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철학 - 지혜의 탐구

III. History

도교의 역사




1) Esoteric traditions of eastern China.

The textual remains of Taoism during the Warring States period were all presumably produced in connection with official patronage; similarly, developments in Taoist thought and practice during the early Imperial age principally have to be studied from the vantage point of the court. At the Imperial court, representatives of different local traditions met as competitors for official favour, and the court consequently served as the principal meeting place for the exchange of ideas. The historians who recorded the progress of these varying intellectual and religious currents were themselves court officials and often were active participants in the movements they describe. The emperors, anxious to consolidate and expand their power, were a natural focus for wonder-workers and specialists in esoteric arts. (see also  Ch'in dynasty, Han dynasty)

진·한 시대의 도교


중국의 신선사상 전통

진·한 시대(BC 221~AD 220) 동안 도교사상과 수행의 발전은 주로 황실이라는 유리한 장소에서 발전했다. 권력의 공고화와 확대를 열망했던 황제들은 자연히 비법가(秘法家)를 우대했다. 동부 해안지역[山東]으로부터 일련의 비법가들이 진과 전한의 조정으로 몰려들었다. 그들은 신선들이 사는 섬들이 있다고 주장했는데, 이 섬은 장자가 말한 바 있는 섬이었다. 그들 동부인들은 황제의 건강과 장수를 보장해주는, 신선에 대한 제사의식 등을 제국의 수도에 끌어들였다. 여기에서 최초로 불로장생(不老長生)의 신선방술이 복잡하게 발전했다.


A series of such wonder-workers from the eastern seaboard visited the courts of the Ch'in and early Han. They told of islands in the ocean, peopled by immortal beings--which the Chuang-tzu had described--and so convincing were their accounts that sizable expeditions were fitted out and sent in search of them. The easterners brought the cults of their own region to the capital, recommending and supervising the worship of astral divinities who would assure the emperor's health and longevity. One of their number, Li Shao-chün, bestowed on the Han emperor Wu Ti counsels that are a résumé of the spiritual preoccupations of the time. The emperor was to perform sacrifices to the furnace (tsao), which would enable him to summon spiritual beings. They in turn would permit him to change cinnabar powder (mercuric sulfide) into gold, from which vessels were to be made, out of which he would eat and drink. This would increase his span of life and permit him to behold the immortals (hsien) who dwell on the Isles of P'eng-lai, in the midst of the sea. Here, for the first time, alchemy joins the complex of activities that were supposed to contribute to the prolongation of life.

2) The Huang-Lao tradition.

Also originating in the eastern coastal region (Shantung), alongside these same thaumaturgic (wonder-working) tendencies, was the learned tradition of the Huang-Lao masters, devotees of the legendary "Yellow Emperor" (Huang Ti) and Lao-tzu. The information on the life of Lao-tzu transmitted by Ssu-ma Ch'ien probably derives directly from their teaching. They venerated Lao-tzu as a sage whose instructions, contained in his cryptic book, describe the perfect art of government. The Yellow Emperor, with whose reign Ssu-ma Ch'ien's universal history opens, was depicted as a ruler of the Golden Age who achieved his success because he applied his teachers' precepts to government. The Yellow Emperor also was the patron of technology; and the classic works of many arcane arts, including alchemy, medicine, sexual techniques, cooking, and dietetics, were all placed under his aegis. Unlike Lao-tzu, the Yellow Emperor is always the disciple, an unremitting seeker of knowledge, and the Huang-Lao masters' ideal of the perfect ruler. (see also  Huang-Lao method)

황로(黃老) 전동

황로사상가란 전설상의 황제(黃帝)와 노자의 숭배자를 말한다. 그들은 노자를 완전한 통치술을 밝힌 사람으로 존경한다. 사마천(司馬遷)이 황제의 치세와 더불어 역사가 시작되었다고 기술했듯이 황제(黃帝)는 스승의 가르침대로 다스림으로써 황금시대를 열었다고 한다. 황로사상의 가르침은 산둥[山東] 지방에 있던 제(齊) 왕실에서부터 곧 모든 지식인과 관리들에게 확산되었다. 전한시대의 많은 정치가들은 황로사상의 가르침에 따라 무위(無爲)로 통치하려고 노력했다. 한 무제(武帝 : BC 141/140~ 87/86) 때에는 직접적인 정치적 관련성은 상실했지만 이상적 통치와 장수비결에 대한 황로사상의 가르침이 계속해서 상당한 주목을 받았는데, 이것은 역사상 최초의 도가운동이라 할 만하다.


From the court of the King of Ch'i (in present-day Shantung Province) where they were already expounding the Lao-tzu in the 3rd century BC, the teachings of the Huang-Lao masters soon spread throughout learned and official circles in the capital. Many early Han statesmen became their disciples and attempted to practice government by inaction (wu-wei); among them were also scholars who cultivated esoteric arts. Although their doctrine lost its direct political relevance during the reign of the emperor Wu Ti (reigned 141/140-87/86 BC), their ensemble of teachings concerning both ideal government and practices for prolonging life continued to evoke considerable interest and is perhaps the earliest truly Taoist movement of which there is clear historical evidence.

3) Revolutionary messianism.

