- An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art
About [Location: HOME > History > Jin > Religion, Customs]

Chinese History - Jin Empire Religion, Customs and Habits

Periods of Chinese History
The Jurchen were originally believing in natural spirits. As a medium between the average population and the world of ghosts and spirits served a shaman (Chinese: saman 薩滿). The family shaman had to undertake the regular offerings to ancestors and spirits. The specialized shaman of the community had the task of medical and mental treatment of sick persons. Traces of the veneration of Heaven - some that were different from the Chinese - by the Jurchen can still be found later in certain holidays. The most holy place of the Jurchen was the Changbai Mountain range 長白山 at the border to Korea.

With the sinification of the Jurchen and the foundation of the Jin empire, Buddhism became the prevalent religion of the Jin empire. The impressive monasteries, statues and ceremonies were better suitable for a state religion than shamanism. In Beijing the Monastery Minzhong 憫忠寺 served as the state monastery of the Jin emperors, later the Dayansheng 大延聖寺 and Dayongan 大永安寺 Monasteries. Empress Dowager Zhenyi 貞懿太后 had built a nun monastery. Although Prince Hailing 海陵王 was a believer in Buddhism, he prohibited state officials to privately visit monasteries to pray for wealth and honor. Emperor Shizong 金世宗 prohibited private people to found monasteries because Buddhist monasteries had solely to act as state foundations. Buddhist monks had to be examined every three years, and the Buddhist community was organized down to county level. The Buddhist sects of the Jin era were the Chan School 禪宗 (in the West better known with the Japanese pronunciation Zen) with the monks Yuanxing 圓性, Xiangliao 相了, Daowu 道, Jiaoxiang 教享, and the monk "Wansong" Xingxiu 萬松行秀 who combined in his writings thought of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. A similar approach to the mutual influencing of the three "religions" was the scholar Li Chunfu 李純甫 in his writing Mingjiao jijie 鸣道集解. Other flourishing schools of the Jin period were the Huayan 花嚴宗 and Jingtu 淨土宗 schools as well as the less known Vinaya School (Lüzong 律宗). The woman believer Cui Fazhen 崔法珍 had the Buddhist tripitaka printed, publication that was only rediscovered in 1934 in Zhaocheng/Shanxi and is since called Zhaocheng Jincang 趙城金藏. Architectural relics of Buddhist monasteries show that the Jin architects adopted rather the Tang and Liao style than that of the Song. Buildings of the Jin Dynasty can still be seen in the Puen 普恩寺 and Huayan 花嚴寺 Monasteries in Datong 大同/Shanxi and the Jingtu Monastery 淨土寺 in Yingxian 應縣/Shanxi.

