The Making and Unmaking of a Daoist Saint
This chapter chronicles the sad fate of Zhang Yuanxu, the leader of the “Heavenly Master” Daoist institution at the end of the imperial era. For centuries, the authority and charisma of these hereditary leaders had been almost wholly institutional, since Zhang’s sainthood, like that of his predecessors, was confirmed by the Chinese emperor, which made it thoroughly bureaucratic. Therefore, the “Daoist pope” felt little need to enhance his religious status via miracles or faith-healing; sales of talismans, charms, and licenses were brisk enough without his personal touch. When the dynasty disappeared in 1911, however, so did a key guarantor of Zhang Yuanxu’s state-supported charisma. He sought to rebrand himself by associating with redemptive societies, Christians, and other religious entrepreneurs, but he was a clumsy salesman. Zhang’s loss of bureaucratic charisma also coincided with the rise of an elite discourse of anti-superstition, and Zhang became the frequent target of criticism.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.