Anchoring Guanyin: Appropriative Strategies in a New Phoenix Hall Scripture

Philip Clart. “Anchoring Guanyin: Appropriative Strategies in a New Phoenix Hall Scripture.” Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theatre and Folklore 173 (2011.9): 101-28.
柯若樸。〈錨定觀音:一部新的鸞堂經文的借用策略〉。《民俗曲藝》173 (2011.9): 101-28


The fact that scriptures play such a significant role in the supposedly mainly oral culture of Chinese popular religion raises a number of questions: Who writes them? How are they used? What religious ideas do they manifest? How do they appropriate and affect the cult of their protagonist deities? The present article seeks to address these questions using the case of Guanyin’s Lotus Sutra of the Marvellous Dao (Guanyin miaodao lianhua jing), a text revealed between 1998 and 2000 by means of spirit-writing at a Taichungcity phoenix hall, the Xuyuan tang. The analysis of the scripture’s structure and rhetoric reveals that the Guanyin sutra represents a mode of popular and sectarian engagement with the Buddhist tradition that differs from and enriches the picture provided for us by Chün-fang Yü’s studies of Guanyin and by Prasenjit Duara’s notion of “superscription.” While we are definitely looking at a layering of meanings, as Duara did by regarding the Guandi myth as “a palimpsest of layered meanings,” the image of “superscription” does not accurately describe the way the Guanyin sutra does not so much overwrite but underlay Buddhist devotionalism with phoenix hall notions of Dao cultivation. In effect, the Guanyin sutra provides an inclusivist re-anchoring of Guanyin-related devotional practices in a core set of sectarian notions of personal cultivation, thus allowing us to differentiate a distinct mode of the syncretic construction of religious doctrine in a popular sectarian context.

在中國民間信仰被認為多是口頭相傳的情況下經文的作用不可小覷。與此相關也產生了一系列的問題經文作者為何人應用如何內中有何宗教觀點如何獲得並影響其內所主導的神靈信仰?本文通過以《觀音妙道蓮華經》作為個案研究,來試圖對上文提出的問題作以闡釋。這篇經文是在1998年到2000年間由臺中市的一家鸞堂,即虛原堂,扶乩得來。通過對本篇經文的結構和語言修辭的研究可以發現,這篇觀音經文代表了一種民間信仰、民間教派與佛教傳統相結合的模式。這樣既不同於于君方對觀音的研究,也不同於杜贊奇 (Prasenjit Duara)「多層書寫」的理念,但卻豐富了我們對於民間教派思想體系形成的認識。杜贊奇把關帝神話的發展看作是「在羊皮紙上層疊相加的多次書寫」原本無可厚非,但如果我們試圖尋找有關觀音的多次「書寫」的痕跡,就會發現,這種「多層書寫」的理念並不能適用於這部觀音經文,因為它並沒有被作為新的「書寫」出現在觀音神話發展的「羊皮紙」上,而是將鸞堂的修道觀點作為一種深層基礎置於佛教觀音信仰的聖殿之下。實際上,這篇觀音經文通過一系列的鸞堂個人修道觀念展現了詳盡的觀音信仰活動的包容性的再錨定,因而給我們提供了一種在民間教派的大環境下宗教教義融合的獨特形式。