Fieldwork Notes 1st year: 2017-2018
In the last year, I made several data-collection trips to Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities, to find the material related to Jin Bencun and his spirit-writing altar, since most extant literatures are nowadays housed in the libraries in these cities, rather than Sichuan province.
Here is the list of the different kinds of literatures I have already collected:
- The full text of Wendi Quanshu (The Complete Collection of Thearch Lord Wenchang) and its revised versions, as well as its variant version Wenchang Shengdian (The Sacred Canon of Wenchang), which were published by Liu Tishu and Jin Bencun, based on some text produced in Jin’s spirit-writing altars.
- An incomplete collection of ritual texts produced in Sichuan and Guizhou area in late Qing, in which the communities who published them regarded themselves as the successor of Jin and his altars. These literatures were found in the rare book store in Chongqing city last year, and never identified or mentioned by any scholars before. Most of the rituals were dedicated to Wenchang cult, which proves the connection with Jin’s network of spirit-writing altars.
- Several Dongjing (Scripture of the Great Cavity) produced in Yunnan were found, which showed a strong connection with the texts received by Jin and his disciples in Sichuan in early-mid Qing. It seems these texts are still in use in contemporary Yunan.
- Two novel-style moral books revealed by deified Jin through spirit-writing in Yunan late Qing was found, which proved the connection between Jin and the network of spirit-writing in Yunan.
Therefore, there are quite a few evidences on the textual transmission of Jin’s spirit-writing altar. Besides, there are other materials show that Jin was not only a leader and practitioner of spirit-writing altar, he was even deified after his death within some networks of spirit-writing communities.
In the second year of the project, I am planning several field trip to Sichuan and Yunan Province, especially on the Dongjing Hui (Community of Scripture of the Great Cavity), to investigate the history of the dissemination and variation of this tradition derived from the text produced by Jin’ community.
Fieldwork Notes 2nd year: 2018-2019
In the last year, I mainly focused on a community named “Wenchang Doutan” 文昌斗壇 (Dipper Altar Dedicated to Wenchang) which was active in the Guizhou area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A group of new liturgical texts were found in the contemporary Zunyi 遵義 city by several bibliophiles and rare-book dealers. These materials have never been studied or even seen by modern scholars, and no such examplers are housed in any provincial or state libraries either. In the paratext, this community claimed themselves as the inheritor of the Wenchang altar established by Jin Bencun.
Below is the list of the texts I collected:
- Wenchang Doutan Keyi 文昌斗壇科儀 (The Rituals of Dipper Altar Dedicated to Wenchang): The whole set is supposed to contain 24 volumes. I have collected 19 of them from different book dealers for now. The books were published in late Qing in Zunyi 遵邑. They included not only the texts inherited from Jin Bencun’s Wenchang spirit-writing altar but also rituals prevailed in Sichuan area, such as rituals dedicated to Chuanzhu 川主 (Lord of Sichuan).
- Wenchang Yizhi 文昌儀制 (Ritual System of Wenchang): The whole set includes four series while each includes four volumes. These texts were published a bit later than Wenchang Doutan Keyi. They were again liturgical texts dedicated to Wenchang but syncretized spirit-writing texts, Taoist rituals prevailed in Sichuan, and some Confucian elements.
- Rudian Dacheng 儒典大成 (The Great Collection of Confucian Canons): The whole set includes twelve volumes. I got the photocopy of them from a bibliophile in Chongqing city. The texts are also liturgical texts, including talisman and chantings, albeit the “Confucian” title. In fact, these texts inherited the Wenchang rituals and that was the reason of its Confucian self-identification.
- Other Wenchang texts related.
I also made a field trip to Chengdu and Chongqing in July 2019. The main purpose is to visit the libraries and archives to find more information about the local communities dedicated to Wenchang.
Another vital purpose is to meet some bibliophile to access some rare books related to my project. I also happened to run into a relic of Wenchang Palace in Chongqing city. It is now in an area of some governmental project of housing demolishing and relocation. The speciality of this relic is that the shape of the building shows that it was originally a fortress rather than merely a religious site. It is the evidence that Wenchang cult in Qing dynasty was beyond merely literary elements. It could also be related to the military activities, just as the first edition of Wenchang canon was edited by a military official in Guizhou province.