Part-Time Taoist Priest Chapter 4

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Published at 21st of August 2019 09:03:54 PM Chapter 4
G.o.d-Given Task

The drought in Chaoyang City and the rest of the region was becoming more and more severe . It was hard to endure even for city dwellers, not to mention the people living in rural areas . For a time, all kinds of rumors and suppositions circulated, but fortunately, the rising price of water was forcibly suppressed .

On a particular day, Xie Lingya received a letter from the city’s branch of Taoist a.s.sociation with an invitation inside . Its addressee was Baoyang Temple .

The elegantly calligraphed t.i.tle jumped out at him as soon as he took it out of the envelope:

Chaoyang City’s Rain Invoking Ceremony & Drought Fundraiser

“United, anything can be overcome”
Let’s fight this drought together


Xie Lingya: “……… . ”

He wasn’t knowledgeable about the so-called “mainstream religious world,” so he felt a bit weird when he saw the event’s theme . He let out a sigh . “It seems it’s not only the government fighting the disaster . The religious people aren’t idle either…”

No, well, they were trying to help in their own way, but as for whether it would work… Anyway, whatever the ritual’s effectiveness, there was also fundraiser .  

Although Baoyang was small, it was a proper, long-established temple and a member of the a.s.sociation . It was just that w.a.n.g Yuji rarely—if at all—partic.i.p.ated in its activities, and didn’t maintain relations with his peers .

Xie Lingya looked at the other side of the invitation: the organizer was Chaoyang Taoist a.s.sociation, with strong support from the Provincial Taoist a.s.sociation . It also had written that the ceremony would be held at Taihe Temple1Taihe [太和, tài hé] – means grand harmony between yīn and yáng the day after next .

Chen Sansheng, the president of Chaoyang Taoist a.s.sociation and the leader of Taihe Temple, was going to serve as Gaogong2Gaogong [高功, gāo gōng] – chief Taoist priest and preside over the ritual . He invited priests from all Taoist temples in the province, of which there were more than a dozen, to partic.i.p.ate, and ordinary believers to attend . Afterward, fundraising activities were planned .

Gaogong, which originally meant a learned man of profound knowledge, in Taoism was a t.i.tle for a Master priest presiding over Taoist religious affairs . It could also be understood as the priest of the highest merit . As president of Chaoyang Taoist a.s.sociation, Chen Sansheng would naturally a.s.sume this role .

In the past, Baoyang’s sole Taoist priest, w.a.n.g Yuji, would only take part in similar activities if he couldn’t wriggle out of it . The a.s.sociation kept sending invitations because it was routine . Now, though there were no priests in the temple at all, Xie Lingya actually intended to go .

It wasn’t out of enthusiasm, he simply wanted to learn more about the industry . And who knows—maybe he would find the successor for his uncle, or at least find out about someone suitable .

The whole event would last three days, but for now, he only planned to attend the first . He needed to ask Sun Fuyang’s wife to help keep an eye on the front yard (since people came to pull water from the well) and lock the rest of the buildings .

On the day of the rain invocation ceremony, Xie Lingya, in jeans and a T-s.h.i.+rt, greeted Sun Fuyang’s wife and went out .

As not only Taoist priests but ordinary people attended as well, Xie Lingya’s attire didn’t raise eyebrows . However, when he presented his invitation at the door, the welcoming priest grumbled a bit under his nose .  This Baoyang Temple either isn’t coming, or they sent a… a lay disciple? …as a representative .

Taihe Temple was much bigger than Baoyang and seemed to have been renovated recently . It looked pristine and full of grandeur .

Lately, Xie Lingya spent his time pouring over the predecessors’ notes . As he walked, he observed the faces and bodies of the priests in the vicinity, using his newly gained knowledge of physiognomy to a.s.sess their bones, that is, innate talent .

In ancient times, Taoist priests would move from temple to temple, though they usually chose temples belonging to the same sect . Even now, it wasn’t unusual . Many temples invited well-known and respected priests to become their chief as it was an established practice .

