The Louguandao (楼观道, Way of the Watchout Tower) is an early Daoist school. Its formation goes back to the Northern Dynasties period, and it flourished during the Sui and Tang period. The patriarch (zushi 祖师) of the Louguan School is Yin Xi 尹喜, the mythical “commander of the Pass” 关尹 who was a contemporarian of the Daoist Master Laozi. The book Zhuangzi names both side by side.

The alleged teachings of Yin Xi concentrated on the passiveness of the self (zai ji wu ju 在己无居) that followed all outer influences like water flows. In himself, man had to be quiet like a mirror and in his activities responsive like an echo. The Daoist did not have to act as a forerunner (xian ren 先人), but only as a follower (sui ren 随人). In the biography of Laozi in the universal history Shiji it is said that Laozi conceiled his findings about the nature of the Way and did not want to transmit it to others. When he saw the the Zhou dynasty was in decline, he decided to leave China. Arring at the pass to the west (presumably the Hangu Pass 函谷关), Commander Xi forced Laozi to teach him the secrets of the Dao, so that Xi would be able to write them down. The result of Laozi’s lecturing Commander Xi was the two chapters long book Daodejing.

The book Liexianzhuan says列仙传 reports of Guan Yin’s studies of the „inner teachings“ (neixue 内学) and his ability to consume the „essence of the flower“ (jinghua 精华) in which he excelled even before Laozi arrived at the pass. The Commander’s cultivation of the Dao was apparently a precondition for Laozi’s willingness to introduce him into the mystery of the Dao. Guan Yin accompanied Laozi in his journey to the west and took part in the conversion of the barbarians (hua hu 化胡).

Nothing was known about his further life and the time of his death. Yin Xi’s 尹喜 own book was called Guanyinzi or Guanlingzi关令子 and had a length of nine chapters. This is the basic story about Yin Xi as it had developed until the end of the Han period. This story was later expanded, especially in episoded describing the transformation of Laozi to the Buddha. Such stories can be read in the Western Jin period book Laozi huahu jing老子化胡经 by Wang Fu 王浮, or the stories Xuanmiao neipian 玄妙内篇, Chusai ji 出塞记, Guanling Yin Xi zhuan 关令尹喜传 and Wenshi neizhuan 文始内传 from the Eastern Jin and Southern Dynasties periods. Yin Xi in these stories plays the role of Laozi’s disciple. His hut, the Louguan 楼观, gave this branch of Daoism its name. This hut is said to have been made of grass, with an open roof allowing to observe the stars and the sky, as the biographies Louguan xianshi zhuan 楼观先师传 and Louguan benji 楼观本记 tell. It is also said that Yi Xi was appointed a 大夫 under King Kang 周康王 of the Zhou dynasty. After he had left China together with Laozi, King Mu 穆王 had erected a shrine on the place where the hut had been. Daoist practitioners assembled there and founded a temple and the Louguan School. In fact, this school only emerged during the Southern Dynasties period and invented this story in order to boost its image.

A line of transmission was also constructed that spoke of a whole series of patriarchs of the late Zhou and the Qin period, like Yin Gui 尹轨, Du Chong 杜冲, Peng Zong 彭宗, Song Lun 宋伦, Feng Chang 冯长, Yao Tan 姚坦, Zhou Liang 周亮, Yin Cheng 尹澄, Wang Tan 王探, Li Yi 李翼, Feng Heng 封衡, and Zhang Hao 张皓. The Louguan Temple is historically verifiable in the 3rd century CE, when it was headed by a certain Master Zheng (Zheng Lüdao郑履道). His disciple Liang Chen 梁谌 was active during the Western Jin period. Under the Eastern Jin dynasty, the community was headed by Wang Jia 王嘉, Sun Che 孙彻 and Ma Jian 马俭. Its social importance and political influence was extremely low. Only under Emperor Taiwu 北魏太武帝 of the Northern Zhou it entered the orbit of the imperial court, and Yin Tong 尹通, Niu Wenhou牛文侯 and Yin Fa 尹法 won some adherents, so that in the mid-6th century, the Lougan School numbered some 40 masters. Under Emperor Xiaowen 北魏孝文帝 the Daoist master Wang Daoyi 王道义 from Mt. Gushe 姑射山 decided joining the Louguan School. The temple had to be enlarged, and its library of Daoist writings expanded considerably. Master Chen Baochi 陈宝炽 was called to the court to instruct the emperor in The Yanying Hall 延英殿, where he won over the Duke of Anding 安定公 and many high ministers.

