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Five Camps Celestial Soldiers

The earliest mention of the camps of the Five Directions is found in the Daojing (道經) from the Han (漢) and Jin (晉) Dynasties in China; perhaps the concept of the camps of the five directions dates back to the Han Dynasty or even earlier.

The Camps Of Five Directions(五营) are able to drive off plagues and devils, with the power to ward off evil spirits; establishing the five camps in a settlement gave symbolic significance to demarcating territory and also allowed the people to believe the space in which they resided was a place under the protection of the main god of the settlement temple and the marshals of the five camps.

The Popular Formation Of The Five Camps Celestial Soldiers (五营兵将):
*Most Temples in Taiwan use this formation.
*Follow the formation found in The Record of 36 Celestial Generals (三十六天将).

East Camp(东营) Commander: 張公圣者 - 张基清 (Zhang Jiqing)     
South Camp(南营 Commander: 萧公圣者 - 萧其明 (Xiao Qiming)
West Camp(西营) Commander: 刘公圣者 - 刘武秀 (Liu Wuxiu)
North Camp(北营) Commander: 连公圣者 - 连忠宫 (Lian Zhong Gong)
Central Camp(中营) Commander: 李公圣者 - 李哪吒 (Lee Ne-Zha)

In 闾山派 (Lǘ Shān Sect), East Camp(东营) Commander: 法主真君 - 张慈观 (Zhang Chi Guan)

In some Taiwan Regions, "Wen (溫), Kang (康), Zhao (趙), Ma (馬) and Li (李)" Battalion Formation will be used.

Kun-Lun Sect (昆仑派) consider there are 3 groups of 5 Camps - High, Middle, Low
The High Level 5 Camps Commanders: "Zhang (張), Xiao (蕭), Liu (劉), Lian (連),  Lee (李)"
These High Level Camps Commanders are given the Title: 圣者 (Sheng Zhe) - Holy Saint.

The Middle Level 5 Camps Commanders:
East Camp(东营) Commander: 溫元帥 - (Wen Qiong) 
South Camp(南营 Commander:  元帥 - 康席 (Kang Xi)  
West Camp(西营) Commander: 元帥 - 趙公明 (Zhao Gong Ming)
North Camp(北营) Commander:  馬元帥 - 靈耀 (Ma Ling Yao) 
Central Camp(中营) Commander: 李元帥 - 李哪吒 (Lee Ne-Zha) 
These Middle Level 5 Camps' Commanders are given the Title:  元帥 (Yuan Shuai) - Marshal. 

* There are still many other groups of 5 Camps which will not be discussed.

The Low Level 5 Camps - The Five Ghosts (五鬼阴兵)   (Used by Taoist Sorcerers - For Black Magic Purpose)

No. Of Celestial Soldiers in each camp:
For East Camp: 99,000 Celestial Soldiers
For South Camp: 88,000 Celestial Soldiers
For West Camp: 66,000 Celestial Soldiers
For North Camp: 55,000 Celestial Soldiers
For Central Camp: 33,000 Celestial Soldiers

Five Camps Celestial Soldiers (五营兵将) in Folks Taoism System:
*Follow the formation found in Investiture of the Gods(封神演义):
*Popularly seen  in the Taoist Temples in South East Asia

East Camp(东营) Commander: Lei Zhen Zi (東营雷震子)
South Camp(南营) Commander: Nan Gong Shi or Nan Gong Que (南營南宮適/南宮闕)
West Camp(西营) Commander: Yang Jian (西营杨戬)
North Camp(北营) Commander: Wu Ji (北营武吉)
Central Camp(中营) Commander: Lee Ne-Zha (中营李哪吒)

East Camp(东营) Commander: Lei Zhen Zi (東营雷震子)
South Camp(南营) Commander: Huang Fei Hu (南营黃飛虎)
West Camp(西营) Commander: Yang Jian (西营杨戬)
North Camp(北营) Commander: Chong Hei Hu (北营崇黑虎)
Central Camp(中营) Commander: Lee Ne-Zha (中营李哪吒)