It was best to be prudent when choosing the inheritor of a place like Baoyang, where there were genuine secret skills and techniques to be pa.s.sed down .

Though Baoyang urgently needed ordinary priests who could preach to the believers, they could be recruited if there was money . This was completely different from finding a true successor of the sect’s teachings .

As Baoyang was a member of the a.s.sociation, Xie Lingya, unlike the general public, could watch the ceremony from much closer . He stood with a group of Taoist priests .

The yard outside the main hall was filled with people . The altars inside held candelabra, incense burners, flower vases, and embroidered gold streamers—everything that should be here was here . The ceremony was also accompanied by bells and drums, making it very distinguished .

He looked around Taihe Temple then thought about Baoyang’s situation… Prayer ceremonies? There wasn’t even a single believer coming to Baoyang to pray . Xie Lingya remembered when he was a child, his uncle also used to hold these, but he held them alone, and they were not grand by any means . In fact, they were more like a private prayer than a ceremony .

And yet, Uncle’s skills were real, he was very pious too, Xie Lingya thought bitterly .  I’ll put all my effort into promoting Baoyang so we can hold ceremonies with seven priests too! Even more!

After the commencement of the ceremony, a priest dressed in red and holding a yellow paper came out, leading the rest of the priests . He was young, probably only in his early twenties, and his handsome face held a somewhat otherworldly beauty . He wore red, yet instead of looking vulgar, he looked like an Immortal descended to earth .

His hair was short, and he wore a black silk headdress . At the moment, his cold phoenix eyes3Phoenix eyes [凤目] – long and narrow; outer corners slant upwards, inner corners slant downwards . It may seem similar to slanted eyes but unlike them, phoenix eyes don’t slant until the outer corners .  were lowered to the yellow paper in his hand, his expression calm like a lake on a windless day .

Usually, the red robe embroidered with cranes would be worn by Gaogong, who led the ceremony, while the other priests would be dressed in yellow .

Surprised, Xie Lingya nudged a Taoist priest next to him, “…Master Chen was this young?”

The priest turned to him wearing an expression saying “are you daft?”but saw a friendly, good-looking young man, and his temper cooled . “Master Chen had something to do . s.h.i.+ Changxuan, from the provincial capital, is his temporary replacement . ”

Baoyang Temple was practically non-existent in the a.s.sociation, so it was no wonder Xie Lingya didn’t know about the subst.i.tution .

Not feeling ashamed, he asked, “Is he well-known? From which temple is he?”

The priest looked at Xie Lingya incredulously . “Did you sneak in here from the courtyard?”

Xie Lingya: “……”

So he’s really famous?

The priest seemed to hear Xie Lingya’s thought and said, “You should know just by looking since he doesn’t keep his hair long . s.h.i.+ Daozhangisn’t a temple priest—he’s a huoju daos.h.i.+,4Huoju daos.h.i.+ [火居道士 – translated as “hearth-dwelling Taoists” or “householder priests,” or in other ways, depending on the source] – secular Taoist priests, not affiliated with any temple . They can be married and usually have a second occupation (as opposed to monastic, celibate Taoists following Quanzhen tradition) . Most of them are affiliated with the Way of the Celestial Masters a secular Taoist! And s.h.i.+ family’s teachings were pa.s.sed down from their ancestors for countless generations!”

Xie Lingya: “……”

Yeah, yeah, you’re right, this is common knowledge, everybody knows this .

By then, s.h.i.+ Changxuan had already unfolded the yellow paper and began to chant . His voice was clear and melodious, his enunciation precise—the words flowed with enthralling cadence . The surroundings quickly became quiet .

“Rain has been scarce since May, the fields have dried up, and the people are terrified . Today, we offer this prayer ceremony to beg for rainfall . I beseech the G.o.ds and divinities to have mercy on common people, to send abundant rain so this drought will end…”

The sponsor, place, time, and contents of the supplication were recorded on the yellow paper . It would be burned at the end of the ceremony, to send it to the G.o.ds .

