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  • Writer's picture Даосская Ассоциация России

Cultivating Respect: Guidelines for Honoring Shifu in the Daoist Tradition

Cheng Bohan


In the Daoist tradition, the relationship between students and their Shifu is highly revered and holds great significance. To show respect towards their Shifu, students are encouraged to adhere to a set of guidelines that demonstrate reverence and honor. These guidelines aim to foster a harmonious and respectful teacher-student relationship, allowing for the transmission of precious Daoist knowledge and wisdom.

  1. Acknowledge Shifu's Role: Recognize the invaluable role that Shifu plays as the inheritor of the Daoist lineage and the bearer of ancient wisdom. Show deep respect and gratitude for the knowledge and teachings imparted by Shifu, understanding that their guidance is essential for the preservation of the lineage.

  2. Use Respectful Language and Tone: Maintain a respectful demeanor when engaging in conversations with Shifu. Utilize polite and respectful language, and ensure that your tone reflects reverence and humility.

  3. Display Respect upon Arrival: When visiting Shifu, observe the traditional customs of announcing your arrival. In ancient times, this involved coughing three times to inform Shifu of your presence, while in modern times, ringing the doorbell and gently knocking accomplishes the same purpose. Upon entering Shifu's home or place of practice, demonstrate utmost respect through your gestures and behavior. Stand on the left side of Shifu and wait to be offered a seat before accepting.

  4. Prioritize Prior Notice and Gifts: To show consideration for Shifu's schedule and routine, inform them in advance of your intention to visit. This ensures that your presence does not disrupt their commitments. When visiting, bring an appropriate gift as a token of respect for Shifu and their family. The frequency of visits may vary based on the distance between you and Shifu's location.

  5. Self-Sufficiency and Gratitude: Demonstrate self-sufficiency by bringing your own food and materials when visiting Shifu. Avoid using Shifu's money or personal belongings. During shared meals, allow Shifu to eat and drink first, expressing gratitude for the nourishment provided.

  6. Provide for Shifu's Needs: Take on the responsibility of ensuring that Shifu's daily needs are met. This includes providing food, clothing, medicine, and any other essential items that contribute to Shifu's well-being.

  7. Assist with Daily Household Tasks: If you live with Shifu, take on all necessary housework and assist Shifu in their daily life. This displays your willingness to support and alleviate any burdens that Shifu may have.

  8. Sincere Request for Learning: When seeking to study the Dao under Shifu's guidance, approach with sincerity and politeness. Humbly request Shifu's teachings, understanding that the decision to accept or decline rests with Shifu. Should Shifu choose not to teach you, refrain from anger or resentment. Instead, reflect on your own shortcomings and seek self-improvement.

  9. Polite and Private Communication: Maintain a polite and respectful tone during conversations with Shifu, avoiding speaking loudly or rudely. Should you notice an error made by Shifu, it is inappropriate to point it out in public. Instead, choose a private moment to respectfully bring it to their attention. Refrain from discussing Shifu's personal life or any perceived wrongdoing with others, to preserve their privacy and reputation.

  10. Appropriate Address and Discretion: Address Shifu simply as "Shifu," avoiding the use of honorifics such as "Priest." Using Shifu's full name is considered impolite in Chinese culture. Exercise discretion when discussing Shifu, refraining from spreading their name without their acknowledgment, as this could potentially harm their reputation.

  11. Respect Regardless of Age: Irrespective of age differences, maintain a respectful attitude towards Shifu, recognizing their wisdom and experience. Avoid adopting an attitude of superiority or entitlement.

  12. Welcoming Gestures: When Shifu returns to the temple or home from a distant place, stand up and warmly welcome them. As a gesture of support, offer to assist Shifu with carrying their luggage. However, it is important to refrain from physical contact such as hugging or holding hands, as well as to avoid stepping on Shifu's shadow.

By adhering to these guidelines, students can demonstrate deep respect and reverence towards their Shifu, fostering a harmonious teacher-student relationship within the Daoist tradition. Through this relationship, the transmission of ancient wisdom and the preservation of the Daoist lineage can flourish, enriching both the student's understanding and the Shifu's role as a teacher and guide.


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