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History

From 397 to 402 C.E., yet another set of sacred scriptures was revealed, to a descendent of the alchemist Ge Hong named Ge Chaofu.  Called Lingbao, or Sacred Jewel, these scriptures borrowed from the Way of the Celestial Masters and Ge Hong.  This was also the first Taoist scriptural tradition to incorporate significant elements from Buddhism.  The idea of universal salvation replaced immortality as a goal, and the texts contained poorly developed and inconsistent ideas about rebirth and the afterlife borrowed from Buddhism. 

The Lingbao scriptures gained popularity very quickly, and, as in the case of Shangqing, prompted the development of a religious organization.  Lingbao was particularly important in the history of Taoism for its role in establishing definitive forms of Taoist ritual that would eventually become the model for all of the Taoist sects.

In the 12th century a new Taoist sect was launched when a former military officer and practitioner of inner alchemy, Wang Chongyang (1113-1170), had a visionary encounter with the immortal Lu Dongbin and Lu's master, Zhongli Quan, in 1159.  This encounter and the texts that emerged from it became the foundation of the Quanzhen, or Complete Perfection sect.  Quanzhen actively sought new members, and grew quickly.  Its clergy traveled widely, spreading the word, and literature was used as a tool to gain new members.  The sect also assimilated itself into and took over existing religious establishments, and eventually it became the most powerful Taoist organization in China.

 


Study Questions:
1.     How did “The Way of the Celestial Masters” contribute to Taoist sects?
2.     Why was Shangqing accessible to a variety of practitioners?
3.     How did Buddhism help shape the Lingbao practice?

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