Daoism in Brazil: The Globalization of the Orthodox Unity (Zhengyi) Tradition
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The Daoist Society of Brazil (Sociedade Taoista do Brasil) was founded by Wu Jyh Cherng (Wu Zhicheng 武志成), a Taiwanese immigrant, in 1991. Today the Society operates two temples in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and is the only religious organization in South America that is affiliated with the Daoist Society of China in the Orthodox Unity (Zhengyi 正一) lineage. The group, however, is not made up of other immigrants or Brazilians of Chinese descent; rather the entire group and current priesthood consist of Brazilians of non-Chinese ancestry. This essay examines the history and development of the Daoist Society of Brazil and its members’ understandings of Daoism through site visits and interviews conducted in December 2009. From this I develop a theory of the particular characteristics of Brazilian religious culture that enabled the formation of a Zhengyi Daoist community outside of ethnically Chinese people. The practices of the two temples thus represent a hybrid of Chinese and Brazilian cultural forms that have been negotiated through a complex assessment of how to maintain authentic religious traditions in a non-traditional cultural context. Although the transcultural practices of the Daoist Society of Brazil can only be fully understood in these particular terms, the Society also represents an important case study in the more general phenomenon of the globalization of religious cultures and the formation of transcultural religious identities.
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