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Taoist Sects


Taoism was formally established at the end of Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), with the emergence ofTaipingTao andWudoumiTao as its indication. Apart from the above two sects, other sects such asShangqing(upper clear) andLingbao(quick and precious) also appeared in the Jin Dynasty (265-420) and the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-581). During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, Taoism underwent a continuous reform led by Ge Hong, Kou Qianzhi, Lu Xiujing and Tao Hongjing, and finally, together with Buddhism, became one ofChina's orthodox religions. In the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) periods, due to the adoration of the ruling class, Taoism was further developed, with many new sects coming into being. Since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368),Quanzhen(totally true) Sect andZhengyi(exact one) Sect have gradually become the two main sects of Taoism.

Although Taoism is basically divided into two main sects --ZhengyiandQuanzhen, each of which has many branches. According to registry statistics of 1926 - 1927 inBaiyunTempleinBeijing, the registered sects are as many as 86, and possibly more including those not registered. Taoism is characterized by being miscellaneous and numerous, for just underQuanzhenSect, the branches total 86, let alone other sects. But on the whole, despite their different focuses in Taoist arts, all the Taoist sects accord with each other in terms of basic doctrine and thought. Therefore, generally speaking, all of them can be categorized into eitherZhengyiSect orQuanzhenSect.

ZhengyiTao originates fromWudoumiTao, withTianshi(heavenly master) Tao as its precursor. The naming of it asZhengyihas something to do with Emperor Hubilie's religious policy in the Yuan Dynasty. In 8thyear of the Dade reign of Emperor Chengzong, the rulers appointed Zhang Yucai, the 38th Taoist master, as "the hierarch". From then on,TianshiTao was renamed asZhengyiTao. Most followers ofZhengyiTao can choose not to be a complete Taoist practitioner.ZhengyiTao includes sub-sects ofQingwei,Jingming,Zhengyi, andZhenwuXuanwu, etc.

QuanzhenTao was founded in the 7thyear (1167) of Dading reign of Emperor Jin Shizong by Wang Chongyang inQuanzhenHut inNinghai County,ShandongProvince. Wang Chongyang was an expert in Confucianism, Taoism as well as Buddhism, and he put forward the theory of three religions of the same origin. Later, his seven students (North True Seven) further improved this sect. Famous branches ofQuanzhenTao areWuzu(five ancestors),Ziyang(purple sun) ofSouthWuzusects.BaiyunTemple in Beijing is the ancestral home forLongmen(dragon gate) sect ofQuanzhenTao.

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