Among the less welcome visitors at the Han court had been a certain Kan Chung-k'o. At the end of the 1st century BC he presented to the emperor a "Classic of the Great Peace" (T'ai-p'ing Ching) that he claimed had been revealed to him by a spirit, who had come to him with the order to renew the Han dynasty. His temerity cost him his life, but the prophetic note of dynastic renewal became stronger during the interregnum of Wang Mang (AD 9-23); and other works--bearing the same title--continued to appear. At this time, promoters of a primitivistic and utopian T'ai-p'ing (Great Peace) ideology continued to support the Imperial Liu (Han) family, claiming that they would be restored to power through the aid of the Li clan. A century and a half later, however, as the power of the Eastern Han dynasty (AD 25-220) declined, the populace no longer hoped for a renewal of Han rule. (see also  messiah)

혁명적 구세사상

감충가(甘忠可)의 〈태평경 太平經〉에서부터 나온 혁명적 구세사상(救世思想)은 왕망(王莽)이 세운 신(新)을 물리치고 후한을 세우는 데 기여했지만 후한이 쇄락해가자 민중들은 더이상 한의 부흥을 바라지 않았다. 황로사상을 신봉한 운동이었던 황건(黃巾)의 난(184)은 결국 실패했다. 이후에도 이와같은 혁명적 구세사상에 따른 반란은 역사상 계속해서 일어났다. 그러나 이러한 사상과 운동은 후한 말기에 종교적으로 조직화되기 시작한 도교의 활동과는 무관한 것으로 구분해서 보아야 한다.


The great Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out in the east in AD 184. Its leader, Chang Chüeh, declared that the "blue heaven" was to be replaced by a "yellow heaven"; and his followers wore yellow turbans in token of this expectation. Worshipping a "Huang-lao Chün," the movement gained a vast number of adherents throughout eastern China. Though they were eventually defeated by the Imperial forces, the tendency towards messianic revolt continued to manifest itself at frequent intervals. A great many charismatic leaders came from the Li family, and certain of them claimed to be the god Lao-tzu returned to earth; a sage of western China, Li Hung, who had actually lived during the 1st century BC, became the favourite recurrent figure of later would-be messiahs. Such revolutionary religious movements, which included Taoist ideological elements, remained a persistent feature of medieval Chinese history. The last recorded Li Hung was executed in 1112. These sporadic popular manifestations of revolutionary messianism, though, did not represent the activities of the formal Taoist organization and must be distinguished from the organized religious Taoism that also appeared at the end of the Later Han period.


1) The emergence of a "Taocracy."

i) The Way of the Celestial Masters.

The protagonist of the Classic of the Great Peace is a celestial master. When another important religious movement began in China's far west at about the same time as the group in the northeast arose, in the second half of the 2nd century AD, the same title was given to its founder, Chang Tao-ling. It is with this Way of the Celestial Masters (T'ien-shih Tao) that the history of organized religious Taoism may be said to begin, in that there has been an unbroken continuity from that time down to the present day, as the movement soon spread to all of China.

도교의 출현

진·한(秦漢) 때의 신선방술(神仙方術)과 황로지학(黃老之學)이 도교의 전신이다. 후한의 순제(順帝) 때 장릉(張陵)이 오두미교(五斗米敎)를 창시하여 노자를 교주로 삼아 도교를 형성시켰다. 또한 후한의 영제(靈帝) 때에 장각(張角)이 세운 '태평도'(太平道)는 초기 도교의 중요한 파벌을 형성했다. 이때부터 신비한 방술로 장생불사를 구하는 것을 목적으로 하는 교파종단(敎派宗團)으로서의 도교가 시작되었다. 태평도란 후한의 간길(干吉 : 혹은 于吉)이 창시하고, 그후 184년 장각을 중심으로 하여 황허 강[黃河] 이북 일대에서 반란을 일으켰던 황건적(黃巾賊)이 신봉하던 종교이다. 〈태평경〉에서 말하고 있는 것처럼 이들은 병의 치료, 권선(勸善), 수일(守一 : 靜坐에 의한 정신통일), 천·지·인(天地人)의 조화 등을 꾀했다. 오두미도는 그 교문(敎門)에 들어갈 때 5두(斗)의 쌀을 바친다고 하여 오두미도라 불리게 되었다. 나중에는 천사도(天師道)라고 했으며 13세기부터는 정일교(正一敎)라고 불렀다.


In AD 142, in the mountains of the province of Szechwan, Chang is said to have received a revelation from T'ai-shang Lao-chün (Lord Lao the Most High). The deified Lao-tzu bestowed on Chang his "orthodox and sole doctrine of the authority of the covenant" (cheng-i meng-wei fa), meant as a definitive replacement for the religious practices of the people, which are described as having lapsed into demonism and degeneracy.

The new dispensation at first was probably intended as a substitute for the effete rule of the Han central administration. Chang is said in time to have ascended on high and to have received the title of t'ien-shih, and by the latter part of the 2nd century, under the leadership of his descendants, the T'ien-shih Tao constituted an independent religio-political organization with authority throughout the region, a "Taocracy" (rule of Tao), in which temporal and spiritual powers converged. For ceremonial and administrative purposes, the realm was divided into 24 (later 28 and 36) units, or parishes (chih). The focal point of each was the oratory, or "chamber of purity" (ching-shih), which served as the centre for communication with the powers on high. Here the chi-chiu ("libationer"), the priestly functionary of the nuclear community, officiated. Each household contributed a tax of five pecks of rice to the administration, whence came the other common name of the movement, the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice (Wu-tou-mi Tao). (see also  religious community, Chinese mythology)