In popular belief, all temples in the region were divided into inner and outer camps; the inner camps were established within the temple as the “head of the five camps (五營首)” or the “banner of the five camps (五營旗)”, dedicated to the main god. The outer camps were called the “five forts (五營寨)” or the “temples of the old general (將爺廟)”; centered around the temple, they were divided into five elements or five colors: “East-South-West-North-Center – Blue-Red-White-Black-Gold – Zhang-Xiao-Liu-Lian-Li”. The central camp was established in front of the temple or in the center of the settlement; the other camps were established at the gates of the settlement on the main roads in each of the four directions or at intersections. The eastern camp was the Jiu Yi army (九夷軍)(the blue dragon), with 99,000 troops and horses; the southern camp was the Baman (八蠻) army (the vermillion bird), with 88,000 troops and horses; the western camp was the Liu Rong (六戎) army (the white tiger), with 66,000 troops and horses; the northern camp was the Wu Di (五狄) army (the dark warrior), with 55,000 troops and horses; the central camp was the San Qin (三秦) army, with 33,000 troops and horses.

Symbolic representations of the marshals of the five camps are extremely diverse; some are represented in portraits and statues; some are depicted on strips of bamboo or prayer flags; some are even venerated in small shrines; but all of them have specific ceremonies for them to function as the marshals of the five camps. These ceremonies include setting up camp, breaking camp, donating to the army (with a bonus to the general), etc. Each settlement held these ceremonies at times according to their own customs. To the present day, the five camps still operate in settlements according the old traditions; they are a form of popular belief that has a very slow rate of change and also allows settlements to have more places of interest with cultural significance.

Rituals & Rewarding Of Five Camps Celestial Soldiers (五营兵将):

1) Diao Bing Qian Jiang (调兵遣将), this is a procedure that all groups that needed to perform before any Events commence

2) Fa Bing Dian Jiang (发兵点将), this is a procedure to summon, gather and appoint tasks to the Marshals and their respective subordinates

3) Jie Jie Ding Fang (结界定方), this is a procedure to set the Territory for the Marshals and Armies to stand guard, etc (Mend for External and Internal Camps).

4) Gao Shang Jun Ma (犒赏军马), this is a procedure to reward the Marshals and Armies after a certain Ritual/Ceremony ended

5) Dian Jiang Shou Ying (点将收营), this procedure only occurred at the end of the whole Ritual/Ceremony, this is to send back all the Marshals and their Armies to their respective posts (各营皆回各自岗位).

The rewarding the troops (犒軍) ritual is common in settlements mainly populated by Hoklo (福佬) migrants. In traditional society when faced by disease or invasion a “ritual expert (儀式專家)” would be invited to conduct the rewarding the troops ritual to “relieve disaster (消災解厄)”; a “release of the troops ritual (放軍)” would also be held to dispatch divine troops to guard the boundaries of the village, after the troops had pitched camp, the rewarding of troops ritual had also to be held on a regular basis.

The most distinctive rewarding the troops ritual in Taiwan is held in Penghu (澎湖). At dusk on the first and 15th days of the lunar calendar, the village temple “incense burner (香爐)”chosen for that year lays out a table with an incense burner and cooked five offering, Joss paper and rice wine in the temple square, inviting the 36 divine generals to partake. Under the table there is a tiger god statue, incense burner and raw three offerings, rice bran water and straw for their horses. Local families successively place food on the offerings table in front of the temple. The head exorcist (小法) of the six exorcists, the “ling ling (領令),” burns incense and hits the table with a wood sounding block, then, holding a ritual whip, carries out the altar opening, whipping and altar purification rituals. The members of the exorcist group on either side chant and beat drums while the exorcist (a trainee) holding the five camp order banner (五營令旗) and the ling ling who represents the marshal (元帥), respectively call the troops and horses of the five camps to the temple square (廟埕). After their arrival is confirmed by the throwing of divination blocks (擲筊), the troops and horses are inspected and rewarded. After the reward ritual, the troops are ordered back to their posts. Before religious rituals are carried out in a temple fair the five camp divine troops who guard over the village boundaries need to be called back to stand guard and, each time, they have to be rewarded for their effort through this reward ceremony.

