Chang Ling

Chang Ling

▪ Chinese religious leader
in full  Chang Tao-ling,  Pinyin  Zhang Daoling 
born AD 34, ?, P'ei, Kiangsu, China—?d. 156, Han-chung

      the founder and the first patriarch of the Taoist church in China.

      Chang settled in the Szechwan area and there studied the Tao (“Way”) sometime during the reign (125–144) of Emperor Shun Ti of the Eastern Han dynasty. Later he composed a Taoist work to propagate his cult, which attracted many followers among both the Chinese and the indigenous ethnic groups in Szechwan. Like other Taoists of his day Chang Ling promised physical immortality and longevity to his followers, but unlike the others, he emphasized the importance of religious organization. Thus he founded the first Taoist church, the T'ien-shih Tao, or Taoism of the Celestial Master, popularly known as the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice because it required its members as well as its patients to contribute five pecks of rice a year, presumably for the upkeep of the organization.

      What made Chang Ling's church particularly attractive to the common people was its faith healing method. Illness, it taught, was a result of sinful-mindedness, which could be most effectively cured by making confession to the minister in the church; purification of the soul formed the solid foundation of physical health. Probably in imitation of the Han imperial throne, the patriarchate of the church was made hereditary. It passed from Chang Ling to his son Chang Heng and then to his distinguished grandson Chang Lu, collectively known as the Three Changs. Chang Lu even succeeded in establishing a Taoist theocratic state in Han-chung (modern Szechwan and part of Shensi) toward the end of the Han dynasty (c. 188–215). The basic text used for religious instruction in the Taoist church was the Tao-te ching of Lao-tzu. The famous Hsiang-erh commentary to Lao-tzu, traditionally attributed to Chang Ling, however, shows that this ancient philosophical treatise was much distorted to suit the religious needs of his church. See also Five Pecks of Rice.

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Universalium. 2010.

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