A Living Daoist Immortal in the People’s Republic?
This chapter chronicles the life of Ren Fajiu, ordained as a Daoist Quanzhen monk in the 1940s and still practicing nearly seventy years later. His story is largely that of Daoism itself under the Communist regime: the loss of property in the early 1950s; the administrative reorganization later in that decade; the forced secularization of the Cultural Revolution (Ren left the monastery, married, and had children); and the fragile restoration of the post-Mao period. Ren is a “saint” who has largely spurned leadership functions, and while he has mastered many aspects of the complex Quanzhen tradition, he has little claim to the sort of scholarship admired by China’s intellectual elite. Thus his life illustrates the limits of sainthood as practiced in a humble life of devotion.
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