Wudoumi Dao 

 The Wudoumi dao 五斗米道 "Way of Five Pecks of Grain" is the oldest religious Daoist movement that can be called a school. It was founded by Zhang Ling 張陵 (34-156 CE). Zhang came from eastern China but moved into Sichuan (at that time called Shu 蜀) where he lived at Mt. Heming 鶴鳴山 (near Dayi 大邑, Chengdu) and cultivated the Dao. He is said to have written talismans and charms that he distributed among the population, where he said to have been instructed by an immoral descending from Heaven. As a healer of diseases, he was able to attract a lot of followers which he instructed at 24 so-called treatment spots (zhi 治). From his followers, he collected a fee of 5 pecks of grain. This custom later gave his school its name. His healing methods were influenced by shamanic methods of the local population. He was therefore called the "grain shaman" (miwu 米巫).

After Zhang Ling's death, his son Zhang Heng 張衡 took over the school, and then Zhang Lu 張魯, a son of Zhang Heng. The three Zhangs 三張 were called the "three teachers" (sanshi 三師). Zhang Ling was the "Celestial Master" (tianshi 天師), Zhang Heng the "Master by Inheritance" (sishi 嗣師), and Zhang Lu the "Master of the Line" (xishi 系師). The school was therefore also later called "School of the Celestial Masters" (Tianshidao 天師道). Of Zhang Heng's live, nothing is known, yet there is a biography of Zhang Lu, in the history Sanguozhi 三國志. Zhang Lu is the historically most important person of the three. He served as a military official (duyi sima 督義司馬) of governor Liu Yan 劉焉 at the end of the 2nd century CE. When war broke out between the warlords controlling the provinces of the Later Han dynasty 後漢 (25-220), Zhang Lu assembled his followers, united them with Zhang Xiu 張修, another military commander, and conquered the region of Hanzhong 漢中 (a mountainous region located between the provinces Shaanxi and Sichuan). Liu Zhang 劉璋, son of Liu Yan, killed Zhang Lu's mother, an incident that caused him to proclaim his independent state in the Hanzhong region. He was even appointed general appeasing the south (zhennan zhonglang jiang 鎮南中郎將) by the Han central government.

Politically, he was virtually independent and used this position to realize a Daoist society. He appointed his own officials that were all his religious followers. New adepts flocking to his state were called guizu 鬼卒 "ghost troops", and older followers were granted the title of jijiu 祭酒 "libationer". Zhang Lu called himself the Lord Teacher (shijun 師君). The population was cared for in a system of granaries (yishe 義舍) providing them with grain and other food.

Inspite he was the head of a secular government, the healing practice as an important element of his religion was not abandoned. Zhang Lu had established healing temples, so-called "halls of silence" (jingshi 静室), where healer officials, so-called "ghost scribes" (guili 鬼吏), prayed for the health of the patients. During this ceremony, the name of the patient was written on paper, along with some sins he had committed and which were thought to be the reason for the disease. Three papers were written, one was burnt to descent to Heaven, one was buried, and one was immerged into water. Zhang Lu had invented the oldest ceremonial session of Daoism, the mud-and-soot retreat (tutanzhai 涂炭齋). By this ritual, a sick person would beg for pardon for his sins.

Zhang Lu preached the book Laozi 老子 and wrote a commentary to it, the so-called Laozi Xiang'er zhu 老子想爾注, in which he explained the text of the Daodejing 道德經 from a religious viewpoint. The dao was interpreted as a principle that would bring health and long life, when adhering to. The dao controlled all beings on earth, including spirits and deities. Laozi, the Taishang Laojun 太上老君, was the personification of the "Way". A man had to preserve units and to keep a distance to all things not belonging to the dao. Keeping the rules of the dao by assembling good deeds would bring success, assembling a pure spirit would result in a spiritualization bringing immortality. These were the jewels of the body (shen bao 身寳).

The religious practice of the Five-Pecks-of-Grain School was thus characterized by talismans (fulu 符籙), incantations (zhoushu 咒术), praying before an altar (qixiang zhaijiao 祈禳齋醮), but also by the "preservation of completeness" (shouyi 守一), circulating the breath (xingqi 行氣) and the art of the bedchamber (fangzhongshu 房中術). The Daoist adept was to eat grain, or breath (qi 氣). Yin and Yang were to be unified to produce spirits (jing 精), the concentration of sprits would result in a higher form of being (shen 神), i. e. immortality, or at least, self-preservation (zishou 自守).

The Celestial Masters 

In 215 CE, the powerful warlord of the north, Cao Cao 曹操, conquered the Hanzhong region, and Zhang Lu submitted. His state had ended, but the religious activities continued to prosper in this region. At the end of the century, therefore, Chen Zhuan 陳瑞 resumed the teaching of the Five-Pecks-of-Grain school and preached among the population. He concentrated on the treatment of dead and the exorcism of ghosts. Chan also called himself Celestial Master and wore crimson clothes and a special cap. The government therefore suspected him of rebellion, captured and executed him and burnt down the ceremonial halls as that of a "heretic sect" not following the proper custom of a filial treatment of the death. The practices of Chen Zhuan's school were prohibited but continued flourishing among the population. A decade later the central government of the Jin dynasty 晉 (265-420) fell apart, and popular uprisings in Sichuan again made this province independent. Fan Changsheng 范長生, a Daoist leader, conquered Chengdu. He became counselor-in-chief of Li Xiong 李雄 who had proclaimed his own empire of Cheng-Han 成漢 (304-347) in Shu. After his death, his son Fan Ben 范賁 became the new Grand Master of Heaven and Earth (tiandi taishi 天地太師). In 347, Shu again became part of the Jin empire.

