Posts Tagged ‘chinese history’

“Back to Nanjing Road. Shangai. 1975. The stores are adorned with propaganda banners.
The one on the right is a quote from Lenin: ‘Without revolutionary
theory there can be no revolutionary movement.’” 


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“Shanghai, 1971. Children are carrying images of Mao and red flags, while citizens go about their business.”


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“…the Demon Statutes of Nüqing, once thought to be the earliest
juridical “demon statutes” (guiliu

规律) thus implying a netherworld
bureaucracy, in the Daoist Canon in existence no later than the end
of the fourth century A.D., is really a code of laws for the members
of the early Heavenly Master organization. As is well known, “demon
soldiers” (guizu 


or guibing

鬼兵) was a common title of neophytes
in the early Heavenly Master church. This observation calls for a
reconsideration of the purpose and real nature of the Demon Statutes
of Nüqing
in its religious context. 

The archaeological evidence of early Heavenly Master beliefs
concerning the mortuary journey as a bureaucratic affair consists of
five excavated Daoist tomb ordinances from the Southern Dynasties.
They span the period from early fifth to early sixth century A.D. Seidel and other scholars of Han tomb ordinances have seen in these
texts descendants of the religion of grave contracts of Han tombs. We find in them almost the same closing formula:

In accordance with the Statutes and Ordinances of the


Edicts [for the] subterranean
world by the Most High Lord of the Illimitable Great Dao of the
Upper Three Heavens of Grand Clarity, the Mysterious, and the Primordial.

In view of the identical form of the closing formula appearing in
Daoist grave contracts, Seidel claims that their language is close to
that of Han grave contracts of the second century A.D. In addition,
Nickerson points out that, “Even more striking is the large number
of [chthonian] spirits that are common to the proto-Taoist and the
Taoist ordinances.” Supported by the evidence of these identical
elements, Seidel states that the religion of Han tomb ordinances
“become(s) Taoism.” Following Seidel, Nickerson suggests that “the
proto-Taoist and the Taoist ordinances must have shared some

sources” and “medieval Taoist ordinances are their [the Han grave
writs] descendants.”‘ 

In order to advance her view that there is a direct connection
between the Statutes and Ordinances of the


Edicts of the fifth century
A.D. and the proto-Daoist tomb ordinances of the second century
A.D., Seidel “equates” the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

with the Demon Statutes of

Nüqing, the earliest code of law in the
early Heavenly Master religion. She justifies the equation on the
ground of a similar use of the ruling formula in the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing

and the assumption of a conservative rate of change in funeral

In connection with the late Han tomb ordinances, the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing

is often interpreted in the context of funeral rites and beliefs
concerning the salvation of the dead. More importantly, it is used as
evidence for the development of a netherworld bureaucracy in early
Daoism. Its scriptural title, “Demon Statutes,” is usually taken to
refer to the existence of a code of laws for demon officials in the
netherworld. Thus Seidel states:

The Statutes of the Dead Souls of


[i.e., the Demon Statutes of

Nüqing] could
itself be the revised version of a superseded code of the Celestial Thearch
since it came to play, in Taoist funeral rites, the same role as the “Statutes
and Ordinances of the Celestial Thearch” in Han funeral texts.

There is no reason to doubt that the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

is related to the mortuary journey of the dead and is
designed to ensure their redemption. It functions with the force of a
decree issued from the lofty celestial realm of the Upper Three Heavens
to bring the subterrestrial administration under control by promising
demon-officials advancement in the otherworldly bureaucracy should

they obey, or punishment according to the “code of laws for demons” (guiliu).  Master Red-Pine’s Almanac of Petition (

zi zhang li


愿) includes many examples of the use
of the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

as Daoist death ritual
documents in the fifth century A.D. It is used to command the
underworld spirits and tomb demons and prevent them from causing
harm to the deceased, and to punish and eradicate the tomb demons
if they cause harmful anomalies and calamitous injuries to the living
by “infusing and suing” them.

It says:

If stale vapors of subordinate officials assume form and lead demon troops,
driving forth [the demons of wounding infusions among] the previously departed,
[forcing them] to return and arrive at the family’s gate [to intimidate
the living], rely on the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

to control and
annihilate them all.

In the Scripture of Divine Spell (Shenzhou jing 


it is not so clear that the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

used as a Daoist mortuary document ordering the secure passage of
the dead to the netherworld by controlling the underworld functionaries.
Nor is it placed in the ritual of sending petitions to the
Celestial Bureaus for releasing the living from demonic harassment
and noxious vapors. Nevertheless, the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

as cited in the Scripture of Divine Spells continues to serve as a
celestial code of laws for netherworld demons, forbidding them to
harm people. It says:

If there are stale vapors in people’s households, causing them disaster and
death, all evil demons, mountain and forest demons, pond and lake demons,
let them all be seized and sent to the prison of three heavens in accordance
with the

Demon Statutes of the Nüqing Edicts

that commands them not to cause
kind and good people illnesses.

Thus, the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

could itself be a
code of laws for demons used as a celestial edict from the Most High
Lord Lao addressed to an extensive pantheon of subterrestial spirits
and demons. It is employed in mortuary rites to command the tomb
spirits not to hinder the deceased from proceeding to his destination
in the afterworld, and in the ritual of sending petitions to celestial
deities as an edict to “arrest and disperse the tomb demons who inflict
harm on the living”.

In short, there is no doubt that the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

provides concrete evidence of the mortuary beliefs and practices
of the early Medieval Heavenly Masters. It includes the idea of bureaucratic
hierarchies of the netherworld underlying the bureaucratized
Daoist death ritual. In addition, it consists of a soteriological conception
that is based upon a written code of laws sent to underworld spirits
and demons in order to keep them from harassing the deceased or
causing the living demonic harassment or demonic infusions. 

The overall goals underlying the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

are absent from the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing. Indeed, closer
inspection shows that the

Statutes and Ordinances of the Nüqing Edicts

plainly not the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing

.’ The bureaucratic model of
religious logic expressed in the grave contracts found in Han tombs
and later in the mortuary beliefs and practices underlying early
medieval Daoist death rituals is not found in the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing. Instead, as we will see, it is a Daoist text that reveals the names
of baleful demons and netherworld spirits. Aside from the revelation
of the demons’ names, which allows the owner of the text to control
them, the

Demon Statutes of Nüqing contains precepts and taboos about
prohibited conduct together with statutes and punishment for transgressions,
and the text has been produced by the early Heavenly Master


Lai Chi-Tim, “The “Demon Statutes of Nüqing” and the Problem of the Bureaucratization of the
Netherworld in Early Heavenly Master Daoism.” T’oung Pao, Second Series, Vol. 88, Fasc. 4/5 (2002), pp. 254-258

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