The ritual activities of the libationer seem principally to have been directed towards the cure of disease by prescribed ceremonial means. Believed to be a punishment for evil deeds, whether committed by the sufferer himself or by an ancestor, illness was in fact a sentence pronounced by the San Kuan (Three Officials), judges and custodians of the dead. The sentence was carried out by the spectral hordes of the Six Heavens (Liu T'ien), a posthumous dwelling place of all unhallowed mortals. Against such judicial severity, only formal appeal to higher authority might avail. Using the rising flame and smoke of the incense burner in the centre of the oratory to transmit the message borne by spirits exteriorized from within his own body, the libationer submitted petitions (chang) to the appropriate bureau of the three Taoist heavens (san t'ien). The Taoist canon contains long lists of the "officials and generals" (kuan chiang), each specializing in a different sort of complaint, who would respectively pronounce on the appeal and marshal the celestial forces against the offending demons. (see also  healing cult)

The officiant came to dispose of a large selection of bureaucratic stock drafts: memorials, plaints, and appeals, all of which were modelled on secular administrative usage. Also effective were written talismans (fu); drawn by the libationer, these would be burned and the ashes, mixed with water, swallowed by the demons' victim. The libationer also functioned as a moral preceptor, instructing the faithful in the sect's own highly allegorical interpretation of the Lao-tzu, which they considered to be the revealed work of Lord Lao the Most High. Their fundamental concern with right actions and good works as being most in the spirit of the Tao and consequently ensuring immunity from disease is also shown by their construction of way stations in which provisions and shelter were placed for the convenience and use of travellers, as well as in the numerous injunctions to charity and forbearance recorded in the written codes of the movement.

ii) Communal ceremonies.

Both the nuclear communities and the "Taocratic" realm as a whole were bound together by a ritual cycle, of which only fragmentary indications remain. Among the most important ceremonial occasions were the communal feasts (ch'u) offered at certain specific times throughout the year (during the first, seventh, and 10th months) as well as on other important occasions, such as initiation into the hierarchy, advancement in rank or function, or the consecration of an oratory. These feasts were of varying degrees of elaborateness, depending on the circumstances. The common essential element, however, was the sharing of certain foods, in prescribed quantities, among masters and disciples. This was envisaged as a communion with the Tao, at once attesting the close compact with the celestial powers enjoyed by the members of the parish and reinforcing their own sense of cohesion as a group. (see also  folk taoism, communal meal)

Much more notorious was the rite known as the Union of Breaths (Ho Ch'i), a communal sexual ritual said to have been celebrated at each new moon. Later Buddhist sources described this as a riotous orgy of outrageous and disgusting license. Several cryptic manuals of instruction for the priest in charge of these proceedings are preserved in the canon; and they depict, however, scenarios of a highly stylized erotic choreography of cosmic significance. Like the communal feasts, these rites might be interpreted as a concentrated and idealized adaptation of older, more diffuse agrarian religious customs. This suggests a pattern of the integration of local practices that has remained characteristic of Taoism throughout its history. (see also  sexual behaviour)

iii) Official recognition of the Taoist organization.

In AD 215, the celestial master Chang Lu, grandson of Chang Tao-ling, submitted to the authority of the Han general Ts'ao Ts'ao, who six years later founded the Wei dynasty in the north. This resulted in official recognition of the sect by the dynasty; the celestial masters in turn expressed their spiritual approbation of the Wei's mandate to replace the Han. Under these conditions a formal definition of the relations of organized Taoism to the secular powers developed. In contrast to the popular messianic movements, Lao-tzu's manifestation to Chang Tao-ling was considered to be definitive; the god was not incarnate in them but rather designated Chang and his successors as his representatives on earth. Under a worthy dynasty, which governed by virtue of the Tao, the role of the celestial masters was that of acting as intermediaries for celestial confirmation and support. Only when a responsible ruler was lacking were the celestial masters to take over the temporal guidance of the people and hold the supreme power in trust for a new incumbent. Abetted by this flexible ideology of compromise, the sect made constant progress at the courts of the Wei and Western Chin dynasties until, by the end of the 3rd century, it counted among its adherents many of the most powerful families in North China. (see also  Three Kingdoms)

천사도와 도교조직에 관한 국가의 인정

장릉이 죽은 후에, 아들 장형(張衡)과 손자 장로(張魯)가 그 술(術)을 전했다. 이들을 3장(三張)이라 하고 각각 천사(天師)·사사(嗣師)·계사(係師)라 불렀다. 장릉은 높은 곳으로부터 내려왔기 때문에 '천사'라는 이름을 얻었다고 한다. 2세기 후반까지 그의 자손들의 지도하에 천사도는 지역 전체를 관할하는 독립적인 종교·정치 조직으로 발전했다. 215년에 장릉의 손자 장로가 조조(曺操)에게 투항했다. 이후 조조가 세운 위(魏)에서 천사도는 하나의 국가적인 종파로 인정되었다. 그대신 천사도는 위를 한을 대신한 왕조로 합리화해주었다. 이와 같이 국가와 타협함으로써 도교의 교리 또한 체제 인정의 이데올로기로 변했다. 천사도는 위와 서진(西晉)의 궁중에서 3세기말까지 꾸준히 발전했고 북조(北朝) 여러 나라의 많은 권세가들이 교도가 되었다.


2) The literature of Taoist esoterism.

i) The scholiasts.