The camps of the five directions (五營) are represented by blue, red, white, black and yellow triangular flags (三角令旗), each camp having its own commander, name and troop number:General Zhang (張將軍) leads the east camp nine barbarian tribe army (東營九夷軍) of 99,000 troops to guard the east; General Xiao (蕭將軍) leads the eight barbarian army (八蠻軍) of 88,000 troop to guard the south; General Liu (劉將軍) leads the six rong army (六戎軍) of 66,000 to guard the west, and General Lian (連將軍) leads the five di army (五狄軍) of 55,000 troops to guard the north; Marshal Lee Nuozha (李哪叱元帥) leads the three Qin army (三秦軍) of 33,000 troops to guard the center.

The rewarding the troops ritual comprises of three parts: the ritual expert, the temple and five camp heads (五營頭, space and buildings) and believers, consequently, the rewarding the troops ritual in each area is affected by 1)the faction the ritual expert belongs to and their scope of service 2) the main temple and branch temples 3) the distribution of believers, and, thus, the contents differ. For example, the rituals carried out by a Daoist priest (道士), a ritual master (法師) or a six man exorcist group are different in terms of ritual intervals and form; a rewarding the troops ritual that has believers but is not held at a temple or lacks a ritual expert can be classed as a household ritual not a settlement ritual. New religions that have sprung up in recent years, such as Cihu Temple (慈惠堂) in Songshan (松山), Taipei (臺北), even feature ritual experts wearing holy robes rewarding the troops with tang yuan (湯圓, glutinous rice balls) fruit and vegetables.

The rewarding the troops ritual is common in Hoklo areas. The Yimin Gods (義民爺) belief sphere of the Hakka (客家) people of north Taiwan does not have this ritual but the similar “offering rice (奉飯)” ritual is widely practiced, the difference being that the rice is offered to the Yimin gods not to divine troops; mixed Taiwanese (ancestors originally from Fujian) and Hakka areas in the Dongshi (東勢) area of central Taiwan practice the rewarding the troops

闾山派 (Lǘ Shān Sect)

闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage) is a very important Southern Branch of Religious Folk Taoism. The origin of 闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage) was from Fujian (福建) Province in China. It is now very famous in Taiwan and all over South-East Asia - Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Riau Islands etc.

If You walk into a Taoist Temple in Taiwan or South East Asia and happen to see Taoist Spirit Mediums in Trance, Altar of 5 Celestial Battalion Soldiers(五营兵将), Taoist Black Command Flag etc, You can be 100% sure it is 闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage), or influenced, or related.

Even many Chinese Folks in South East Asia, have been visiting such Temples but don't have a clue where these unique form of practices originated.

The initial form of 闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage) was pure shamanic practices known as 闾山法 (Lǘ Shan Shamanism). Before the Song Dynasty, 闾山法 (Lǘ Shan Shamanism) was the original practice in Fujian(闽), Zhejiang(浙), Jiangxi (赣). From the combination of 巫术(Sorcery) 、巫法(Witchcraft)、巫教(Shamanism) and the influence of Taoism , which later form a unique branch of Taoist Sect known as 闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage).

闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage) is an inclusive Taoist Sect, which has adsorb the Taoist spiritual skills of 净明道 (Jing Ming Sect), 正一道(Zheng Yi Sect) etc,and also the Buddhist Spiritual Skills of Zen Buddhism(禅宗), Pure Land Buddhism (净土宗), Tantra Yoga Sect (密宗瑜伽派), Confucian filial loyalty. 闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage) accept many deities readily.

For hundred of years, Fujianese have been traveling out of China and settled in South East Asia, bringing along the 闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage) form of Folk Taoism.

Important Points to take note:
1) 许旌阳 (Xu Jing Yang) - The 祖师 (Zu Shi - The founder of a school of learning)of 闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage).

2) Two Main Branches of 闾山派(Lǘ Shan Sect/Lineage):
A) 红头派(Hong Tou Pai, meaning Read Head Sect), also known as 三奶派 (San Nai Pai - 3 Madam Sect) - 宗师 (Zong Shi, meaning Guru): 临水夫人 (Lin Sui Fu Ren , meaning Water Madame) - Mainly focus on doing rituals in Temples and celebration of Marriages and Child Births.
B) 乌头派 (Wu Tou Pai, meaning Black Head Sect) - 宗师(Zong Shi): 法主公 (Fa Zhu Gong) - Mainly focus on funeral rituals and exorcism.

