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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The beliefs and practices of early Chʻüan-chen Taoism Eskildsen, Stephen Edward


The following is an in depth analysis of the beliefs and practices of the Ch'uan-chen sect of religious Taoism during its early years (spanning roughly from 1160 to 1220 A.D.) under its founder, Wang Ch'ung-yang, and his direct disciples, Ma Tan-yang, T'an Ch'ang-chen, Liu Chang-sheng, Ch'iu Ch'ang-ch'un, Wang Yii-yang, Hao Kuang-ning and Sun Ch'ing-ching (who are commonly referred to as the Seven Perfected). In undergoing this analysis, an attempt is made to clear up the many serious misconceptions of modern scholarship while bringing to light various vital aspects of the sect that have been largely ignored. The essential point that is made is that contrary to the widely held notion that the Ch'uan-chen sect was a highly syncretic movement (some scholars have maintained that it was originally not actually a sect of religious Taoism) that tried to reform religious Taoism by doing away with its various "magical" and "superstitious" elements (physiological techniques for long life, belief in miracles performed by Taoist holy men, Taoist rituals, exorcistic healing etc.), the Ch'uan-chen sect primarily emphasized various beliefs and practices that were unique to the Taoist religion, including those that have tended to be considered "magical" or "superstitious". While it is acknowledged that the Ch'uan-chen sect was indeed highly syncretic in spirit and that its central doctrines (such as the definition of "Immortal-hood" and the methods of "Perfection Cultivation" which are undergone in order to attain it) had come to differ considerably from those of religious Taoism in its earliest years, it is pointed out that these changes had all taken place within religious Taoism prior to the Ch'uan-chen sect and were the result of a long, evolutionary process that had been going on for centuries. Out of discretion for the lack of thorough knowledge concerning the various religious Taoist movements that preceeded the Ch'uan-chen sect, no definite statement is made concerning what the unique contribution of the Ch'uan-chen sect towards the doctrinal development of religious Taoism may have been. However, the suggestion is made that the sect may have emphasized the importance of intense ascetic training more than any preceeding religious Taoist movement.

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