Jiang Zhou, Qionglong Mountain.
The Spring Festival came and went, leaving behind a wet warmish weather for the regions south of the Yangtze River, which was very uncomfortable to live through. It was one of those rare lovely days today and quite a few Jiang Zhou residents had taken their entire families out for a walk in the countryside.
One of the best things about having a city in the neighborhood was that the mountain would always have a steady supply of tourists.
It was dusk time. Inside Shangzhen Temple halfway up the mountain, two priests were chatting out of boredom. They had also just returned to work from the Spring Festival break and there weren't many customers around yet.
"Clap! Clap! Clap!"
A horse-faced priest patted the donation box in the hall and gave the big lock on the box a look, then said in a disdainful tone, "A whole day's work and we only got that little amount. Why would they bother to have a lock at all? These people are hopeless Scrooges!"
"He'll be here soon. It's getting dark," said a young priest.
"Of course he will! The man never missed a day!"
It was the accountant they were talking about—an employee of the company, who would come here each night, unlock the donation box, and count the money on the spot. More influential palaces and temples would get a piece of the cake from the company, but shabby ones like this were even deprived of left-overs.
Walking around the box, the horse-face added, "Well, my contract expires midyear and I'm definitely leaving."
"Have you found the next place?" asked the young one.
"Sure. I'm going to a big temple south of the Five Ridges. It's got solid connections and only does ceremonies for Tuhao. Any commission can bring them hundreds of thousand yuan."
"Brother, can I tag along?" the young man asked eagerly.
"You won't do. You're too green and can't even chant the scriptures. What if you slip?"
The two chatted on and waited a bit longer.
The horse-face felt odd. It was this late already, why was the accountant still not here? He was about to make a phone call where he heard shouts outside.
"Quickly, you people go inside. And you lot, go over there. Don't miss out any place! You lot, come with me!"
"Who the hell is making all the noise? Do you have any idea what this place is?"
The young man was annoyed and was about to go check outside. He had just reached the front gate when there came a sudden bang!
The gate slammed open and a couple of men burst in. Ignoring the fellow falling on the ground, they announced straight away, "It has been confirmed by the authorities that you have been impersonating Taoist priests and running business illegally in a religious site. In accordance with the relevant legal provisions, we hereby close the place down and take you into custody. Here is the warrant of seizure!"
The horse face was baffled at the sight of the government-issued document, but immediately gathered enough courage to shout back, "Do you know whose territory you're stepping into? I need to use the phone! I'm calling Chairman Qin!"
The team leader recognized the name right away—Qin Yunfeng of Jiang Zhou Taoist Association. He sneered, "He can't even cover his own ass. Take them away!"
The two swindlers were no match for the professionals and were pinned down in no time. Meanwhile, another group went searching inside and drove all the fake priests out of Three Mao Hall, the Hall of the God of Wealth, the Hall of the God of Literature, etc.
The only exception was the Hall of Celestial Masters, which the group treated and checked with care, and left a man behind to tend to daily errands in the future.
The gate of the Hall of Three Pure Ones was closed, then sealed by a strip of white paper with black ink characters. The three-story building that had just been built was as good as nothing now.
"Mhm… I demand the right to a phone call!" Dragged out of the mountain gate, the horse-faced priest was still struggling and shouting. "I want to call Director Wang! Let me talk to Director Wang!"
The team leader snorted, then shoved him right into the vehicle.
They belonged neither to the police force nor to the court, but were members of the BIMAUP. With the issuance of the new Taoist Regulation, all sub-bureaus moved into action, forming teams to crack down the counterfeiters, making them holler.
They were all connected: the fake priests lived off the fake palaces and temples, which were in turn backed by local officials and big-shot businessmen.
The regulation alone could not convict these people of their crimes, but they could work from other angles. None of these bureaucrats and Tuhao were clean, their deeds would be exposed with but a little scrutiny. After trials and prosecutions, their properties would naturally be confiscated.
It would only be logical that the expropriated properties were transferred to the Taoist community in the name of concurrent punishment for plural crimes. The palaces and temples would stay idle for the time being and allotted accordingly in the future depending on the development of Qiyun Taoist Monastery.
As the men from the BIMAUP escorted these people down the mountain, plenty of tourists heading home witnessed the scene and were amazed.
"What's going on here?"
"Broken the law, obviously. Their bosses have gone under and so are they."
"Haha, finally! They're a bunch of liars and cheaters!"
Nanzhong, Changchun Temple.
Changchun Temple was the biggest temple in the province and the name alone was proof enough that it belonged to the school of Quanzhen. The main building consisted of five tiers, including Spiritual Officer Hall, Two Gods Hall, Tai-Qing Hall, etc. On the right wing was Ten Direction Hall, the scripture hall, the great guesthouse, the merits and virtues memorial hall, etc., while the dining hall, the dormitory, the Hall of Patriarch Qiu, Abbot's Hall, Pedigree Hall, etc., stood on the left side.