The most famous of the many commentaries on Tao-te Ching was written by Wang Pi (AD 226-249). He is regarded as a founder of the school of Dark Learning (hsüan-hsüeh), a highly conservative philosophical movement that enjoyed a certain vogue among the cultured elite of the 3rd and 4th centuries. The Chuang-tzu was not long afterward annotated by Kuo Hsiang (died 312), in whose work the fundamental Confucian bias is even more prominent. The writings of these men have in recent years sometimes been called "Neo-Taoism," but nothing could be more misleading. Their primary aim was to harmonize Tao-te Ching and Chuang-tzu with their own conception of a practical life devoted to affairs of state. As administrators confronted with the challenge of Taoist thought, they preferred not to take its message at face value. Interpretative commentaries continued to be written on the classics of speculative Taoism in which the aid of the most diverse philosophies was called upon, not excluding Buddhism. Like the work of the 3rd and 4th century scholiasts, these represent the ideas of a tiny minority, the members of the scholar-official class. Though excursions into ever more refined scholasticism continued to be a diversion for them, the real creative vitality of Taoism was to be found elsewhere.

ii) Lives of the Immortals.

By the Han period, the careers of those free spirits described in Chuang-tzu were the subject of universal interest. The earliest systematic collection of biographical notices on these legendary figures is the Lives of the Immortals (Lieh-hsien chuan) of the early 2nd century AD. Such collections were a genre of the time. Brief sketches were provided for 72 figures: the same symbolic number as was found in contemporary collections of the "Lives" of the disciples of Confucius, eminent scholar-officials, and famous women. Thus Immortals came to be classified as yet another category in the highly stylized gallery of ancient worthies. Each notice is followed by a short hymn of praise. This was the standard form of inscriptions on stone; its employment in hagiographic literature may have influenced the later development of the chantefable in alternating passages of prose and verse. The text appears to reflect a growing number of local cults dedicated to individual Immortals, while the many plants mentioned suggest the extent of the use of herbal compounds as a means to transcendence.

iii) Inscriptions.

These literary notices are supplemented by epigraphic evidence, inscriptions on stone or bronze. The simplest of these are bronze mirrors depicting the plumed figures of airborne Immortals and bearing short rhyming texts of a general nature. Longer and more explicit are the texts of inscriptions on stone: tablets dedicated to the cult of a particular Immortal. They open with their subject's vital statistics, list his latter-day manifestations, and commemorate offerings made in his honour. But all of this is only by way of preface to the core of the inscription, in which his merits are celebrated in verse. Such was the eloquent votive tablet erected in honour of Wang Tzu-ch'iao, a perennial favourite among the Immortals (AD 165). Another, dedicated to Lao-tzu in the same year, describes the supposed author of the Tao-te Ching as a god, to whom worship had been paid by the then reigning emperor.

iv) Texts on the cult of Lao-tzu.

One of the most complex and interesting phenomena in Chinese religious history is Lao-tzu's advancement from sage to god. A scroll found in the walled-up desert library at Tun-huang, the Book of the Transformations of Lao-tzu (Lao-tzu Pien-hua Ching), shows him in cosmic perspective, omnipresent and omnipotent, the origin of all life. His human manifestations are listed, followed by his successive roles in legendary history, as the sage counsellor of emperors. Next, five of his more recent appearances are mentioned, dated AD 132-155, and localized in west China, where a temple is said to have been dedicated to him in 185. Then the god speaks, to describe his own powers. He recommends to his votaries the recitation of "my book in 5,000 words" (the Tao-te Ching) and enjoins a meditation on his own divine attributes as they appear within the adept's body. Finally, he calls upon the faithful to join him, now, when he is about to strike at the tottering rule of the Han dynasty. Evidently the product of a messianic group in west China at the end of the 2nd century, this valuable fragment of only 95 lines is written in a strangely disfigured Chinese, in part a reflection of its popular milieu. But it still shows more clearly than many longer and better preserved texts the essential cohesion of the several aspects of esoteric Taoism: hagiography, recitation of scriptures, and visionary meditation, all of which are here given additional temporal unity by the messianic context.

3) The Southern tradition.

The political partition of China into three parts following the collapse of the Han dynasty in AD 220, the so-called period of the Three Kingdoms, had its spiritual counterpart in certain well-defined regional religious differences. Against the independent dynasties in the north and west stood the empire of Wu, south of the Yangtze River.

i) Developments in alchemical and other traditions.

A region exposed comparatively lately to Chinese influence, this southeastern area had long been famous for its aboriginal sorcerers and dancing mediums. In the course of Chinese colonization, separate learned spiritual traditions developed alongside the ecstatic practices of the populace. To the court of the emperors of Wu came savants and wonder-workers representing a variety of traditions that were to acquire lasting influence.

Among these personages was a certain Ko Hsüan (3rd century AD), who was said to have been initiated into an ancient alchemical tradition. His great-nephew Ko Hung in the next century became one of the most celebrated writers on the various technical means for attaining immortality. In his major work, the Pao-p'u-tzu ("He Who Holds to Simplicity"), Ko Hung expounded the alchemical formulas received and transmitted by Ko Hsüan. In so doing, he took care to distinguish the divinely inspired "gold elixir" (chin-tan), or "liquefied gold" (chin-i)--i.e., preparations of true edible, or potable, gold, the consumption of which leads to immortality (aurifaction)--from the mere counterfeiting of the precious substance, with intention to deceive (aurifiction). These alchemical methods have been designated as belonging to the T'ai ch'ing (Great Purity) tradition, from the name of the heaven of the Immortals to which the elixirs were said to elevate their consumer. The chapters of alchemy in the Pao-p'u-tzu are among the earliest documents to describe the art in detail.

