Chapter 12 The Phoenix Perches in the Land of the Kami: Spirit-Writing from Yiguandao to Tendō

In: Communicating with the Gods
Author:
Nikolas Broy
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Abstract

This chapter sets out to explore the nature, forms, and meanings of spirit-writing in the Chinese popular sect Yiguandao 一貫道 (the Way of Pervading Unity) and how they have been adapted by one of its Japanese offshoots, Tendō 天道 (the Way of Heaven), after WWII. By examining the development and significance of spirit-writing in Yiguandao since the late nineteenth-century, I seek to contribute to the understudied topic of spirit-writing in the Chinese sectarian tradition. In the first part, I show that throughout most of Yiguandao’s history spirit-writing was the single most important source of religious and moral texts, but it was also a key instrument in legitimizing organizational and institutional innovations. In the second part, I explore how this particularly Chinese religious practice was transculturated into a non-Chinese context and plays a vital role in the already “Japanized” Yiguandao community Tendō. Besides Vietnamese Caodaism, which has its own peculiar fusion of Chinese spirit-writing and French spiritist practices, Tendō is a rare case to probe into the evolution of spirit-writing beyond the confines of a Chinese cultural-religious context.

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Communicating with the Gods

Spirit-Writing in Chinese History and Society

Series:  Prognostication in History, Volume: 11

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