Buddhist Traces in Song Daoism: A Case From Thunder-Rite (Leifa) Daoism
After the turn of the first millennium the Chinese religious landscape had developed to a degree that the production of hybrid Buddho-Daoist ritual texts was a widespread phenomenon. With the rise of a Daoist trend referred to as Thunder Rites (leifa 雷法), which matured during the mid- to late-Song 宋 Dynasty (960–1279) and did not solely pertain to any particular branch of Daoism, a new type of (often Buddho-Daoist) ritual practice had emerged, largely exorcistic in nature, that would eventually be incorporated into classical Daoist traditions. Practitioners of Thunder Rites were either members of the established Daoist orthodoxy or itinerant thaumaturges, referred to as ritual masters (fashi 法師). Buddhist Esoteric knowledge in the Song Dynasty was so wide-spread that it did not only find its way from “court to country”, but even back to court again—namely through Thunder Rite ritual masters like Wang Wenqing, who acted as the imperial preceptor of Emperor Huizong and in whose hybrid Buddho-Daoist productions of ritual texts the Buddhist traces had become almost invisible.
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