On my way home today, I came across a grand Taoist ceremony to celebrate the birthday of the Monkey God (齐天大圣诞孙悟空), which falls on the 16th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar (农历十六日).
Of the myriad Taoist celebrations and processions dedicated to the gods, the Monkey God’s has got to be the most gruesome with devotees performing extreme acts of self-mutilation such as piercing the body, tongue and cheeks with spears and knives; self-flagellation and whipping; climbing ladders made of sharp blades; and walking on fire, broken glass, etc.
When I arrived, the ceremony was just about to begin but I was on the way to the gym so I didn’t stay to witness the daredevil acts of devotion. I remember these ceremonies used to draw huge crowds when I was younger but tonight’s celebration was devoid of onlookers. As the younger generation simplify religious rites, is this the beginning of the death of the gods?