|民建 宗教 (Mínjiàn Zōngjiào)|
|First Brightlord||Zhou Ming|
|First Brightlady||Fan Jingyi|
|Headquarters||Miaoshi, Peichen, Laeral|
The Minjian Faith is a dualistic religion and belief system popular in Eastern Hespia, notably the nations of Laeral and High Fells. Practitioners of the faith, known as Minjian, believe that life consists of a series of choices which only the individual can make. While guidance can be offered by the divine, Minjian reject the idea of divine intervention in human affairs and believe strongly in the concept of free will. While Minjian believe in the existence of two deities (the Host and the Lady, collectively known as the Divine Couple) as well as various angelic or divine beings, they reject the existence of fate, destiny, or divine intervention. Minjian is practicd through the saying of various creeds, attendance at various religious services, and the wearing of various traditional clothing and jewelry. The Minjian Faith is the largest religion in Laeral and High Fells, and smaller communities of adherents exist in other nations throughout the world.
The Minjian Faith originated around the year 260 CE in the modern-day Laeralian province of Peichen. The wandering sage Gao Minjian was drinking at a spring when he saw manifested before him two vaguely human forms, who identified themselves as the 'Host' and as the 'Lady'. Over the next three years, they spoke to him, sometimes separately and sometimes together. Their sometimes-contradictory advice and conversations were transcribed by Minjian into the first of the Minjian holy books, Dialogues. He was then commanded to travel forth into the world and to seek those few people chosen by the Divine Couple as worthy of imitation by humanity. Minjian went on to find six people whom he identified as having been 'chosen', who are today known as the 'Luminaries'. The lives of those were written up as the Book of Luminaries. Minjian went on to promote his new religion, which had around 70,000 followers at the time of his death around 310.
Following Minjian's death, the Luminaries continued to promote the Minjian Faith. The Gao Dynasty adopted Minjian as the official national faith in 370, leading to a great increase in its followers. The Faith prospered until around 500 CE, when the weaker Bei Dynasty came to power. As time went on, Minjian went through alternate phases of being widely popular and being outlawed in favor of competing religions. The faith was reformed at the Conclave of Nanjie in 980, where many of the Faith's common practices were codified in the Book of Minjian Practices. By that time, 3 more Luminaries had been identified and confirmed by the Faith.
Upon the arrival of the French imperialists in 1703, Minjian was the dominant faith in Laeral. When the colony of Haute Fells was violently established, Catholicism became the official faith. However, Minjian persisted as a faith practiced openly in the countryside and secretly in cities and towns. In fact, a small percentage of Arrivée ultimately converted to Minjian. The most notable adherent was Élisabeth Vérène le Bonnaire, the noted Laeralian artist who converted to Minjian in her later life. In this time period, three more Luminaries were identified and confirmed by the Faith, bringing the total to 12.
Following the Laeralian War of Independence, Minjian was legalized in Laeral, where it became a major faith. By 1869, the Minjian High Conclave began to send missionaries abroad. Minjian has remained a major faith in Laeral and High Fells ever since, and it was promoted by the Park Dictatorship in High Fells. In 1987, the Minjian Faith was reinstated as the state religion of High Fells. Today, Minjian continues to be a major faith, although it struggles with issues of declining religious faith.
Minjian believe that all existence was created by the Host and the Lady. They had grown tired with being alone in an endless void, and so the Divine Couple created the world over the course of a single year. Each sought to advance their own goals within the world, but each were stymied by the other.
The Minjian Faith decrees that having created the world, the Couple chose to observe and oversee the world rather than to direct it, although they are omnipotent and could control all events of existence if they wished. However, the Couple choose to not typically interfere with human affairs, rather offering guidance to humans. The Couple chose to offer directives and advice for human through their prophet Gao Minjian and his writings and teachings instead, as well as through the lessons learned and taught by the Luminaries, humans chosen as messengers of the Divine Couple. The Minjian Faith believes that the deities exemplify perfect perfection, and that nothing is more beautiful that their true visages. This means that few people attempt to depict the Divine in religious art, as it is believed impossible to depict their true and infinitely perfect forms. Minjian generally believe that the Divine are kind and merciful rather than vengeful. As such, Minjian do not fear the Divine, but rather seek to win the respect and approval of the Divine.
