The Quanzhen Taoism

The Origin Of Quanzhen Taoism

The Quanzhen School of Taoism originated in Northern China. One of the founders of the school was the Taoist Wang Chongyang, who lived during the rise of the Jin dynasty. When the Mongols invaded the Song dynasty in 1254, the Quanzhen Taoists were among those who exerted great effort in keeping the peace, thus saving thousands of lives, particularly those of Han Chinese descent.

The meaning of Quanzhen can be translated literally to "All True" and for this reason, it is often called the "All Truth Religion" or the "Way of Completeness and Truth." In some texts, it is also referred to as the "Way of Complete Perfection." Kunyu mountain in Shandong province Weihai city is the birthplace of Taoism (Quan Zhen Religion). With strong Taoist roots, the Quanzhen School specializes in the process of "alchemy within the body" or Neidan (internal alchemy), as opposed to Waidan (external alchemy which experiments with the ingestion of herbs and minerals, etc.). The Waidan tradition has been largely replaced by Neidan, as Waidan was a sometimes dangerous and lethal pursuit. Quanzhen focuses on internal cultivation of the person which is consistent with the pervading Taoist belief of Wu Wei, which is essentially "action through inaction."

Like most Taoists, Quanzhen priests were particularly concerned with longevity and immortality through alchemy, harmonising oneself with the Tao, studying the Five Elements, and ideas on balance consistent with Yin and Yang theory. The school is also known for using Buddhist and Confucian ideas.

The Founder of Quanzhen

Wang ChongyangAccording to traditional legend, Wang Chongyang met two Taoist immortals in the summer of 1159 CE. The immortals, Zhongli Quan and Lü Dongbin taught him Taoist beliefs and trained him in secret rituals. The meeting proved deeply influential, and roughly a year later, in 1160, Wang met one of these men again. In this second encounter, he was provided with a set of five written instructions which led to his decision of living by himself in a grave he created for himself in Zhongnan Mountain for three years.

After seven years of living in the Mountain (three inside the grave and another four in a hut he later called "Complete Perfection Hut"), Wang met two of his seven future disciples, Tan Chuduan and Qiu Chuji. In 1167, Wang traveled to Shandong Province and met Ma Yu and Ma's wife Sun Bu'er who became his students. These and others would become part of the seven Quanzhen disciples, who were later known as the Seven Masters of Quanzhen.

After Wang's departure, it was left to his disciples to continue expounding the Quanzhen beliefs. Ma Yu succeeded Wang as head of the school, while Sun Bu'er went on to establish the Purity and Tranquility School, one of the foremost branches of Quanzhen.

Another notable disciple of Wang was Qiu Chuji who founded the famous White Cloud Monastery in Beijing. Qiu Chuji was the founder of the school called Dragon Gate Taoism. Qiu was on good terms with the Mongol monarch Genghis Khan who put him in charge of religious affairs in Mongol-controlled China. As a result, the Quanzhen School of Taoism continued to flourish long after Wang's death, right through to the present.

Quanzhen Disciples

Quanzhen Disciples

The most notable ones among Wang's seven disciples were Sun Bu'er and Qiu Chuji. Sun's husband, Ma Yu, was one of the seven, while she became an important role model for female Taoists. Ma Yu later succeeded Wang as the leader of the Quanzhen School.

Qiu Chuji gained the favour of Genghis Khan and founded the White Cloud Monastery in Beijing. Genghis Khan granted tax-exempt status to all Quanzhen schools and placed Qiu in charge of all religions in China.

Each of the seven disciples founded his or her own lineage of Quanzhen Taoism. They are as follows:

Ma Yu (馬鈺) founded the Yuxian lineage (Meeting the Immortals)
Tan Chuduan (譚處端) founded the Nanwu lineage (Southern Void)
Liu Chuxuan (劉處玄) founded the Suishan lineage (Mount Sui)
Qiu Chuji (丘處機) founded the Longmen lineage (Dragon Gate)
Wang Chuyi (王處一) founded the Yushan lineage (Mount Yu)
Hao Datong (郝大通) founded the Huashan lineage (Mount Hua)
Sun Bu'er (孫不二) founded the Qingjing lineage (Clarity and Stillness)