After his death in 549 Li Shunxing 李顺兴 was allowed to preach at the court. The center of the Louguan canon was, of course, the book Daodejing道德经, but also the writings Laozi huahu jing 老子化胡经, Laozi xisheng jing 老子西升经, Laozi kaitian jing 老子开天经, and Miaozhenjing 妙真经. Adherents of the Louguan School also used several writings of the Shangqing Tradition 上清, like the Dadong zhenjing 大洞真经, Huangting neijing jing 黄庭内景经, Shangqing qiongwen di zhangjing 上清琼文帝章经, Taishang suling dongxuan da youmiao jing 太上素灵洞玄大有妙经, Taishang yinshu 太上隐书 or Lingshu ziwen 灵书紫文. A few texts of the Lingbao School 灵宝 are also used in the Louguan Tradition.

The Louguan School flourished between the Northern Wei and the early Tang period. The master Wang Yan 王延, courtesy name Wang Ziyun 王子元, became one of the most prominent Daoist leader in the mid-6th century. Under his guidance, the Louguan Temple imitated the structure of earlier, successful places of veneration, such as the Yuntai Monastery on Mt. Huashan 华山云台观, and made the Maoshan master Qiao Guang 焦旷 his teacher, from which he took ideas from the scripture Sandong mijue zhenjing 三洞秘诀真经. Emperor Wu 北周武帝 of the Northern Zhou summoned him to the court for instruction. When Emperor Wu prohibited Buddhism and various schools of Daoism, he had concurrently built the Tongdao Temple 通道观, in which Wang Yan was expected to teach and to comment the book Sandong jingtu 三洞经图. He also wrote the Sandong zhunang三洞珠囊. WIth the foundation of the Sui dynasty, the Xuandu Temple was built 玄都观, to which Wang Yan and his school were consequently transferred. Emperor Wen 隋文帝 underwent the great purification rites (zhihui dajie 智慧大戒), and the high ministers Su Wei 苏威 and Yang Su 杨素 were also instructed by the great Louguan master. Wang Yan died in 604.

Another grand master of that period was Yan Da 严达, courtesy name Yan Daotong 严道通, who was a disciple of Hou Kai 侯楷. When EMperor Wu of the Norhtern Zhou planned to prohibit Daoism, it was Yan Da who convinced the emperor that the native religion of Daoism should prevail over Buddhism. The latter would alienate the people from each other, while the former would protect the country. Emperor Wu therefore allowed that Daoism was to survive in a temple far from the capital. He selected Buddhist and Daoist worthies to live and teach there, for the sake of the state. These were Yan Da, Wang Yan , Su Daobiao 苏道标, Cheng Faming 程法明, Zhou Huasheng 周化生, Wang Zhenwei 王真微, Shi Daole 史道乐, Yu Zhang 于章, Zhang Facheng 张法成 and Fu Daochong 伏道崇. Emperor Wen of the Sui dynasty allowed the Louguan Temple to be revived. All Daoist schools experienced the support of the Tang dynasty because its family had the same surname like Laozi, namely Li 李, and therefore venerated this saint of Daoism also as the dynastic patron. The Louguan master Qi Hui 岐晖 (courtesy name Pingding 平定) had even been an adherent of Li Yuan 李渊 before he founded the Tang dynasty. Li Yuan, as emperor known as Tang Taizu, granted large tracts of land to the Louguan temple and bestowed it the new name of Zongsheng Temple 宗圣观. In 624 the emperor personally visited the temple and performed sacrifices to Laozi.

In 630 Yin Wencao 尹文操 was appointed head of the Louguan/Zongsheng and the Haotian 昊天观 temples. Yin Wencao wrote the book Xuanyuan huangdi shengji 玄元皇帝圣纪, which he submitted to the thone. Emperor Gaozong 高宗 was delighted with the text and bestowed upon the author the honorific title of光禄大夫 and 行太常少卿. He was also the author of the texts Quhuolun 祛惑论, Xiaomolun 消魔论 and a revised version of the Louguan xianshi zhuan 楼观先师传, in which he tried eliminating Buddhist elements. With the support of the imperial house of the Tang dynasty the Louguan School was able to attract a lot of followers among the upper levels os society. After the An Lushan rebellion and the decline of the central government, it gradually lost its importance among the various Daoist schools. It vanished until the 10th century. In 988 Emperor Taizong 太宗 of the Song dynasty renamed the Louguan Temple (or the Zongsheng Temple, respectively), into Shuntian xingguo Temple 顺天兴国. It was destroyed in 1234 and was rebuilt under the auspices of the new Quanzhen School 全真道 under the Yuan dynasty and became a temple of this school. 


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