The religious ideas of Zhang Lu's school had meanwhile migrated to the north. It was even said that Zhang Lu had been enfeoffed by Cao Cao as Marquis of Langzhong 閬中 and that his son was married to a daughter of Cao Cao. Together with Zhang Lu, thousands of households were resettled around the old capitals in the north that had bled off their population during the long-lasting wars at the end of the Han period. During the rule of the Wei 魏 (220-265) and the Jin dynasties, the religion of the Five-Pecks-of-Grain had spread in northern China, where even a lot of large landowners and even princes became adherents of Daoism. The school was at that time commonly called the School of the Celestial Masters. When a large part of the nobility and the landowners fled to the south in the mid-4th century, they transferred the Tianshi School to the lower Yangtse region. There, Du Zigong 杜子恭 was an important teacher. His family took over the tradition of the Celestial Masters for many generations.

During the Liu-Song period 劉宋 (420-479), a relative to the family Du, Sun En 孫恩, staged a large rebellion with a religious background. After his failure and sucide, his brother-in-law Lu Xun 盧循 held up the rebellion for some further time.

Although the Celestial Masters Tradition had become a nation-wide religion, it had lost an integrating leading figure that was able to hold together the community of believers, and it had not any more the potency to care for the worldly desired of most of its adherents, which came from the lower strata of society. State-building was not any more possible. The tradition therefore transformed, and two different schools developed in the north and in the south, the one led by Kou Qianzhi 寇謙之, the other by Lu Xiujing 陸修静.

The Northern Celestial Masters

Kou Qianzhi 寇謙之 (365-447) had adopted the title of Celestial Master and preached Daoism in the Northern Wei empire 北魏 (386-534). He said to have encountered Laozi, the Taishang Laojun, who gave him a long book called Yunzhong yinsong xinke zhi jie 雲中音誦新科之誡 "Adhortations for new precepts chanted inmidst the coulds", instructing him to reform the old teachings. In 423 he is said to have been visited by Li Pu 李譜, a descendant of Laozi, who instructed him with the scripture Lingtu zhenjing 靈圖真經 "Perfect classic of the illustrations of the soul". Kou Qianzhi presented this book to the imperial court. His school should not be seen as a ground for potential rebellion but was to cooperate with the government. Former rebellions were called as without proper social conduct in the Confucian as well as in the Daoist sense. For ceremonial purposes he just borrowed Confucian terms like filial piety, loyalty or righteousness in order to comply with the common state doctrine. He also renounced the old method of the school to tax its own population in kind, as well as the practice that men and women "joined their breath" (nannü heqi 男女合氣). Adherents of the school were expected to obey worldly laws, which were transferred into the religious sphere. Ritual session during which the Daoist writings were chanted, accompanied with ritual music, the preparation of talismans and exorcist potions, medical treatment, divination and meditation about prolonging the life became common rituals of the Northern Celestial Masters school. This transformation of the "wild" Celestial Masters tradition was called the Northern Celestial Masters Tradition (Bei tianshi dao 北天師道) or "New Way" (Xin tianshi dao 新天師道). In the new shape, the school was protected by the dynasty. A large, five-storey altar was erected outside the capital, and the government supported a large number of clerical personnel to perform the necessary rituals and sessions. In 440, Emperor Taiwu 太武帝 (r. 423-451) even changed the reign motto to Taiping zhenjun 太平真君 "Perfect Lord of the Great Peace", upon suggestion of Kou Qianzhi. Under Emperor Xiaowen 孝文帝 (r. 471-499), the altar was transferred to the southern periphery, to give it an extraordinary status as state religion. When the empire of the Northern Wei was dived, both the Eastern Wei 東魏 (534-550) and the Western Wei 西魏 (535-556) established their own altars for the Celestial Masters school. The heritage of the Northern Masters School was taken over by the Shangqing "School of Supreme Purity" 上清派 and Lingbao "Numinous Treasure School" 靈寳派.

The Southern Celestial Masters

Lu Xiujing 陸修静 in the south also reformed the Tianshi School, but much more in the structural sphere than in its relation to state and worldly society. He was a great collector of Daoist writings and was the first to classify them into the three fields of Dongzhen 洞真, Dongxuan 洞玄 and Dongshen 洞神. His own writings also numbered more than thirty. He established a lot of new rituals like the system of the sanhuiri 三會日 and the zhailu 宅籙, in which Daoist masters were acting like state officials and could expect to raise in the hierarchy of the Southern Heavenly Masters School (Nan tianshi dao 南天師道). The family Du was still venerated as "patriarchs" of the schools. Emperor Mingdi of the Song dynasty 宋明帝 (r. 465-472) had erected a Huaixian Hall 懷仙館 for the veneration of the old masters, but in the south, the school never occupied such an eminent position as in the north. The southern tradition was much more private and integrated other religious practices that had not played a prominent role like before, like certain herbs to be consumed for diet. Lu Xiujing's rituals served to liberate the body from sickness and the mind of impure thoughts, and his books were chanted in order to repell all evil words spoken out by people. Body, words and mind were thus purified and could be united with the natural dao. This could even be acheived in a better way by the secular control of the household of the adherents of his religious school. 

During the Sui period 隋 (581-618), with the political reunification of China, the two traditions were also unified. During the Tang 唐 (618-907), Zhang Ling 張陵 continued the tradition on Mt. Longhu 龍虎山 in Jiangxi, which was later known as the Dragon-and-Tiger School (Longhuzong 龍虎宗). Another branch evolved to the "School of the Orthodox Unity" (Zhengyidao 正一道).

 

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