Right now, inside a meditation room of the Scripture Hall, Wu Dachun, the abbot of Fuxing Temple, was sweating profusely.
Fuxing Temple was located in a subordinate county and was the subdivision of a sub-sect. It was far from being considered a sect of its own, being merely a petty establishment making its ends meet.
With his rather flexible mind, he had been enjoying a pretty sweet life. However, he was summoned here the other day out of the blue and was now, to his amazement, taking an examination together with some other abbots.
The written exam took place first, which contained theories of Taoist classics.
Wu Dachun was a genuine priest and had learned Taoist theories in his youth. However, after years in his abbot position, the little he had learned was long gone. All that went through his head nowadays was how to make more money.
As expected, his written exam result came back miserably. He was thus summoned to the scripture hall, where he was to take another exam. The examiner was none other than the man in front of him, a high officer of Changchun Temple.
The old priest had half-open eyes and an expressionless face. He asked, "According to Dan scripture, the dragon has a tender temperament, while the tiger is ferocious. How do you interpret that?"
He pondered and stuttered out this reply, "Well, dragon represents the heart and tiger the mind. This quote is talking about a restless mood."
The old priest asked another question, "The tiger is heartless but the dragon is not. What does that mean?"
"I-it means, when the mind and heart are connected, the significant doctrine will follow through."
Damn it! How was he supposed to remember all that? He could only hope his vague memory would help him to bluff it out.
"In 'The Kinship of the Three, in Accordance with the Book of Changes', there is a verse on Three Treasures, namely, the ears, the eyes, and the mouth. Do you know what it is?"
He did not have the slightest idea. Wu Dachun grew more anxious as he replied in a low voice, "I don't know."
The old priest frowned and asked another question. "If one wonders where the medicine originated from, one should only look to the southwest. Where is that quoted from?"
"I, I don't know."
Wu Dachun's head was hanging so low that it was almost between his legs.
The old priest heaved a sigh. "Dragon represents the heart and tiger the breath, not the mind. 'The tiger is heartless but the dragon is not' is saying the heart needs to deliberately cater to the breath, so that the doctrine will come through via the combination.
The verse in 'The Kinship of the Three' is 'The three treasures ears, eyes, and mouth should all be closed instead of opening up to the outside. The perfected man sank deep in the abyss, roaming around to keep guard of one orifice.'
As for the last quote, it came from 'Folios on Awakening to Reality' by master Zhang Boduan. These are all plain texts of Taoist scriptures and anyone who has studied diligently for several years would know the answers. The fact that you failed to provide the correct answer is proof enough of your sluggishness in daily meditation task and lack of learning your scriptures. You have failed the exam."
"Old master, please give me one more chance. I will do better this time!" Wu Dachun pleaded eagerly.
"You will be studying in this temple. You can go back when you pass the exam. Now leave!" The old priest paid no attention to his pleading.
"Old master, old master…"
He was still wailing when two priests dragged him out.
The old priest rubbed his temples, feeling exhausted inside. He said weakly, "Next, please."
The spring purge of the Taoist community had a far-reaching significance.
First of all, it had stipulated the nature of palaces and temples: they were solely Taoist establishments and the bureaucrats and corporations had to keep their distance. Then there was the requirement on the quality of Taoist priests themselves, which needed enhancing. Those unqualified would be educated, and if they still failed to pass, they would be deprived of their abbot position and serve as handymen from then on.
The purge was so thorough that Taoist priests were secularized in large numbers. Of the fifty thousand or so registered Taoist personnel, a few thousands had run off to live a secular life after the first round.
Small palaces and temples everywhere were closed down. The local folk was baffled by an unexpected discovery every now and then as they exclaimed, "WTF, the temple is deserted all of a sudden?" However, no one was going to look beyond that, nor was their life affected in any way.
The purge was to get the community prepared for recruiting pupils and the new pupils were there to reject the dross and inject the fresh blood.
It was still too early to tell the effect of the rectification. However, the framework was already set up. Centering around Qiyun Taoist Monastery, based on provincial Taoist associations, and taking the sects of the thirty-six members of Qiyun as strongholds, a network of elites had already taken shape.
The news had arrived at the monastery as well, which Lu Yuanqing ignored and gave no comment on. Zhang Shouyang, who had been feeling ill at ease since that earlier conversation, had also let the news skip his mind.
The rest found the news awesome. Qiyun, level with the cloud. Now it really felt that they were high above over the clouds.
In general, the readjustment process was effective and quick. While they were at it, a bunch of corrupt officials and infringing companies were also brought to justice. Of course, one of the temples was rather special, which they had not figured hold how to proceed—it was Ziyang Temple up on Phoenix Mountain.