Daoism and Cct

Religious Beliefs

Who are some of the chief Daoist deities?

Bearing in mind that it is not always possible to draw neat distinctions between Daoist divinities and those of CCT, here are some of the figures that appear to have at least originated in Daoist circles. They are called the Earlier Heaven Deities. At the top of the pantheon are the Three Pure Ones (San Qing). They seem to have been Daoism’s theological rejoinder to the Buddhist groupings in which Bodhisattvas flank Amitabha Buddha to form a celestial triad. The Three Pure Ones (or Sacred Beings) are named after the heavens in which they dwell: the heavens of the Jade, Higher, and Great Purity, respectively.

This triad evidently developed out of a trio of deified human beings of history or legend. Lao Zi, known as Tian Shang Lao Jun (Lord of the Daoist Teaching), was the first so elevated. Later a deity called “Heavenly Venerable of the Original Beginning” (Yuan Shi Tian Zun) was named as chief deity. And still later a third deity, Grand Lord of the Dao (Tai Shang Dao Jun), leap-frogged the two others to the top of the triad. These three, often depicted as enthroned elders, came to be identified with the more transcendent and abstract Pure Ones. Many consider the deified Lao Zi still a separate deity who ranks above the Three Pure Ones. The Jade Emperor, Yu Huang Da Di, was eventually identified either as the chief deity’s younger brother or as an incarnation of the Lord of the heaven of Great Purity, and became the prominent deity in some CCT cults. According to one theological model, the Three Pure Ones are manifestations of the primordial cosmic energy, qi.


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