Daoism and Cct

Religious Beliefs

Has Daoism ever been associated with millennialism or messianic movements?

Several major movements of a millenarian and messianic cast have been associated with Daoism. One occurred during the late second century C.E. under the leadership of the three Zhang brothers who claimed authority in the domains of Heaven, Earth and Humanity. They espoused a type of Daoism called Huang Lao (possibly a combination of the first parts of the names of Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, and Lao Zi) and claimed divine origins for their eschatologically charged sacred text, the Highest Peace Scripture. The brothers Zhang established a theocracy, complete with elaborate hierarchies. Toward the end of the second century the movement swelled into full-scale rebellion led by a military force called the Yellow Turbans. The rebellion fizzled even though its leaders considered 184 C.E. an ideal time, beginning as it did a fresh sixty-year cycle.

Shortly after that ill-fated rebellion in the east, another Zhang from an unrelated family organized a theocratic state that lasted from 186-216 C.E. This Zhang Lu claimed the authority of his grandfather Zhang Dao Ling (34-156 C.E.), traditionally cited as the founder of the first Daoist religious movement, the Celestial Masters school. Both theocracies hoped to reestablish the utopian regimes they believed had existed in the past. After the fourth century, new and more powerful movements emerged, with various leaders claiming to be incarnations of a divinized Lao Zi (called Li Hung). All taught the expectation of a messiah and a final battle which only the elect would survive to live on in their religious utopia. None had long-term repercussions. Loosely related by symbolism to the Yellow Turban rebellion of 184 was the Taiping (Highest Peace) rebellion of 1850-1864. It was a syncretistic movement that borrowed heavily from Christian millennialist imagery.


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