Ko Hung enumerated an extensive selection of material substances and practical operations to which he attributed varying degrees of relative efficacy in the prolongation of life. Dietetics (grain and alcohol avoidance), ingestion of solar, lunar, and astral exhalations and their cycling within the body, gymnastics, and conservation of vital fluids through proper sexual techniques were all necessary and fundamental. The usefulness of written talismans and the performance of good works were also not denied. Above all, it was essential that all disease be eliminated from the body before undertaking more positive, specialized practices for achieving immortality. Herbs and plants were useful not only against disease, but in many cases (particularly in that of mushrooms) their use resulted in definite lengthening of life. For a definitive transformation into an immortal (hsien), with all the powers and prerogatives that implied, however, an alchemical elixir must be compounded and consumed. Ko Hung admitted, however, that he himself had never succeeded in making one. After a strenuous life in civil and military service, in the course of which he managed to write voluminously on many subjects, this great eclectic scholar is said to have undertaken a long journey to China's colonial dominions in Vietnam in quest of the pure cinnabar found there. He stopped at Lo-fou Shan, near Canton, however, where he died.

The Pao-p'u-tzu was nearly finished in 317, when Loyang, capital of the Western Chin dynasty, fell to the Hsiung-nu. This event set off a considerable emigration to the unsubdued region south of the Yangtze River. The Imperial household was followed in its flight by numerous high-ranking dependents and their spiritual ministers. During this period the Way of the Celestial Masters, established at the court of Lo-yang since the early 3rd century, apparently first penetrated in force to the Southeast. While the secular, military menace remained in the North, and factional struggles raged among the emigrants, the Way of the Celestial Masters waged unremitting war against the indigenous sects and cults of demons of the Southeast. Many of the old established families, settled in the region since the end of the Han dynasty, turned away from local traditions to become members of the Taoist faith of their new political superiors. At first these converts were content to entrust the direction of their spiritual lives to the libationers of the movement, though these religious specialists were generally men of lower social standing than themselves. Among the second and third generation of converts from the old aristocracy of Wu, however, new and original impulses, which were to have most profound effects upon the development of Taoism as a whole, began to occur.

ii) The Mao Shan Revelations.

The most brilliant synthesis of the Way of the Celestial Masters with the indigenous traditions of the Southeast occurred in the 4th century AD in a family closely related to Ko Hung. Hsü Mi, an official at the Imperial court, and his youngest son, Hsü Hui, were the principal beneficiaries of an extensive new Taoist revelation. A visionary in the Hsüs' service, Yang Hsi, was honoured with the visits of a group of perfected immortals (chen-jen) from the heaven of Shang-ch'ing (Supreme Purity), an improvement on the T'ai-ch'ing heaven and the ordinary immortals (hsien) that peopled it. In the course of his visions, which lasted from AD 364 to 370, Yang received a whole new scriptural and hagiographic literature, in addition to much practical information from the "perfected" (chen) on how it was to be understood and employed. Like the Ko family, the Hsüs belonged to the old aristocracy of Wu, who had been displaced from prominence by the arrival of the great families of the North, to whose Taoist beliefs they had been converted. The perfected assured them that the present unjust order was soon to end and that the rule of men on earth was to be replaced by a universal Taoist imperium. The present (i.e., the 4th century) was a time of trials, given over to the reign of the demonic Six Heavens, and marked by war, disease, and the worship of false gods. The sole mission of the demonic forces, however, was to cleanse the earth of evildoers, a task that would be completed by an overwhelming cataclysm of fire and flood. At that time the Good would take refuge deep in the earth, in the luminous caverns of the perfected beneath such sacred mountains as Mao Shan (in Kiang-su Province), the immediate focus of spiritual interest for the Hsüs. There they would complete the study of immortality already begun in their lifetimes, so as to be ready for the descent from heaven of the new universal ruler, Lord Li Hung, the "sage who is to come" (housheng). This was prophesied for the year 392. Yang and the Hsüs would get high office in the heaven of Shang ch'ing and rule over a newly constituted earth, peopled by the elect (chung-min). (see also  apocalypticism)

Yang Hsi's prodigious genius gave great consistency and consummate literary form to his comprehensive synthesis of many spiritual traditions. Popular messianism was adapted to provide an encompassing framework and temporal cogency. Yang and his patrons, however, were also thoroughly familiar with Buddhist thought. In addition to integrating Buddhist concepts into their Taoist system, the perfected also dictated a "Taoicized" version of large portions of an early Buddhist compilation, the Sutra in Forty-two Sections (Ssu-shih-erh chang Ching). Buddhist notions of predestination and reincarnation were subtly blended with native Chinese beliefs in hereditary character traits and the clan as a single unit involving mutual responsibility on the part of all its members, living and dead. Furthermore, building upon the Way of the Celestial Masters, the Mao Shan revelations envisaged some reform of the practices of the parent sect. Its sexual rites in particular were stigmatized as inferior practices, more conducive to perdition than to salvation. In place of this, a spiritualized union with a celestial partner was apparently realized by Yang Hsi and promised to his patrons. Other rituals of the Celestial Masters were allowed to continue in use among the Mao Shan adepts but were relegated to a subordinate position. Thus, the movement did not reject but rather incorporated and transcended the older tradition.

