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Taoist temple blessing turns into curse

2012-05-24 16:09 Global Times     Web Editor: Xu Rui comment

A Taoist temple is in a crisis of faith after a jade pendant became unaccounted for following a ritual to turn it into a charm. It is the first loss in decades of a blessed object in the temple, prompting the priests to rethink about where to place their trust.

The priests at Baiyunguan, one of China's leading Taoist monasteries, performed the service on Monday when believers brought jewelry or statues of Taoist gods for blessing. After the ceremony was complete and most visitors took back their property, placed in platters, how it always was done, a woman claimed one of her jade pendants was gone.

"She was the last one to approach the platters. Someone before her must have taken her jade," said a priest in the temple yesterday, who only gave his last name, Chen.

Baiyunguan does not register charm applicants and they always reclaim their objects, under casual supervision of the temple staff, Chen told the Global Times.

Ceremonies to bless jade or gold take place in the temple, in Xicheng district, on the first and the 15th days of a lunar month, as well as on the birthday of each of the many deities in the Taoist pantheon, spread out over the Chinese calendar.

Adherents pay 50 yuan ($7.9) each to have a personal object blessed, according to Chen.

While it may be too soon to call it a temple-lifting, it is unlikely that someone just picked the wrong charm by mistake, Chen said.

"No one has ever picked the wrong charm since the temple reopened [in the 1980s]," he said, "they are believers. They are not supposed to do that."

The woman, whose name is unknown, demanded 30,000 yuan for her lost jade, the Beijing Evening News reported yesterday. The temple is trying to negotiate a lower liability.

The loss has led the temple to reconsider the service.

"We probably will not accept an object with a high estimated value any more," said Chen, "and we will keep a closer eye on visitors' things. It seems you can't trust everyone after all." He has no faith in getting the woman's jade back, either.

However, Chen remains firm about a basic Taoist belief: that a person eventually gets his just deserts.

"I believe retribution follows a man like shadow follows the body," Chen said, "there will be consequences for stealing."

Taoism is a Chinese religion built, in its early years, around ancient beliefs such as alchemy, astrology and immortal spirits. Official estimates say there are only 25,000 Taoists in China, although some argue many more are practicing the belief privately.

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