Behind s.h.i.+ Changxuan, the priests raised the eight-faced flags and stepped into the orientation of Five Elements . After repeating this three times, they inserted the flags into the prepared bottles (as it was impossible to insert them in the floor) . Since everyone present was either a Taoist or a believer, most were focused on the proceedings .

Xie Lingya, however, didn’t pay much attention to the ceremony—he was staring at s.h.i.+ Changxuan instead . The longer he looked at the man, the more pleasant to the eye he found him . He couldn’t touch him, so he couldn’t a.s.sess his innate talent, but since s.h.i.+ Changxuan was capable of acting as Gaogong at such a young age, then not only was his knowledge profound, his talent must be admirable too .

The instant he heard the man was a huoju daos.h.i.+ and followed the Taoist doctrine pa.s.sed down in his family, Xie Lingya’s interest was stirred . He felt this man was a good candidate!

—Taoist priests could learn not only from their Master but from other Taoist masters . The more people they studied under, the broader their knowledge . However, due to doctrinal differences, and because sects often held the opinion their own teachings were the best, fewer and fewer people did this .

The leaders of Baoyang Temple always believed that as long as a disciple was eager to learn, it didn’t matter how many other teachers he had . Unfortunately, people who thought like that were a minority .

But it was highly likely that the s.h.i.+ family shared the same opinion as Baoyang’s leaders . s.h.i.+ Changxuan might be willing to honor w.a.n.g Yuji as a teacher!

Though a huoju daos.h.i.+ couldn’t become the temple’s leader, Xie Lingya didn’t mind getting his uncle a few outstanding disciples—after all, his poor uncle had none at all . It would be great if there was someone other than Xie Lingya to burn incense for him . Of course, these disciples had to be talented and have upstanding character, or the whole exercise would be self-defeating .

Xie Lingya spent the whole day at the religious a.s.sembly and even suffered through two vegetarian temple meals . Unfortunately, s.h.i.+ Changxuan had either been surrounded by people or otherwise occupied . Xie Lingya didn’t get a chance to talk to him at all and could only head home, a bit regretful .

Whether it was coincidence or not, three days after the prayer ceremony, the heavens decided to bless the parched land with rain . The people affected by the drought were nearly delirious with joy .

Although the water supply gradually returned to normal, Baoyang Temple’s well had become well-known .

The old well truly did its best to bring credit to the temple—it hadn’t gone dry despite the number of people drawing water from it every day . That chief priest of old who took great pains to calculate the best position for the well didn’t do it in vain .

The drought was over . Nonetheless, the nearby residents continued to visit the temple, to enjoy the cool breeze there and chat with each other in their leisure time . There was also a group of people who still came to fetch water .

Most of them were tea enthusiasts .

They usually savored their tea, so they tended to be particular about details such as the brewing water . They found the water here excellent . Water of this quality was hard to come by, so they were still willing to come fetch it .

The rest simply thought the water was delicious . Everyone called the well “Baoyang Well,” since it belonged to Baoyang Temple . Every day, people from all the districts of Chaoyang City came to get it, even the ones furthest away .

Of course, Xie Lingya still let people draw water even though the drought had pa.s.sed .

And so, the residents were happy . Xie Lingya, however, was not .

Enough time pa.s.sed that he was already intimately familiar with Baoyang, and well accustomed to the simple life here . Yet, for some reason, for the past few days he couldn’t sleep well—he dreamed every night .

Well, merely dreaming would be fine, but in this dream, Spirit Official w.a.n.g stood in front of him and glared at him resentfully . And it happened every . Freaking . Night .

Xie Lingya had always been a rather happy-go-lucky person . He took things as they came and didn’t like to waste time contemplating them but now he had no choice . “Great G.o.d, Great G.o.d, is this you sending me a message? But what on earth do you want to tell me? You’re just standing there, showing me the middle finger . How should I know what you want me to do?”

Xie Lingya looked through the records to see if something similar ever happened . He also searched the internet for the meaning of a dream about Spirit Official w.a.n.g . He did find some things, but nothing close enough to his situation .

He racked his brain but couldn’t come up with anything . Frustrated, he finally decided to ask someone from Taihe Temple for help .

