the people of the community prepare themselves for the visit of the Three Pure Ones by observing a fast for several days before the Jiao.

The sacred arena (daochang) of the Jiao is usually the community temple. But as the purpose of the Jiao is communion with the Three Pure Ones rather than with the deities of popular religion, the sacred arena is rearranged so that the main altar is reserved for the San Qing (represented by painted scrolls bearing the images of the deities) while the other deities are relegated to subsidiary or "guest" status at the altar of the three realms (that is, Heaven, earth, and the waters). The services, complex and protracted, consist of the following essential parts: announcement to the divine powers of the celebration of this Jiao, and an invitation for them to attend; feasting them when they have arrived; presenting official petitions seeking forgiveness of sins and expressing penitence; a formal negotiation for the renewal of the covenant between the highest powers and the community; sending off the eminent guests when this pact has been concluded. As part of the Jiao, rites for the salvation of all souls (pudu) are invariably included. The officiants include a high priest (gaogong), several assistants, and a small group of musicians, to whose accompaniment most of the actions are performed. Besides the official celebrants, prominent men of the community who have contributed heavily to the expenses of the Jiao are present within the sacred arena. At specified moments in the liturgy they follow the lead of the Daoist priests in making obeisances to the deities. This special privilege adds to the stature of the donors in the community and at the same time makes or generates religious merit for them.

The people of the community also earn merit by observing the preliminary fast, by contributing money, and through many kinds of assistance in preparation for the Jiao. Although they do not participate in the rituals that take place within the daochang, they do offer their own sacrifices in prepared areas outside the temple, to ancestors, gods, and bereaved spirits. At certain moments in the Jiao the celebrants appear before the public and perform rituals, usually at the several "outer altars" (waitan) that have been erected in vacant lots near the sacred arena. These altars, masterpieces of folk art, are dedicated to various important deities of popular religion.

The festivities which accompany the Jiao are many. One high point, so far as the people are concerned, is a colorful procession to the banks of a river (or ocean), where paper and bamboo rafts are launched. Bearing candles, the rafts float away to invite the souls of the drowned to come for their share of the feast provided by the community (this feast is the public part of the pudu ). While the priests perform their esoteric liturgy within the temple, a great festival is taking place in the community. Mounds of sacrificial offerings, performances of drama, convivial entertainment of friends, relatives, and even strangers, and a general atmosphere of carnival draw huge crowds from near and far. All of this makes the Jiao not just a liturgical service, but a total community event.

For the Daoists, the Jiao is of more profound significance. According to the most ancient and basic theories of Daoism, to call down the highest powers of the macrocosm is in actuality to practice the exercises of "inner alchemy" (neidan) within the microcosm of the priest's body. While the high priest outwardly performs the liturgy, addressing the highest powers, he inwardly undergoes a regimen designed to produce the "immortal fetus." In the Jiao, then, the ultimate goal of the Daoist religion is still what it has always been: the attainment of immortality.

See Also

Alchemy, article on Chinese Alchemy; Priesthood, article on Daoist Priesthood; Worship and Devotional Life, article on Daoist Devotional Life.


The most detailed analytical description of the Jiao is Michael Saso's Taoism and the Rite of Cosmic Renewal (Seattle, 1972). A careful study of one of the constituent rites is in Kristofer Schipper's Le Fen Teng: Ritual taoïste (Paris, 1975). Édouard Chavannes gives a translation, with a wealth of annotation, of texts used in the zhai, in his Le Jet des Dragons (Paris, 1916). A rare account of the Jiao as practiced in imperial times is in J. J. M. de Groot's Les fêtes annuellemment célébrées à Émoui (Amoy), 2 vols. (1886; reprint., Taipei, 1977). For a good description written in popular style with color photographs, see Linda Wu's "The Biggest Festival of Them All," Echo 4 (January 1974): 2844. General information on Daoism and specific information about Daoist communal rituals in pre-Tang times is given in the fundamental work of Henri Maspero, first published posthumously in Les religions chinoises (Paris, 1950), later published in expanded form in Le taoïsme et les religions chinoises (Paris, 1971). The latter has been translated into English by Frank A. Kierman, Jr., as Daoism and Chinese Religion (Amherst, 1981). The most complete and best informed overall treatment of Daoism since Maspero is the book by Kristofer Schipper, Le corps taoïste (Paris, 1982); see especially chapter 5, "Le rituel."

New Sources

Wickeri, P. L., et al. Christianity & Modernization: A Chinese Debate. Hongkong, 1995.

Wu, Y.-y., L. G. Thompson, and G. Seaman. The Taoist Tradition in Chinese Thought. Los Angeles, 1991.

Wu, Y.-y., L. G. Thompson, and G. Seaman. Chinese Religious Traditions Collated. Los Angeles, 1997.

Laurence G. Thompson (1987)

Revised Bibliography