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T’oung Pao 95 (2009) 51-119

© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2009 DOI: 10.1163/008254309X12586659061488

Ming Princes and Daoist Ritual

Richard G. Wang*
(University of Florida)


This essay explores the relationship between the patronage of Ming princes and local
Daoism, focusing on ritual. While the role of Ming princes in local religion is an
under-appreciated subject, this essay demonstrates that their support is crucial to our
understanding of Daoism during that period. The efforts of princes made local Daoist
ritual visible. In fact, they occupied an important role in propagating Daoism as an
element of cultural and religious identity. Moreover, by different approaches to Daoist
ritual, the Ming princes represented the various religious and social needs of lay patrons
in the local community.


Cet article explore la relation entre le patronage des princes Ming et le taoïsme local,
en s’attachant plus particulièrement au rituel. Alors qu’on tend à sous-estimer le rôle
des princes Ming dans le domaine des religions locales, l’article montre que prendre en
compte leur soutien est décisif pour notre compréhension du taoïsme pendant cette
période. Les efforts des princes ont rendu visible les rituels taoïstes au niveau local. Ils
ont en fait joué un rôle important dans la propagation du taoïsme comme élément
d’identité culturelle et religieuse. En outre, par leurs approches différentes du rituel
taoïste les princes Ming étaient représentatifs de la variété des demandes religieuses et
sociales des laïques au sein de la communauté locale.


Ming princes, Daoist ritual, Divine Music Abbey, patron, ordination

* I wish to express my gratitude to Vincent Goossaert and Ken Dean for their invaluable
suggestions. I also thank John Lagerwey for having provided me with generous comments.
Finalizing this article was supported by a grant from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation
for International Scholarly Exchange.

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52 R.G. Wang / T’oung Pao 95 (2009) 51-119


Besides studying the thought of some Daoist thinkers and being
interested in Daoist sects, scholars of Ming Daoism have paid particular
attention to the interaction between the court and certain Daoist priests
and to the political results of such interaction. That is to say, the focus
has been on either emperors or Daoist masters. Yet in the Ming era a
special group of people patronized Daoism and Daoist establishments:
they were the members of the imperial clan who were enfeoffed as
“princes” (wang ). Edward Farmer rightly observes that, together
with the military nobility, the status of the Ming princes “was hereditary,
and they outranked the civil officials in ceremonial and social standing.”1
This group was so large that the princely estates (wangzhuang )
granted to them, or established by them, were economically quite

Ming princes played an important cultural role as well by promoting
the development of local religions.3 The relationship between their
group and religions, in particular local religions, has received very little
academic attention. This essay explores the interaction between Ming
princes as religious patrons and local Daoism, focusing on ritual
institutions and practice. I will first examine the Ming princely
patronage of Daoism focusing on princely ritual institutions, including
the “Divine Music” institution. Then I will discuss three groups of
Ming princes: those who joined the Daoist order by receiving ordination
or were initiated into the neidan lineages; the activist patrons; and
ordinary patrons. Although I will be only dealing with ritual, it should
be noted that the Ming princely patronage of Daoism included many
other aspects, such as writing books on and practicing Daoist self-
cultivation; princely printing, collecting, handcopying or reading of
Daoist canonical books; patronage of temples; participation in religious
associations; friendship with Daoists; literary patronage; and the

1) Farmer, Early Ming Government, p. 58. See also Hucker, “Ming Government,” p. 29.
2) For a general discussion of Ming princely estates, see Shimizu, Mindai tochi seidoshi,
pp. 15-36, 44-90, 157-204; Wan Guoding, “Mingdai zhuangtian,” pp. 295-310; Zheng
Kesheng, Mingdai zhengzheng, pp. 87-184, 205-221; Wang Yuquan, “Mingdai de wang-
fu zhuangtian,” pp. 110-242; Li Longqian, “Mingdai zhuangtian de fazhan,” pp. 346-430;
Huang Miantang, Mingshi guanjian, pp. 159-233.
3) For a discussion of the cultural impact of Ming princes, see Du Yue, “Mingdai zongshi
de wenhua chengjiu,” pp. 88-93; Su Derong, “Mingdai zongshi wenhua,” pp. 21-24.

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R.G. Wang / T’oung Pao 95 (2009) 51-119 85

(Anhui).129 We do not know whether Immortal Lata accepted
Zhu Yuying as a disciple, and thus conferred ordination on him; but
another princely member’s case is interesting. In his princedom, Wang
Taiyuan , allegedly the son of the last prince of Tang,130 is said
to have been raised by Huang Shouzhong (Yedaposhe

, ?-1792), better known as the Jizu daozhe (Daoist of
Chicken Foot Mountain), and to have become the latter’s disciple at
Jizu shan (Chicken Foot Mountain) in Yunnan. Huang
Shouzhong, disputably a direct disciple of the famous Quanzhen master
Wang Changyue (?-1680), belonged to the eighth generation
of the so-called “Longmen orthodox lineage” (Longmen zhengzong

