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Liu Deren


LIU DEREN (11221180), Daoist master of the Jin period and founder of the Zhenda sect of Daoism. His Daoist clerical name was Wuyouzi. In 1126, the year the Northern Song dynasty fell, Liu moved from Luoling Prefecture in Shandong Province to the Taiping district of Yanshan Prefecture in Hebei Province, where he studied Confucianism as a youth. It is alleged that early one morning in the eleventh month of 1142, a white-haired old man riding a cart pulled by a blue calf gave Liu the fundamental principles of the Dao de jing, along with a writing brush. The old man declared, "If you can fully understand the essentials of the Dao de jing, your own religious education will be complete and you will be able to enlighten others." Liu followed the old man's advice, deepened his knowledge of Daoism, and attracted an ever greater number of disciples.

In teaching his followers, Liu stressed nine points, including loyalty, filial piety, sincerity, purity, humility, sufficient knowledge, acceptance, and the prohibition of cruelty, lewdness, slander, stealing, gambling, consuming the five pungent substances, drinking intoxicants, and taking life. Zhenda Daoism represents a syncretization of China's three teachings: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. But while the influence of Confucianism was pronounced, Daoist magical practices and the use of talismans, incantations, and elixirs of immortality (jindan, "gold and cinnabar") found little room in his teaching. The Zhenda sect promoted a rational philosophy centered on practical morality in accordance with the demands of the time.

Liu's teachings were quickly embraced by the people of northern China, who at the time were plagued by social instability. The sect's rapid rise in influence brought Liu's name to the attention of Emperor Shizong of the Jin dynasty. The emperor summoned Liu to the capital and in 1161 established Liu in residence at the Tianzhang temple, which thereby became the head temple of Zhenda Daoism. In 1167 the emperor bestowed on Liu the title Dongyue Zhenren ("perfected one of the eastern peak"). Liu thus developed important ties with the court, thereby paving the way for the expansion of Zhenda Taoism. He died in 1180.

See Also

Daoism, overview article, and article on The Daoist Religious Community.


Chen Yuan. Nan Song chu Hebei xin daojiao kao. Beijing, 1958.

Kubo Noritada. Chugoku no shukyo kaikaku. Tokyo, 1967.

Kubo Noritada. Dokyoshi. Tokyo, 1977.

Kubo Noritada (1987)

Translated from Japanese by James C. Dobbins

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