Minjian are expected to adhere to the principles of the faith and their particular sect. While the specific teachings of each sect vary somewhat, certain beliefs are consistent. These beliefs are expressed in the 12 Edicts of Minjian:
- 1. You are a being of existence and a part of the creation of the Host and the Lady. You have been graced with the intelligence and morality of the greatest of their creations, and yet you are bound by the silent eye of their greatest judgement.
- 2. You are created by the Divine Couple, and you shall show the respect granted to a father by his sons. You shall not have any other faiths adhered to, nor shall you slander the name of the Divine. You shall show respect to the fellow creations of the Divine, for all spring from the Divine.
- 3. You are granted the gift of reason, a gift far greater than those bestowed upon other creations. You shall not abuse this gift in treachery or cunning, but rather seek to better yourself in the eyes of the Divine.
- 4. You shall respect the creations of the Divine; you shall not take from their creation more than is necessary, nor shall you prey exceedingly upon the wild beasts of Their creation. Nor shall you mutilate or defile your body, for you are a creation of the Divine and to defile such a creation is to defile their greatest creation.
- 5. You shall pay respect to your betters and elders. A son shall pay respect to his parents, a wife shall pay respect to her husband, a young man shall pay respect to an old man, and all shall pay respect to their rightful sovereign.
- 6. You shall not give obedience blindly, nor shall you humble yourself exceedingly; you shall not ruin your dignity and worth in blind obedience, for all are of the Divine creation, and at birth, all are equal in the eyes of the Divine.
- 7. You shall recall the duties you owe to the Divine, to your sovereign, to your family, to your wife or husband, and to your children and dependents in all your actions. You shall wear a badge or token of the Faith and the Luminary of your guidance upon your raiment always, unless this would expose you to danger.
- 8. You shall pay respect to the Divine and to your fellow beings of creation upon the day of rest.
- 9. You shall not drink spirits excessively, for it is an affront to the Divine to addle your gift of reason.
- 10. You shall not steal or murder, nor shall you commit adultery, for such crimes are a transgression against the Divine and against your fellow peoples. Neither shall you commit transgressions deleterious to the harmony and well-being of your fellow peoples and the Divine's creation.
- 11. You shall seek amicable relations with all fellow peoples equal in the eyes of the Divine, and you shall seek to bring gently others into the guidance of the Divine.
- 12. You shall bring your young and those new to the Faith into the care of a Priest or Priestess, or to a Cleric of the Faith, as is their sex, for their decision of a Luminary to follow in guidance until their maturity.
The Minjian Faith believes that those whose actions please the Divine or one of the Luminaries shall be rewarded with eternal life after death. In the afterlife, those who please them live in the nation of the Divine, where the Divine Couple maintain an estate or castle where there is a banquet every night. The Divine Couple sit at the high table, with the Luminaries beside them, while the honored dead sit at the other tables. There is no hunger or thirst or pestilence, and life is happy and carefree. By contrast, those who displeased the Divine or have no patron Luminary in life are forced to stay behind on Earth, observing the world and yet not being able to interact with it, until their appointed time of ascension to the land of the Divine.
Worship and Practices
The vast majority of Minjian have a shrine within their homes. This shrine will usually consist of a patch of bare wooden floor, with a mat woven of reeds behind it. The shrine typically contains offerings to the Divine Couple, the patron Luminary and ancestors of the house's inhabitants (the ancestors' place within a shrine is evidence that the Minjian Faith often blended with already-existing traditions of ancestor worship). Offerings traditionally consist of small plates of food and burning incense, which is placed at twilight on Sundays (the day of rest in the Minjian Faith) and then replaced at dawn on the next Sunday. Shrines will typically be decorated with a small statuette or painting of the Divine, which is sacred, and therefore never touched by a non-clergy member. Shrines are dedicated by members of the Minjian Clergy. There is also typically a painting of the patron Luminary present as well. When someone is born, a lock of their first hairs are placed upon the altar and burned within a scented holy candle. When the eldest child of the family marries, an image of the Host or the Lady is traditionally taken with the newlyweds to their new home. The groom brings his shrine's statue of the Host, and the bride brings her shrine's statue of the Lady.
Organized Minjian worship is carried out at Temples or Sanctums of the Faith. The distinction between the two is that while both offer a place for Minjian to worship the Divine and the Luminaries, a Temple has clergy members in permanent residence, while a Sanctum will only have a caretaker or an itinerant clergy member to conduct services. Temples are located in most towns and cities, while small towns and villages usually only have a Sanctum. Temples are constructed upon places consecrated by a Priest and Priestess, or a similar couple within the clergy hierarchy, who then become the near-permanent administrators of a particular Temple. Temples have two chambers of worship, as well as fourteen smaller shrines dedicated to a particular Luminary.
