Daoism and Cct

Membership, Community, Diversity

What is the Daoist Celestial Masters school and why is it important?

Daoism’s Celestial Masters school (Tian Shi Dao, also called Zheng Yi, “Correct One”) stands out as the original institutional expression of religious Daoism and one of several early attempts to establish theocratic communities. It was originally known as the Five Bushels of Rice school, the “dues” expected of members, the Celestial Masters school. Founded by Zhang Dao Ling (34-156 C.E.) in about 142, the sect focused initially on physical, moral, and spiritual healing through ritual confession of faults and exorcism. Regular rituals included recitation from the Dao De Jing and communal meals, with feasts three times annually to acknowledge the three celestial bureaucracies overseeing Heaven, Earth, and water. Over the centuries the Celestial Masters school has worked to prevent the popularization of religious rituals by attempting to maintain standards in the training of ritual specialists. Two main divisions, the southern and northern schools, developed more or less independently and then merged around the fourteenth century. After losing ground to various other schools for many centuries, the school has risen to prominence in modern times and now generally dominates the formal practice of Daoism and its rituals. The school is represented officially by the sixty-third Master, who lives in exile in Taiwan.


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