—He had no choice! He hadn’t learned oneiromancy and was unable to guess the meaning of his dream!

He wondered if Taihe Temple would give him a discount . Though he wasn’t a Taoist priest, he was, after all, the owner of Baoyang Temple, which belonged to the Chouyang Taoist a.s.sociation too . Besides, if he went, maybe he would see s.h.i.+ Changxuan again!  

Xie Lingya packed up and was about to set off for Taihe when He Zun arrived .

“Where are you going, Teacher Xie?” He asked .

Of course, Xie Lingya couldn’t admit he was going to another Taoist temple to interpret his dream . It would be too humiliating! He turned his head, pretending to look around .

He Zun said, “You don’t need to look, I came alone . ”

“Weren’t you going to bring your roommates to burn incense? Don’t tell me you met another ghost . ”

“As if I would be that unlucky!” He Zun laughed, a bit silly .

“Okay, so why are you here?”

“My uncle’s house is haunted!”

Xie Lingya: “……”

He Zun continued, “One of my uncles lives in Chouyang City . Not long ago, he and his family started to have nightmares every night . He doesn’t believe in supernatural stuff, so first, he ran to the hospital to have a physical examination . He even had his surroundings checked, but there were no issues . I suggested he ask you—you’d be able to easily solve his problem . ”

Solve his problem? And how, exactly? Xie Lingya hadn’t dealt with his own little dream problem yet . He stifled an urge to have the other man visit Taihe Temple with him .

He Zun saw Xie Lingya was thinking, and his spirits rose . “Teacher Xie, I’d like to pay my respects to the great founder,” he said .

Of course, Xie Lingya couldn’t refuse . He took him to the Spirit Official Hall and gave him three sticks of incense .

After lighting them, He Zun clasped them in his hands and made a deep, reverent bow, wors.h.i.+pping the G.o.d . However, once he straightened, he noticed all three sticks were cracked right down the middle .

He Zun’s hair stood on ends . “What’s going on, Teacher Xie?!”

He might’ve been a neophyte, but anyone could tell the situation wasn’t right! He was afraid this was a bad omen!

Xie Lingya said hurriedly, “I’ll give you three more, free of charge . I certainly didn’t sell you inferior goods on purpose . ”

He Zun: “……”

This time, Xie Lingya lit the incense sticks himself and fanned them to extinguish the fire . Unexpectedly, he barely raised his hand when the sticks cracked again, completely snapping in half!

This time, even Xie Lingya felt something was wrong, and his expression darkened . He thought about his dreams .

“Did I somehow offend the venerable founder, Teacher Xie?” He Zun asked, scared .

“No, this has nothing to do with you . ” Xie Lingya dropped the broken incense sticks and pressed his hands together in a gesture of prayer, bowing before the statue . “Venerable Patriarch, what instructions do you have? Can you make it clear?”

“Teacher Xie,” He Zun suddenly uttered, his voice weak . “Do you see? There, on the founder’s body…”

Xie Lingya’s gaze followed He Zun’s finger to the side of the statue—in one place, the paint had started to flake . He walked behind to check its back only to discover the situation was quite serious .

Baoyang Temple was old and hadn’t been repaired for a long time . It was beginning to show signs of wear . The roof tiles on the main hall’s roof were damaged; it would likely leak if it hadn’t been padded with tarpaulin . Now, even the paint on the sacred statue was peeling off—no wonder Xie Lingya had these dreams .

—Great Founder, this is a f.u.c.king h.e.l.l-difficulty level quest right off the bat!!!

Xie Lingya immediately understood what he needed to do . He lit three more incense sticks and said, “Great G.o.d, I’ll have your statue fixed to look even better . ” He paused, eyed the sticks, and gritted his teeth . “…Within two months . ”

This time, the incense sticks remained undamaged . He gingerly inserted them into the incense burner .

In an instant, both Xie Lingya and He Zun felt a chill . Xie Lingya didn’t flinch, but He Zun shuddered, even more awed than he’d already been . Xie Lingya felt lucky he hadn’t told him he dreamed of Spirit Official these days .