Though the perfected inveighed against the popular cults, even elements of these were absorbed and transformed. There is some evidence that, before Yang's inspired writings, Lord Mao himself, the august perfected immortal who gave his name to the mountain, was no more than a local minor god worshipped by an exorcistic priestess in the shadow of Mao Shan. Among the more learned traditions, alchemy received particular attention, being adopted for the first time into the context of organized religious Taoism. The perfected revealed the highly elaborate formulas of several of the elixirs that served them as food and drink. For all their extravagance, they were intended as real chemical preparations and described as being deadly poisonous to mortals. By preparing and ingesting one of them, the younger Hsü probably willingly ended his earthly existence in order to take up the post that had been offered him in the unseen world and to make ready for the coming of the new era.

iii) The Ling Pao scriptures and liturgies.

Another member of the Ko family was responsible for the second great Taoist scriptural tradition. Ko Ch'ao-fu began composing the Ling pao Ching ("Classic of the Sacred Jewel") c. AD 397. He claimed that they had been first revealed to his own ancestor, the famous Ko Hsüan, early in the 3rd century. In these works the Tao is personified in a series of "celestial worthies" (t'ien-tsun), its primordial and uncreated manifestations. These in turn were worshipped by means of a group of liturgies, which, during the 5th century, became supreme in Taoist practice, completely absorbing the older, simpler rites of the Way of the Celestial Masters. As each celestial worthy represented a different aspect of the Tao, so each ceremony of worship had a particular purpose, which it attempted to realize by distinct means. The rites as a whole were called chai ("retreat"), from the preliminary abstinence obligatory on all participants. They lasted a day and a night or for a fixed period of three, five, or seven days; the number of persons taking part was also specified, centring on a sacerdotal unit of six officiants. One's own salvation was inseparable from that of his ancestors; the Huang-lu chai (Retreat of the Yellow Register) was directed towards the salvation of the dead. Chin-lu chai (Retreat of the Golden Register), on the other hand, was intended to promote auspicious influences on the living. The T'u-t'an chai (Mud and Soot Retreat, or Retreat of Misery) was a ceremony of collective contrition, with the purpose of fending off disease, the punishment of sin, by prior confession; in Chinese civil law, confession resulted in an automatic reduction or suspension of sentence. These and other rituals were accomplished for the most part in the open, within a specially delimited sacred area, or altar (t'an), the outdoor complement of the oratory. The chanted liturgy, innumerable lamps, and clouds of billowing incense combined to produce in the participants a cathartic experience that assured these ceremonies a central place in all subsequent Taoist practices. (see also  Chinese law)

iv) The great Southern masters.

Though Taoism never became the exclusive state religion in the South, its most eminent representatives founded powerful organizations that received considerable official support. Lu Hsiu-ching in the 5th century epitomized the Ling Pao tradition, the liturgies of which he codified. His establishment at the great Buddho-Taoist centre, Lu Shan (in Kiangsi Province), carried out ceremonies and provided auspicious portents in favour of the Liu-Sung dynasty (420-479), in whose rulers Taoists complacently agreed to recognize the fulfillment of the old messianic prophesies and the legitimate continuation of the Han dynasty. Lu was frequently invited to the capital (present-day Nanking), where the Ch'ung-hsü Kuan (Abbey) was founded for him and served as the focal point of the Ling Pao movement. (see also  Six Dynasties)

Like Lu, who was a member of the old aristocracy of Wu, T'ao Hung-ching of the 5th and 6th centuries enjoyed even greater renown as the most eminent Taoist master of his time. He spent years in searching out the manuscript legacy of Yang Hsi and the Hsüs, and in 492 retired to Mao Shan, where he edited and annotated the revealed texts and attempted to re-create their practices in their original setting. T'ao's fame as a poet, calligrapher, and natural philosopher has persisted throughout Chinese history; he is perhaps best known as the founder of critical pharmacology. T'ao was an intimate friend of the great Liang emperor Wu Ti (of the 6th century), and his Mao Shan establishment was able to survive the proscription of all other Taoist sects in 504. Though whole Taoist families lived under T'ao's spiritual rule at Mao Shan, he himself stressed the need for celibacy and full-time commitment to the work of the Tao. In his state-sponsored Chu-yang Kuan, T'ao appears to have effected a working synthesis of the public rites of the Ling Pao liturgies with the private and individual practices enjoined in the Mao Shan revelations. This dual practice was to remain a feature of all subsequent Taoist sects. T'ao's primary interest, however, was in the scriptures of the perfected of Shang-ch'ing; and this is reflected in the revelations vouchsafed by these same spiritual agents to a 19-year-old disciple of T'ao's, Chou Tzu-liang, in 515-516. These revelations show a pronounced Buddhist influence, and T'ao was himself reputed to be a master of Buddhist as well as Taoist doctrine. His writings evidence a complete familiarity with Buddhist literature, and it is reported that both Buddhist monks and Taoist priests officiated at his burial rites.

4) State Taoism in the North.