Every Sunday, Minjian head to their local Temple for worship. All Minjian Temples have a single entrance, as well as a high balcony or place to look out from. Each Temple has a male and female clergy member present, and each Minjian worshiper is given a choice of which of the two ranking clergy members services' they will attend each Sunday. The Priest's service is supposed to exemplify the viewpoints of the Host, while the Priestess' service centers upon the values and advice of the Lady. As a service begins, a sentry in ceremonial robes carrying an ornamental spear or glaive will stand in front of the door to the Temple, while another will ascend to the highest point of the Temple and 'stand watch' for danger or enemies. This tradition dates to sectarian conflicts within Minjian, when services were sometimes attacked by members of other sects. Services usually begin with the singing of a hymn, followed by the recitation of various creeds. At this point, the ceremonial sentry posted outside the door to the chamber of worship will enter, and the Priest(ess) will ask 'How is our assembly shielded from harm?'. The sentry will reply 'By the grace of the Divine and by the vigilance of their creation.' At this point, the service can proceed. The leader of the service will then deliver a sermon based upon the ideals of their patron member of the Divine Couple.
Once the sermon is complete, a period of silent meditation is held to reflect upon the teachings of the sermon. Then, each worshiper is given a candle, and they then proceed to the individual shrine within the temple devoted to their patron Luminary. They are given time to pray for guidance before the shrine of their patron. After this is done, worshipers can return home or they can alternately begin to study the Minjian canon. All Temples are charged with making copies of the holy scriptures of Minjian available to their worshipers for their own reading. This is consistent with the Minjian belief that all should be able to analyze and draw their own conclusions from the Dialogues and the Book of Luminaries. Later that night, the Temple will host High Table. All Minjian are invited to the Temple, where the Faith will provide a free meal. There will be one table set higher from the rest, where the Priest and Priestess will sit. This table has 14 places set. Two are for the Priest and Priestess, who will ceremonially serve the food, and the remaining twelve seats are filled randomly. Anyone, from the richest person in the city to a homeless person, could be seated at the High Table, to be served by the Priest and Priestess themselves. The remaining tables are open to anyone who attended the worship service earlier in the day.
The Minjian Faith treasures children. As stated in the Dialogues: "Humanity, greatest of the Divine Creation, be thankful of your young! The sweet laughter of a child is as calming birdsong to the Divine." (Chapter 8, Conversation 5, Verse 3). As such, the Faith often trains its clergy in midwifery, and preventing child mortality is one of the chief aims of the Faith. Nine months after a baby is born, the Temple will host a large Haizi ceremony. The child is dressed in elaborate clothing, and then carried to the Temple. At the Temple, the majority of people in the community will be present, and there will be ample food and music. The baby sits upon the lap of the mother, and is shown a tray containing fourteen small objects crafted in silver or jade. Each object represents a different one of the Luminaries. Whichever object the baby grabs first is made into a necklace or bracelet worn by the child until their Biaoji ceremony at age 15. Additionally, the object grabbed defines the Luminary it represents as the patron and guide of the child until they come of age.
According to the Minjian Faith, children become adults at the age of 15. The Biaoji ceremony marks the child's transition to an adult in the eyes of the Faith. A celebration is held at the local Temple. A member of the clergy (a Priest if it is a boy's Biaoji, a Priestess if it is a girl's) leads a ceremony which includes meditation and the ceremonial asking of questions to the child. Those who know the child best, often including parents, siblings, and close friends, deliver short speeches about the child. The child then takes off their bracelet/necklace, and then selects a new ornament from a ceremonial selection box, choosing who their patron Luminary shall be for the rest of their life. That night, a celebration is held, with dancing and food. The child, now an adult, is then led to the Temple's shrine to their chosen Luminary. They spend the night in that shrine, reading of the Book of Luminaries by candlelight. When they emerge in the morning, they are considered an adult in the eyes of the Faith.