Xie Lingya talked big, but he had no idea where he’d get the money . His plan to obtain more revenue was barely in its beginning stages . With the temple’s current monthly income, there wasn’t much left after deducting the necessary expenditures, and he still had to save money to recruit a priest .

He didn’t know how much fixing the statue would cost but was pretty sure the money he had was insufficient . The statue was over two meters tall . It wasn’t as if only the places where the paint was peeling could be repainted—the color difference would be visible . It would make the statue look unsightly .

He Zun also lit incense, hands trembling, but the sticks didn’t break again .

Xie Lingya looked at him thoughtfully . Abruptly, he asked, “What’s your uncle’s economic situation? Would he be able to pay?”

The question surprised He Zun, but he replied immediately, “Of course! My uncle said that as long the problem was solved, he’d pay according to the market price . ”

“Good,” Xie Lingya said with the air of an expert . He then turned away, cursing, f.u.c.k, I don’t know the market price! 

Nonetheless, he would give it a try . In He Zun’s case, he hadn’t known what was chasing the young man and so couldn’t get rid of it .

But this time, the situation was different . When he heard the issue started when He Zun’s uncle and his family moved into a new house, he remembered something similar happened to his high school cla.s.smate . He was almost certain it was the same thing, and if it was, he could help .

Moreover, the incense sticks broke for the first time when He Zun had been wors.h.i.+pping just now . Xie Lingya felt it was a hint . He paid his respects to Spirit Official once again, saying silently, Great G.o.d, you’re encouraging me to go, so you have to help me out, okay? I hope you won’t drop this on me then bail, it would be unbecoming of a G.o.d…

On the side, He Zun caught sight of Teacher Xie’s solemn, pious manner, and was awed into silence .

Since Xie Lingya now understood his dream, he didn’t need to visit Taihe Temple . He agreed to go to He Zun’s uncle’s house .

The next day, He Zun picked up Xie Lingya in a taxi . Xie Lingya gathered some things he thought he might need, and the two went to a recently developed villa district, where He Zun’s uncle lived .

After Xie Lingya got out of the taxi, he first observed the feng shui of the surroundings . Apparently satisfied, he lowered his head and became busy with his phone .

When He Zun saw his actions, he thought, Holy c.r.a.p, this is what it’s called to plan for all eventualities .

Actually, Xie Lingya opened the digital version of Baoyang’s records that he’d transcribed, found the part about feng shui, and frantically checked what this shape of the land signified…

He Zun said, “Teacher Xie, my uncle and aunt used to be atheists before this and have seen many swindlers . Can you please forgive them if they say anything offensive?” Then he added apologetically, “Actually, they’d asked me how you could live in a Taoist temple if you weren’t a priest, and whether you have a certificate . ”

In this era, every professional had to have a corresponding certificate, and Taoist priests were no exception . There was even an online registry where you could check if a priest was certified . 5Taoist priest certificate [道士證; also called clerical certificate] – yes, it does exist . It’s issued by Chinese Taoist a.s.sociation under supervision of United Front Work Department (it used to be State Administration for Religious Affairs, but it was dissolved in 2018) .

But He Zun was still speechless! You’re looking for a Taoist priest to exorcise a ghost, so you should care more about his ability than a certificate, shouldn’t you?

“Oh, but I do have one,” Xie Lingya said with a chuckle . He took out a little booklet from his pocket and waved it before He Zun’s eyes .

The speed was too fast, and the young man didn’t see it clearly . He stared blankly for a moment, then blurted out, “f.u.c.k, didn’t you say you aren’t a priest, Teacher Xie? How come you have a certificate?”

Xie Lingya just smiled, saying nothing .

He Zun: “…Teacher Xie, you wouldn’t have a fake certificate, would you?”

“No, it’s authentic . ” Giving him a look, Xie Lingya pulled the doc.u.ment out again .

He Zun quickly bent forward to examine it . He saw three black words printed on the navy blue cover: Student ID Card .

He Zun: “…………”

Part-Time Taoist Priest Chapter 4

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Part-Time Taoist Priest Chapter 4 summary

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