Under the foreign rulers of North China, independent developments likewise were in progress. In 415, one K'ou Ch'ien-chih received a revelation from Lao-chün himself. According to this new dispensation, K'ou was designated celestial master and ordered to undertake a total reformation of Taoism. Not only were all popular messianic movements claiming to represent Lao-chün unsparingly condemned but K'ou's mission was particularly aimed at the elimination of abuses from the Way of the Celestial Masters itself. Sexual rites and the taxes contributed to the support of the priesthood were the principal targets of the god's denunciations; "What have such matters to do with the pure Tao?" he irately demanded. The proposed reform was far more radical than that foreseen in the Mao Shan revelations of the Southeast, and K'ou was given concrete temporal power of a sort that the Hsüs had not envisaged. Political and economic factors favoured the acceptance of his message at court; Emperor T'ai Wu Ti (5th century) of the Northern Wei dynasty put K'ou in charge of religious affairs within his dominions and proclaimed Taoism the official religion of the empire. The Emperor considered himself to reign as the terrestrial deputy of the deified Lao-tzu, as is indicated by the name of one of the periods of his reign: T'ai-p'ing Chen-chün (Perfect Lord of the Great Peace). The dominant position of Taoism under the Northern Wei, however, apparently did not long survive K'ou Ch'ien-chih's death in 448.


1) Taoism under the T'ang dynasty (618-907).

China's reunification under the T'ang marked the beginning of Taoism's most spectacular success. The dynasty's founder, Li Yüan, claimed to be descended from the Lao-tzu; as his power increased, even the influential Mao Shan Taoists came to accept him as the long-deferred fulfillment of messianic prophecy. This notion was built into the dynasty's state ideology, and the emperor was commonly referred to as the "sage" (sheng). Prospective candidates for the civil service were examined in either the Ling Pao "Classic of Salvation" (Tu-jen Ching) or the Mao Shan "Classic of the Yellow Court" (Huang-t'ing Ching). Under a series of celebrated patriarchs, the Mao Shan organization dominated the religious life of the age. One of the greatest of the line, Ssu-ma Ch'eng-chen, initiated innumerable government officials and eminent men of letters and served as spiritual master to emperors. The personnel of the Mao Shan revelations even entered into the formal framework of state religion. When Ssu-ma Ch'eng-chen pointed out that the sacred peaks of the Imperial cult were in reality under the superintendence of the perfected of Shang-ch'ing, officially sponsored shrines were erected to them there; and their propitiation was incorporated into the traditional rites.

The wide diffusion of Taoism throughout the vast T'ang empire is reflected by the sizable proportion of Taoist texts discovered in the walled-up caves at Tun-huang (in Kansu Province). This town in the far west of China was the gateway to Central Asia; and here Taoists came into contact not only with Buddhists of many different doctrinal persuasions but also with Nestorian Christians and Manichaeans. Copies of the Lao-tzu were sent to the King of Tibet, and the book was translated into Sanskrit at the request of the ruler of Kashmir. It also reached Japan in the 7th century, as did texts of religious Taoism; reports of Taoism's dominance on the continent may still be read in the diaries of Japanese Buddhist pilgrims. The geographic extension of the religion at this time was also represented, in the legendary sphere, by the systematic elaboration of its sacred mountains and the traditions attaching to each of them. They are described by the great hagiographer, Tu Kuang-t'ing, at the end of the T'ang dynasty. In addition to the great "cavern-heavens" (tung-t'ien), 10 holy mountains known to the original Mao Shan revelations, he lists 36 lesser cavern heavens and 72 sanctuaries (fu-ti). Situated throughout the length and breadth of the empire, they are fitting spiritual guideposts across the dominions of the T'ang, which saw itself as an essentially Taocratic realm. (see also  sacred place)

2) Taoism under the Sung and Yüan dynasties.

i) Internal developments.

The Sung (960-1279) and Yüan (1206-1368) periods witnessed a great religious effervescence, stimulated in part, under the Sung, by the menace of foreign invasion and, during the Yüan, by Tantric (esoteric, or occultic) Buddhism that was in vogue among the new Mongol rulers of China. During the preceding centuries the Way of the Celestial Masters, centred at Lung-hu Shan (Dragon-Tiger Mountain, Kiang-si), had been eclipsed by the prestige of Mao Shan. At the end of the Northern Sung period, the 30th celestial master, Chang Chi-hsien, was four times summoned to court by the Sung emperor Hui Tsung, who hoped for spiritual support for his threatened reign. Chang Chi-hsien was credited with a renovation of the ancient sect, thereafter called the Way of Orthodox Unity (Cheng-i Tao), and with the introduction of the influential rites of the "five thunders" (wu-lei) into Taoist liturgy. (see also  Yüan dynasty)

After the retreat of the Sung government south of the Yangtze River (1126), a number of new Taoist sects were founded in the occupied North and soon attained impressive dimensions. Among them were: the T'ai-i (Supreme Unity) sect, founded c. 1140 by Hsiao Pao-chen; the Chen-ta Tao (Perfect and Great Tao) sect of Liu Te-jen (1142); and the Ch'üan-chen (Perfect Realization) sect, founded in 1163 by Wang Ch'ung-yang (Wang Che). This last sect came to the favourable attention of the Mongols, who had taken over in the North, and its second patriarch, Ch'iu Ch'ang-ch'un, was invited into Central Asia to preach to Genghis Khan. The sect enjoyed great popularity, and its establishments of celibate monks continued to be active into the 20th century, with the famous White Cloud Monastery (Po-yün Kuan) at Peking as headquarters. In the South, Mao Shan continued to prosper, while the Ko-tsao sect flourished at the mountain of that name, in Kiangsi Province. This was said to be the spot where the 3rd century immortal, Ko Hsüan, had ascended to heaven; the sect looked to him as its founder, and it transmitted the Ling Pao scriptures, which he was believed to have been the first to receive.

ii) Literary developments.