But a very important development of Jin Dynasty history of religion can be found among Daoism that had been less important since the Tang Dynasty. Daoism was very widespread among the Chinese population, it was a very popular religion during a time when the Yellow River plain was plagued by warfare between the Song and the Liao empire and later the Jin empire. The Jurchen rulers could not neglect a religion that was so widely supported, probably so because Daoism was a genuinely Chinese religion compared with the Buddhism that was in fact a foreign religion. The main Daoist school that had been supported by China's rulers for centuries the talisman and register schools (fulupai 符籙派) of the three traditions of the Orthodox Oneness (Zhengyi 正一道), the Higher Clarity (Shangqing 上清派) and the Numinous Treasure (Lingbao 靈寶派) whose main religious activities centered around offerings and celebrations (zhaijiao 齋醮) in order to dispell bad ghosts and to heal the sick. The excessive support of Daoist magicians by Song Emperors like Zhezong 宋真宗 and Huizong 宋徽宗 and their bad political performance lead to the discrediting of the traditional talisman and register schools. During the Northern Song period, Daoist masters had begun to replace the practice of Outer Alchemy (waidan 外丹) by different techniques of Inner Alchemy (neidan 內丹). Inner Alchemy simply relied on one's own body as furnace for the production of life-prolonging qi 氣 (by Daoists written 炁) instead of a real furnace and precious and expensive raw materials like gold and cinnabar (jin dan 金丹). Everybody was now able to engage in Daoist practices and had the potential to become an immortal - or at least to stay in good health.
The Jurchen rulers soon appreciated that it would be of great advantage to express the inclination to support any Chinese religous stream within their newly conquered territories, especially after the foundation of several new Daoist schools that were able to attract countless adherents. Partially through prohibitions, but much more through the bestowing of honorific titles, the Jurchen rulers sought to control the Daoist movements and schools. The protection of Daoist temples (daoguan 道觀, gongguan 宮觀) was an effective method for the new rulers of northern China to keep the population under control.
The first new Daoist school was the Supreme Oneness School (Taiyidao 太一道, also 太乙道) founded by Xiao Baozhen 肖抱珍 (d.1166) who combined practices of the Inner Alchemy with the traditional talisman and register exercises of the Orthodox Oneness School. Both were necessary to gain inner quietness (ji 寂) and emptiness (xu 虛) in accordance with the natural origin, and to obtain health and protection against any evil. Xiao Baozhen also stressed the importanct of factors of social behaviour, like loyalty and filial piety - both ethics being derived from Confucianism. The Taiyi School was very popular among the average peasantship of northern China. The school was officially recognized by the Jin court, Xiao Baozhen's follower were the patriarchs Han Daoxi 韓道熙, Xiao Zhongchong 肖忠沖, and Xiao Fudao 肖輔道. Because the philosophical depth of this school was not too deep, it vanished during the Yuan Dynasty 元.
The second new school was the Great Dao School (Dadaojiao 大道教), later called "School of the Perfect Great Dao" (Zhendadao 真大道), founded by Liu Deren 劉德仁 (d. 1180). The philosophical and ethical rules (jiu tiao jiefa 九條戒法 "nine commandments") of the Dadao School 大道教 were much more elaborated and concrete and in many aspects considered the ethical behaviour of society that was deeply influenced by Confucian thought, and of the philosophy of Laozi 老子 who focused on tranquility (jing 靜) of lifestyle. The Dadao School was also officially recognized, Liu Deren's followers were Chen Shizheng 陳師正, Zhang Xinzhen 張信真, and Mao Xicong 毛希琮. After the Mongol conquest, Li Xicheng 酈希誠 became the leader of this school under whose guidance the Daodao School was renamed Zhendao School and finally merged with the Quanzhen Sect:
The Complete Perfection School (Quanzhendao 全真道) was founded by Wang Zhe 王喆 (styled 王重陽子 Wang Chongyang "Master Twofold Yang"; d.1169) and Wang Chuyi 王處 and is one of the most important Daoist schools still today (together with the Zhengyi School). Wang Chongyang sent out his disciples (the Seven Perfect Northerners, Bei Qizhen 北七真: Ma Yu 馬鈺, Tan Chuduan 譚處端, Liu Chuxuan 劉處玄, Qiu Chuji 邱處機, Wang Chuyi 王處一, Hao Datong 郝大通 and Sun Bu'er) without establishing monasteries or trying to make contact with the Jin court for imperial support. Only under Liu Chuxuan's patriarchate, the Quanzhen sect tried be to be recognized by the state and began to build Daoist monasteries and temples. The fourth patriarch, Qiu Chuji (styled Changchun zhenren 長春真人 "Perfect Man of Everlasting Spring") followed an invitation of the Chinggis Khan and traveled to the Mongol headquarters far in the west (hence the report Changchun zhenren xiyouji長春真人西遊記 "The Perfect Man Changchun's Journey to the West"). This connection should be the basis for the quick rise of the Quanzhen School as most important Daoist sect of northern China. The Mongol khan had recognized that it was of great importance to control the conquered territories through the power and charisma of local religious leaders.
Under the influence of Buddhism, immortality or longevity (changsheng 長生) was redefined by Wang Chongyang: it was not the immortality of the body but rather the immortaliy of the spirit that had to be acheived. A perfect man would not be walking on the clouds with his own body, but he would instead send his spirit (shen 神, ling 靈) to the sky and reunite it with the Celestial primary extreme (taiji 太極). Man thus has to free himself from the influences of his environment of his his own desires and feelings. This would be possible because man preserved the primary nature (xing 性) with him that provided always a connection to the universal nature. The body and life (ming 命) were not mere than simple disguised of the true nature.

2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

Map and Geography

Event History

Emperors and Rulers

Government and Administration

Literature and Philosophy


Technology and Inventions