Priests and Priestesses are authorized to wed couples in the eyes of the Faith. The Minjian Faith's marriage customs, never fully codified, has adopted elements of the Roman Catholic wedding ceremony. While arranged marriage is not condoned by the Faith, Minjian have historically practiced it, and a small minority still do. The Faith has not taken a stance on same-sex marriage, despite much debate, although the vast majority of Minjian clergy will perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. The couple is asked to spend the night before the wedding together at the Temple, contemplating the Faith. Wedding ceremonies are conducted by a Priest or Priestess, with the friends and family in attendance. The presiding clergy member will recite passages from Dialogues. Aspects of a wedding ceremony include the ceremonial release of two birds, the exchange of flowers, the scattering of ashes, and a ceremonial kiss.
The Minjian Faith teaches that death is not the end for a human soul and that those who die may join the Divine and the Luminaries in the afterlife. As such, funerals tend to be more joyful than those of other religions, and feature eulogies written by those who knew the deceased well, addressed to the Divine and to the patron Luminary of the deceased, asking for the deceased to be taken into the care of their divine patron. The body is then cremated, and the ashes scattered.
Luminaries are the Minjian equivalent of saints- those whom the Minjian believe were chosen by the Divine to act as moral examples to humanity, and who continue to serve the Divine. Their exalted position is earned by their great virtue, and it is the responsibility of every Minjian to learn from their example. Each Luminary is traditionally associated with a different month, animal, substance, and body part, although these are generally known only to scholars and clergy. Each Minjian has a patron Luminary. Of the Luminaries, six were discovered during Min-jian's lifetime, 3 were discovered between then and 1700, and 3 more were discovered during the colonial period. No other Luminary has been confirmed by the Faith since then, although some have sought to be considered one.
The popularity of each individual Luminary has waxed and waned throughout history. Some Luminaries are most definitely more popular than others. Around 75% of Minjian change their patron Luminary at their Biaoji ceremony.
Minjian is the wandering sage who began the Minjian Faith, as well as the only individual to speak directly to the Divine. He is the Celestial Recorder, who sits at the left side of the Divine's table to observe all that goes on.
Xianhe is the leader of the Army of the Divine. A great warrior in life whose honor and martial prowess were famous, he ascended to the ranks of the Luminaries both for his skill in battle and for the mercy and honor he displayed there.
Liaoxi is the Divine Maidservant. An example to all women in service occupations, she serves with unswerving loyalty to her mistress, the Divine Lady.
Beiyin is the Eternal Sentry, the Sentinel who watches over the Gates of the Estate of the Divine until such time as the Great Enemy arrives or the the time for vigilance is over and he may lay down his spear.
Jiehning is the Patron of the East. In life, he was a great scout and explorer who took up the tasks that others would not take on. His willingness to take on the burden of these assignments, and his steadfast adherence to duty even in the bleakest surroundings stand him in good stead among the Faith.
Fanze is the Patron of the West and patron of cities. She watches with a gentle eye the garden that is human civilization, and safeguards the Estate of the Divine in the absence of the Faithful, tending to their hearth.
Gaolin is the Celestial Magistrate, in life a paragon of wisdom and fair judgement. He serves as an adviser to the Divine, giving them the benefit of his esteemed counsel.
Guiyu is the Celestial Accountant, who minds the affairs of the Divine's estate. He is the patron of financial decisions, and those in the world of business, as well as debtors, take him as their patron.
Senbao is the Celestial Storyteller, who records the affairs of the Divine's estate. He is the patron of writing and fiction.
Nanyin is the Patron of Life and the Garden. Her great skills at cultivation, and the unwavering effort she put into bringing new life to the world makes her the patron of gardeners, farmers, and the pregnant. She tends the immense Gardens of the Divine.
Qaiyou is the Celestial Sailor, in life a daring explorer who led great exploration fleets in the service of the Laeralian Emperor. He now charts the Nine Heavens in service to the Divine, his curiosity never satisfied.
Sunkui is the Celestial Teacher, the Patron of Examinations, who guides with a stern and gentle hand the progress of students and prospective bureaucrats. In the Estates of the Divine, it is he who guides the newcomers through.
Organization and Structure
The Minjian Faith currently has three levels of administration- that of the individual Temple, the national level, and the Minjian High Conclave, which oversees the activities of all Temples. However, some amount of authority is devolved to the individual Temple, and Temples have some autonomy.