As early as c. 570, the need for a comprehensive collection of information on all the schools had resulted in the first great Taoist encyclopaedia. Like other such works in China, it was made up of extracts from sundry books, classified by subject matter. The compilation of similar reference works flourished during the Sung and Yüan periods. The most important is the Seven Slips from the Bookbag of the Clouds (Yün-chi ch'i-ch'ien) (c. 1022), made just after the first printing of the Taoist Canon in about 1016. It is a canon in miniature and contains many important works in their entirety. Hagiography continued to thrive. In addition to many local and sectarian compilations, there were huge general collections, containing the lives of both legendary and historical figures, such as the immense Comprehensive Mirror of the Immortals (Chen-hsien t'ung-chien; early 12th century). Sectarian historiography also developed; of particular interest are the extensive monographs devoted to the great mountain centres of Taoism. The Treatise on Mao Shan (Mao Shan chih) (1329) is among the most monumental. It includes lives of the saints and patriarchs, notes on topography and history, and a valuable selection from 1,000 years of literary testimony and inscriptions on the mountain and its Taoism. The new Taoist movements, which took northern China by storm in the 12th and 13th centuries, also furnish their own very copious literature: biographies of their masters and collections of their sayings. Among them is the famous account of the travels (1220-24) of a patriarch of the Ch'üan-chen sect into Central Asia in response to the summons of Genghis Khan. Short moral tracts for missionary purposes were yet another popular genre, and, finally, there are innumerable inscriptions from all periods that provide important data on Taoist establishments and their patrons over the centuries.

iii) Alchemical developments.

While learned specialists continued to refine alchemical theory, the period witnessed increasing interest in internal alchemy (nei tan), in which the language of the laboratory was used to describe operations realized within the body. This, in a sense, was nothing new. Alchemical metaphors had very early been applied to physiology; Ko Hung, for example, called semen the "Yin elixir." By Sung times, however, the systematic interiorization and sublimation of alchemy had become so widespread that all earlier texts of operative, external alchemy (wai tan) were henceforth supposed to have really been written about nei tan, and the attempt to compound a tangible chemical elixir was thought to have been no more than a hoax. Liturgy also provided its own sublimation of the older art: the lien-tu ("salvation by smelting") funeral service was developed at this time, in which an "elixir of immortality" was compounded of written talismans and offered to the deceased.

iv) Syncretism.

With such prestigious examples as Ch'an Buddhism (emphasizing intuitive meditation) and Neo-Confucianism (emphasizing knowledge and reason) before them, Taoists did not long delay in constructing interesting syntheses of their own and other beliefs. Confucianism now joined Buddhism as a fertile source of inspiration. The revelations of Hsü Sun, supposed to have lived in the 4th century AD, to one Ho Chen-kung in 1131 inspired the "Pure and Luminous Way of Loyalty and Filial Obedience" (Ching-ming Chung-hsiao Tao). This sect preached the Confucian cardinal virtues as being essential for salvation, and consequently won a considerable following in conservative intellectual and official circles. Another highly popular syncretistic movement of Taoist origin was that of the Three Religions (San Chiao). Its composite moral teachings are represented by popular tracts, the so-called "books on goodness" (shan-shu), which have been in extremely wide circulation since the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

3) Developments outside the official current.

i) Communal folk Taoism (shen chiao).

Popular, or folk, religion is not a separate religious tradition but the wholly unorganized undercurrent of Chinese religious culture from the earliest times, shared by all strata of society. The Chinese have no single name for it; it may be called the religion of the gods, or spirits (shen chiao). The deities of the popular pantheon come from all traditions. What the deities have in common is that in shen chiao they are all gods intimately involved in everyday life as givers of blessings or bringers of calamities. Every object or activity of daily life has its presiding spirit that has to be consulted and feasted or appeased and driven off, especially at all special occasions in the life of the family or the community. The person primarily involved in the practice of shen chiao in modern times is the fa shih (magician). For the orthodox Taoist priests the shen chiao rites are the "little rites"; the chiao rituals, the exclusive function of the Taoist priests, are the "great rites." Both kinds of priests--the orthodox and the magicians--operate on different occasions in the same temples and are consulted for the family rites of burial, birth, marriage, house construction, and business affairs.

Major exorcism rites (e.g., purification of haunted houses and treatment of the sick or mentally deranged) are performed by the orthodox Taoist priests, who, being ordained into the ranks of the shen, have power over the demons with whom they are on an equal footing. The fa shih priest's specific function is the manipulation of possessed mediums (specially gifted lay persons). The medium puts himself into a trance in which he becomes the mouthpiece of a deity (or a deceased relative) giving medical, personal, or business advice that is interpreted by the fa shih. Professional mediums attached to a temple or a private cult lacerate themselves in trances. This is considered to be a vicarious atonement for the community during the great feasts. A different form of mediumistic communication among lay people is automatic writing, either with a brush on paper or with a stick on sand.

ii) Secret societies.

Politically dissident messianic movements have existed and developed separately from the established Taoist church from the very beginning (2nd century AD). Their leaders were priest-shamans, similar to the modern fa shih priests of folk Taoism. Their followers were the semiliterate or illiterate classes socially below the tradition of orthodox Taoism, and their organization was similar to that of the syncretistic religions and of modern secret societies. Although the secret societies have had no organizational contact with the Taoist tradition for centuries, their religious beliefs, practices, and symbols contain some Taoist elements, such as initiation rites, worship of Taoist deities, mediumism, and the use of charms and amulets for invulnerability. These influences reached them either directly or through popular religion.


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