Sectarian Networks in Local Society: The Heaven and Earth and Laozi Teachings in Cangzhou, Hebei
Thomas DuBois, Washington University, St. Louis
Although sectarian groups are generally treated by scholars as discrete networks with characteristic doctrine, scriptures, and rituals, they are also local phenomena. This is evident in the local organization and consciousness of the Heaven and Earth Teaching (Tiandimen) and the Laozi Teaching (Taishangmen) in modern Cangzhou, Hebei. Each of these teachings spread widely throughout North China during the Qing dynasty, but in modern Cangzhou both remain primarily local, with strong ritual and social networks in the immediate area, but little or no contact with branches outside of it.
Of the two teachings, the Heaven and Earth Teaching retains the stronger network, both extra-locally and among villages within Cangzhou. Extra-local ties consist of the knowledge of Dongjialin Village in northern Shandong as the origin and spiritual center of the teaching, and the scriptural memory of its spread to Cangzhou. In addition, groups in Cangzhou retain contact with those in Duliu, near Tianjin, which had received the teaching from a Cangzhou teacher during the mid-Qing. However, the strongest ties are those maintained among Cangzhou villages. In contrast, the Laozi Teaching has no scriptural and little consciousness of its history as a teaching or its arrival in Cangzhou. Villages with the teaching have no knowledge of groups outside the area. Within Cangzhou, villages with the teaching are divided into North Chest and South Chest networks, suggesting that they had once cooperated in a ritual capacity. However, within living memory, ritual ties even among local villages in the teaching have been weak.