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Organized religious communities. Organized religious communities perceived as Daoist religion appeared in Later (Eastern) Han dynasty (23-220 AD) Adopted some elements of earlier Daoism, particularly its social and political ideals Accepted Han cosmology and Huang-Lao Daoism

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Organized religious communities

  • Organized religious communities perceived as Daoist religion appeared in Later (Eastern) Han dynasty (23-220 AD)

  • Adopted some elements of earlier Daoism, particularly its social and political ideals

  • Accepted Han cosmology and Huang-Lao Daoism

  • Believed that new order, new “heaven,” new regime, and new age would come


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  • Offered healing and therapeutic objects to the needed

  • Participated in popular religious culture

    • Nature gods (Heaven, Earth, stars, planets, rivers and lakes, mountain and field, rain and wind, lightening and thunder …)

    • Five emperors, the Great One, Lord Lao, ancestors, defied men (military and culltural heroes)

    • Supernatural beings: ghosts and demons

  • Daoist deities: Lord Lao, the Queen Mother of the West, Lord King of the East


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The Celestial Master: A Reassessment

  • Zhang Daoling and Daoism

    • Previously believed to have been the founder of the form of Daoism, often called Religious Daoism, because it was viewed as “revolutionary” in many aspects of its religious practices, including its soteriology, as evidenced by its death ritual

    • Now regarded as a Daoist leader who was capable of synthesizing and systemizing pre-Han religious thoughts and practices, including those associated with Laozi, Zhuangzi, and death ritual


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The Way of Celestial Master

  • Daoist theory of healing made Daoism appealing

    • Zhang Daoling’s “The Way of Celestial Master” advocates that illness is due to the patient’s sins and immoral deeds.

    • A patient is required to write down his sins and cast his written confession into a stream of water, vowing to the gods that he would sin no more, on penalty of death

    • Followers are required to observe a set of three times nine precepts that convey austerity and moral discipline


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Daoist Theory of Healing: Scriptural Basis

  • The Taiping Jing (Scripture of Great peace), which was the scripture used by the Way of Great Peace under the leadership of Zhang Jue

    • Sickness is the expression of displeasure at human misdeeds on the side of the spirits of Heaven and not the automatic effect of an imbalance or disharmony of energy (qi)

    • Heaven and earth cause the person to fall ill

    • The person’s body becomes defiled and the qi leaves the body

    • Patient should purify his body to recall the departed qi

      • Requires confession


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Theoretical Basis of Confession

  • The primordial qi (yuanqi) that existed in the time of creation divided the universe into three forms: Heaven, Earth, and humanity

  • The primordial qi is the spirit root (shen’gen), which manifests three psychosomatic factors called essence (jing), vital energy (qi), spirit (shen),

    • Spirit—associated with Heaven

    • Essence—associated with Earth

    • Energy—associated with humanity


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The Rite of Confession

  • The sinner confesses his/her sins

  • Beats his/her breast

  • Throw himself/herself to the ground and knock his/her head

  • Self-blame: repenting his/her sins and accusing himself/herself of various misdeeds

  • Show this inner shame to the entire community and thus be exonerated

  • Sometimes, sinners also undergo self-punishments


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  • Uphold Precepts: The Middle nine precepts

  • Do not study false texts.

  • Dot not covet high glory or vigorously strive for it.

  • Do not pursue fame and praise.

  • Do not do things pleasurable to ears, eyes, or mouth.

  • Always remain modest and humble.

  • Do not engage in frivolous undertakings.

  • Always be devout in religious services, of respectful mind and without confusion

  • Do not indulge yourself with fancy garb or tasty food.

  • Do not overextend yourself.


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  • The highest nine precepts

  • Do not delight in excess, since joy is as harmful as anger.

  • Do not waste your essence or qi.

  • Do not harm the dominant qi.

  • Do not eat beings that contain blood to delight in their fancy taste.

  • Do not hanker after merit and fame.

  • Do not explain the teaching or name Dao to outsiders.

  • Do not neglect the divine law of Dao.

  • Do not try to set things in motion.

  • Do not kill or speak about killing.


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Self-Cultivation Practices

  • Three groups:

    • Literati Daoists:The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove/

      • Representatives: Xi Kang, Ruan Ji

    • Alchemists

      • Representative: Ge Hong

    • Two organized schools of Daoism

      • Maoshan/Shangqing (Highest Purity) School

        • Representatives: Xu family, Tao family

      • Lingbao (Numinous Treasure) School

        • Representative: Ge Chaofu


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The Shangqing School

  • Its emergence signifies a major expansion of Daoism

  • New worldview and new cosmology:

    • New creator deity called Yuanshi tianwang (Heavenly King of Primordial Beginning)

    • New Daoist celestial pantheon populated by divine beings in a hierarchical order modeled upon this-worldly bureaucracy

      • gods of Dao, celestial immortals, demon kings,…


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  • New concept of and approach to immortality

    • Previously, attained immortality through cultivating inner virtue

    • Now, transferred one’s registered file from the administration of death in Fengdu to that of life in the southern Palace

  • New understanding of the human body

    • Body is a storehouse of divine agencies

    • Nomenclature of key parts are based on the Yellow Court Scripture (Huangting jing)

      • Yellow Court—head, spleen; Dark Towers—kidneys, ears; Flowery Canopy—eyebrows and lungs; Spiritual Furnace—nose; Flowery Pond---mouth; Jade Fluid or Sweet Spring---saliva,…


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Wang Xizhi’s Hand-copy Yellow Court Scripture

Yellow court

Cinnabar/elixir fields

Gate of Life


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Wang Xizhi’s Hand-copy Yellow Court Scripture

Numinous Terrace

Square Inch

Hall of Light


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Shangqing’s Meditation Practice

  • Visualization of:

    • Colors associated with organs to strengthen qi

    • Inner passways and palaces to learn the cosmic geography

    • Gods and immortals residing there to acquire familiarity with the divine beings

    • planets and stars to emerge with their power

  • This practice could lead to

    • a deep trance and go on a spiritual journey to otherworldly realm

    • Ascend to the higher heavens and walk on the Big Dipper, known as “Pacing the net” (bugang)


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The Lord of the Dao; or the Lord of the Old in modern Daoist Temple

Stone Sculpture in Quanzhou, Fujian


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Ge Hong (287-347? or 284-364?) Temple

Master who Embraces Simplicity


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The TempleLingbao School

Ge Hong concocting the elixirs

  • Key concept:

    • Talismans creates and maintains the world

  • Founder: Ge Chaofu, a descendent of Ge Hong

  • Lineage:

    • Ge Xuan→Ge Hong→Ge Chaofu

  • Texts:

    • Scripture of the Five Lingbao Talismans;

    • Perfect Text in Five Tablets, Written in Red


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The TempleLingbao School

  • Worldview—a mix of

    • Shangqing’s and Han Daoist cosmology of the five phases

    • fangshi ideas and practices

    • Celestial Master ritual

  • Doctrines

    • emphasizes the notion of spells and talismans, cosmic sounds and signs as being key to both creation and empowerment


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  • Use of talismans to Temple

    • Get access to the otherworld and immortality

    • Gain peace and harmony for family, village, country and empire

Talisman composed of Cloud-shaped Seal Characters


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Talisman of supreme heaven ruler of south pole Temple

Talisman to establish contact with spirits of earth and wind

Talisman for protection in the mountain