3) 普庵派 (Pu-An Sect) - 宗师(Zong Shi): 普庵禅师 (Pu'-An Buddhist Monk) - Dealing in 小法 (Minor Rituals).




Ancient Chinese Shamanism To Modern Folk Taoism

Self-Proclaimed High Class "Elite" "Pure" Taoists , who have not get involved, or practice "Folk" Taoism , such as Taoist Sorcery , Taoist Mediums, Taoist Talismans, always love to condemn such practices as Superstitious, Evil Practice and not the "Real" Taoism.

These Self-Proclaimed High Class "Elite" "Pure" Taoists love to comment that Pure Taoism should only recite Taoist Scriptures, when they don't even spend time to research deeper into "Folk" Taoism, or become a Spirit Medium, or learn and perform Taoist Sorcery before commenting.

In actual fact, "Folk" Taoism is the  type of Taoism which folks around the world are interested in. Folks around the world, who are facing problems in their lives, are secretly searching hide and low for a Powerful Taoist Sorcerer to solve their money problems, love problems etc. You might be one of them.

Westerners in Western Countries, only get to read about the Philosophical type of  Taoism and never have a chance to witness the practices of  Folk Taoism.

So... How "Folk" Taoism begin? Is it Part of  Real Taoism?
Let's read further..

Animism and spirit worship were characteristic of the primitive religion of archaic China, and were the cultural foundation from which Daoism developed. At the time, shamans and priests were the major religious specialists, possessing the ability to communicate with spirits, to appeal to them to dispel evil, to explain the turns of fate, and to transmit the instructions of spirits.

In Yin and Shang times, the ideogram for 'shaman' (巫) as inscribed on divinatory implements bore a strong resemblance to the character for 'spirit'. In those times, shamans resorted to a series of songs and dances, spells and talismans to communicate with spirits.

'Invocators' ( 祝 Zhu ) were another type of religious professional, responsible for conducting rituals of offerings and prayer to spirits. Finally, divinatory specialists conducted divination in order to predict fortune and misfortune. Shamans, priests and divines were important figures in society, enjoying relatively high status. Belief in shamans was especially prevalent during the Yin dynasty.

During the Spring and Autumn period (770 - 476 BC), which witnessed the rise of rationalism, the status of shamans gradually declined, although shamanism remained deeply rooted in society. Especially in the Chu State, primitive shamanism did not disappear and continued to flourish among the common people.

Many aspects of ancient shamanism were inherited by Daoism. The Master of Incense ( 司香火者 Sixianghuo Zhe ) in Daoist temples holds the title of "Shrine Priest" ( 廟祝 Miaozhu ), a title inherited from the ancient religion.

Ancient people believed that illness resulted from the victim being possessed by evil demons, and that one needed to resort to the shamans' Magical Skills ( 方術 Fangshu ) of talismans, incantations, and exorcism to dispel illness. Talismanic Water ( 符水 Fushui ), Exorcism ( 驅鬼 Qugui ), and Demon-Expelling Implements ( 斬鬼品 Zhangui Pin ) referred to in later Daoist scriptures reflect the influence of the ancient shamanistic religion.

Early Daoist movements, such as the Five Pecks of Rice ( 五斗米道 Wudou ) and the Supreme Peace Traditions ( 太平道 Taiping Dao ), show an even stronger shamanistic coloration. The Five Pecks of Rice disciples were called 'the Rice Witches' ( 米巫 Miwu ) by some, and Buddhists disparaged the sect by calling it the 'Demonic Skills of the Three Zhangs' ( 三張之鬼法 Sanzhang Zhi Guifa ).

The practises of killing and expelling demons with the aid of charms and incantations, invoking spirits, holding Ritual Offerings ( 濟醮 Jijiao ), and presenting written memorials to spirits with the aid of a medium, can all be said to be inheritances from ancient shamanism ( 巫教 Wu Jiao).

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