A Minjian Temple is a place of worship of the Minjian Faith. They contain specialized architecture, including shrines for each Luminary and several halls of worship, which are believed to be unique to the Faith. Temples must be constructed by laborers who are either Minjian or have been blessed by the Faith. In order to become a full Temple, i.e., one considered a proper place of worship in the eyes of the Faith, it must be consecrated over several days by a Priest and Priestess. Each Temple is given a unique name which is selected in accordance to the rules laid down in the Book of Minjian Practices, by the first Priest and Priestess with the consent of the High Conclave, following the form, 'Temple of Adjective Object', such as the 'Temple of Scattered Coins'.
Minjian clergy are respectfully referred to as 'Brightness'. A Priest and Priestess are a pair of clergy members that preside over religious services at a Temple. There is typically only one pair per Temple; however, at large Temples such as the Temple of Insouciant Fortunes, there may be multiple Priests and Priestesses assigned. Temples may also have a staff of lower-ranking clergy, including Clerics (wandering Minjian clergy), Votaries (those in training to be a Priest or Priestess), and Scriveners (assistants during services responsible for scribing prayers). All those entering the Minjian Clergy begin as Acolytes before becoming Votaries. They must then be accredited by a High Priest or Archpriest before being able to preside over services. Priests and Priestesses are usually (but not always) romantically involved, and members of the Minjian clergy are allowed to maintain romantic relationships. Priests and Priestesses may retire to become an Elder. Ardents are officials which coordinate and oversee the activities of multiple Temples, similar to bishops in Catholicism.
Ardents report to the Brightlord and Brightlady, one of which is assigned for each nation where Minjian are present. As such, while the Brightlady of a nation with only a few Minjian, such as Serriel, is in theory equal to the Brightlord of Laeral, the latter has a great many more subordinates and influence. The Brightlords and Brightladies meet to appoint the 12 members of the Minjian High Conclave, from among their own numbers. There are 12 Archpriests at any time, one for each of the Luminaries. The Archpriests which make up the High Conclave are responsible for interpreting the Book of Luminaries and Book of Minjian Practice, as well as making decisions which affect the entire Minjian Faith. The Minjian High Conclave elects a First Brightlord and a First Brightlady from among their ranks, who serve as the leaders of the faith.
Scholars of Minjian disagree on some matters regarding the teachings of the Divine, Min-jian, and the Luminaries. This is largely to to the large number of conflicting advice contained within Dialogues and the Book of Luminaries. The Host and the Lady disagree on certain matters, with the Lady advocating that responsibility toward others and the community is the highest good, and the Host suggesting that free will and personal liberty is most important. Additionally, the varied Luminaries often disagree in their outlook on life, leading some theologians to believe that the Divine intended to find a diverse collection of outlooks on life and existence rather than creating a single unified creed. The 14 Edicts of Minjian often contradict one another. For example, the 5th Edict, spoken by the Lady, suggests that humans should pay respects to those higher in authority or more deserving of respect than them. The 6th Edict, spoken by the Host, is more egalitarian it its outlook, saying that "all are equal in the eyes of the divine". Current disagreements within the Faith include the following:
- To what extent should bodily modifications and body art be condoned by the Faith? The 4th Edict states that "nor shall you mutilate or defile your body, for you are a creation of the Divine and to defile such a creation is to defile their greatest creation". Some members of the clergy have interpreted this as forbidding piercings, dyed hair, and tattoos. Others believe that this only refers to modifications which injure the body, such as circumcision, female genital mutilation, or ritual scarification, all of which are near-universally condemned among the faith.
- How should the 4th Edict be applied to environmental conservation, hunting, and meat-eating? The 4th Edict states that "you shall respect the creations of the Divine; you shall not take from their creation more than is necessary, nor shall you prey exceedingly upon the wild beasts of Their creation". This vague wording has been interpreted in a variety of ways throughout history. Today, some Minjian interpret this Edict as a ban on hunting or the consumption of meat. However, most Minjian take this Edict as a suggestion to avoid trophy hunting and other behaviors which are excessively destructive to the environment.
- What should the Minjian Faith's position on gender relations be? The Minjian Faith is unusual in that it features a male and female deity both equal in power. Additionally, 3 of the 12 Luminaries are women. However, the 5th Edict states that "a wife shall pay respect to her husband". How should this be interpreted in the modern world? Some feminists have noted the 7th Edict, which notes that "you shall recall the duties you owe to...your wife..in all your actions", as stating that women are worthy of being treated as equals to men. At present, the Minjian Faith officially states that "men and women are equal in the eyes of the Divine", although a few Minjian fundamentalists believe that this is incorrect.