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Chai

Chai (Chin., ‘fasting’). Formal fast in Taoism, especially before sacrifice. It developed into an occasion during which pupils confess their faults to their teacher or master. This may last for days. Generally, these rituals begin with the participants stepping into a designated space, dishevelled or smeared (e.g. with charcoal in tʾutʾan chai) to indicate penitence. They repeat the twelve vows of repentance, then confess their sins to the accompaniment of rhythmic dreams. This, combined with thrice-daily repetition and little food, produces physical and ecstatic states. Among the different Tao schools, chai ceremonies are especially important in Ling-pao pʾai, Tʾai-ping tao, and Wutou-mi tao; in these, the connection between sickness and sin is explicit, so that the repentance rituals are tied to healing expectations.

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