) in the early Qing, and was credited with establishing the Xizhu
xinzong (Heart School of West India), a Longmen branch
in Yunnan. Changing his royal family name of Zhu to Wang to signify
his original status as a prince (wang ), Wang Taiyuan became the
ninth-generation disciple of the Xizhu xinzong branch as well as the
Longmen lineage, with Taiyuan as his Daoist faming. He was also
known locally as Dajiao xian .131 Given that all the details about
Wang Taiyuan come from Min Yide’s (1758-1836) Jin’gai
xindeng (Transmission of the mind-lamp from Mount

129) Zhu [Yu]ying [ ] , “Shang Lata xian shu” , in Lu Dian (fl. 1599-fl.
1637), Qiyun shan Taoyuan dongtian zhi, pp. 9b-10b. For information on Immortal Lata,
see ibid., pp. 5b-7a, 10a-b, 12a-b; Qiyun shanzhi bianzuan bangongshi, comp., Qiyun
shanzhi, pp. 193-94.
130) At the end of the Ming there were three last princes of Tang. Zhu Yujian
(1602-1646) was entitled Prince of Tang in 1632, but was deprived of the title and put
in jail in 1636. His younger brother Zhu Yumo (after 1602-1641) succeeded him
and became Prince of Tang that year. Zhu Yumo died in 1641 when rebels captured
Nanyang, where the Tang princely establishment was located. In the Southern Ming, Zhu
Yujian ascended the imperial throne in Fuzhou (Fujian), establishing the reign title
Longwu , and confirmed another brother, Zhu Yuao (after 1602-1647), as
successor to the title of Prince of Tang in 1645. After the defeat of the Longwu emperor,
who died in 1646, Zhu Yuao assumed the imperial throne in Guangzhou (Guangdong)
with the reign title Shaowu , but he was defeated and killed in 1647. Wang Taiyuan’s
mother escaped to Jizu shan (Yunnan) after her husband’s death; she gave birth
to Wang Taiyuan there. Given the geographical distance between Nanyang and Yunnan,
it is likely that Wang Taiyuan’s father was either Zhu Yujian or Zhu Yuao, who were in
Fuzhou or Guangzhou during the Southern Ming.
131) Min Yide, Jin’gai xindeng, 6A.5b.

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86 R.G. Wang / T’oung Pao 95 (2009) 51-119

Jin’gai), which is not very reliable, we do not know how much in his
case is legendary and how much historical.132

Prince Duanyi of Jingjiang (Zhu Yueqi , titled
1490-1516 and enfeoffed in Guilin, Guangxi) called himself Perfected
Zhu , and would often wear a Daoist turban (daoshijin

).133 His brother, or cousin, Zhu Yueji (fl. 1551-58) wrote
a collection of his Daoist works, the Guanhua ji , which focuses
on neidan, as well as other writings on Daoist immortals and masters.134
Zhu Yueji honored Master Guguang as his Daoist master,
and he took Xie Yingkui as his disciple in neidan teachings.135
Presumably he was initiated into a neidan lineage—at least there was
a formal transmission process similar to that of Daoism between Master
Guguang, Zhu Yueji, and Xie Yingkui. Likewise, in the Zheng
Principality (enfeoffed in Huaiqing prefecture, Henan), the
oldest son of a certain prince of Zheng took Yang Budai , a
Daoist priest, as his master.136 We are not certain about the last two
princes’ standing in Daoism, however.

The aforementioned examples from the Ning, Ji, Tang, and probably
Jingjiang and Zheng principalities provide us with comparatively
detailed information about the place the princes in question occupied
in Daoist lineages, leading to the conclusion that they were ordained,
or at least initiated, with attendant rites. The next cases are not as
concrete, but they derive from accounts issuing from the Daoist
community. Thus, a Daoist robe (daopao) was discovered by
archaeologists in the tomb of Prince Xuan of Yi (Zhu Yiyin

, 1537-1603 whose Daoist hao was Huangnan daoren

132) On the unreliability of the Jin’gai xindeng, see Esposito, “The Longmen School,”
pp. 622, 628, 640, 654, 657, 660, 671-74.
133) Su Derong, “Mingdai zongshi wenhua,” p. 24; Guangxi tongzhi (1599), 6.4a-b.
134) The Guanhua ji is included in the “Daoist Works Listed by Title” (Daojia lei cunmu

), in the “Branch of Philosophers” (zibu), in the Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao
, and is extant. See Zhu Yueji, Guanhua ji; Ji Yun (1724-1805) et al.,

comp., Qinding siku quanshu zongmu, 147.1967; Lingui xianzhi (1802), 3.10b, 20.10b-
135) Zhu Yueji, Guanhua ji; Yuan Fuzheng (fl. 1544-1551), “Guanhua ji xu”

, in Guanhua ji, prefaces, p. 3b; Luo Hongxian (1504-64), “Guanhua ji
xu” , ibid., pp. 1b-2a; Shen Yingkui (fl. 1556-1557), “Guanhua ji xu,” ibid.,
p. 17b; Lingui xianzhi, 3.10b, 20.10b-11a.
136) Ruyang xianzhi (1690), 9B.67b; Chongxiu Runan xianzhi (1938), 22.44a-b.

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R.G. Wang / T’oung Pao 95 (2009) 51-119 119

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