Taoist schools

Taoism is a religion with many schools or denominations, of which none occupies a position of orthodoxy.[1] Taoist branches usually build their identity around a set of scriptures, that are manuals of ritual practices.[2] Scriptures are considered "breathwork", that is "configurations of energy" (qi), embodiments of "celestial patterns" (tianwen),[3] or "revelations of structures" (li).[4]

The earliest Taoist schools emerged during the late Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 CE).[5] They blossomed especially in the region of Shu, modern-day Sichuan.[6] From the 12th and 13th century onwards several smaller branches merged in larger ones, but in turn side-schools developed around the large traditions.[7] In modern times the existing schools tend to be classified under few overarching headings, in most cases two: Quanzhen Taoism and Zhengyi Taoism.

Chronology of major schools[8]

Eastern Han period (25–220) to Tang period (618-907): development of the Taiping, Celestial Masters and Zhengyi schools.

Eastern Jin period (317–420) and Southern dynasties period (420-589): development of the Shangqing and Lingbao branches.

  • Shangqing Taoism (上清派 Shàngqīng pài, "School of the Highest Clarity")
    • Maoshan Taoism (茅山宗 Máoshān zōng, "Maoshan Lineage" or "Maoshan Church")
  • Lingbao Taoism (靈寳派 Língbǎo pài, "School of the Numinous Treasure")
  • Louguan Taoism (樓觀派 Lóuguān pài or 樓觀道 Lóuguān dào, "School [or Way] of the Contemplation Place")

Jurchen Jin period (1115–1234): development of the Quanzhen branch.

  • Quanzhen Taoism (全真道 Quánzhēn dào, "Way of the Fulfilled Virtue")
  • Zhenda Taoism (真大道 Zhēndà dào, "True Wide Way")
  • Taiyi Taoism (太一道 Tàiyī dào, "Way of the Great Oneness")

Southern Song period (1127–1279): Tianxin, Shenxiao, Qingwei, Donghua and Jingming branches.

  • Tianxin Taoism (天心派 Tiānxīn pài, "School of the Heavenly Heart")
  • Shenxiao Taoism (神霄派 Shénxiāo pài, "School of the Divine Empyrean")
  • Qingwei Taoism (清微派 Qīngwēi pài, "School of the Pristine Simplicity")
  • Donghua Taoism (東華派 Dōnghuá pài, "School of the Eastern Flower")
  • Jingming Taoism (淨明道 Jìngmíng dào, "Way of the Pure Light")

16th and 17th centuries: Wuliu.

Other schools[9]

  • Bojia Taoism (帛家道 Bójiā dào)
  • Lijia Taoism (李家道 Lijiā dào)
  • Longhu Church or Lineage (龍虎宗 Lónghǔ zōng)
  • Gezao Church or Lineage (閣皂宗 Gézào zōng)
  • Jindan Taoism (金丹派 Jīndān pài) or Southern Church (南宗 Nán zōng)
  • Beidi Taoism (北帝派 Běidì pài)
  • Laoshan or Lao Huashan Taoism (老華山派 Lǎo huàshān pài)
  • Jiu Gongshan Taoism (九宮山派 Jiǔ gōngshān pài)
  • Xuan Taoism (玄教 Xuán jiào)
  • Longmen Taoism (龍門派 Lóngmén pài)
  • Namo Taoism (南無派 Námó pài)
  • Suishan Taoism (隨山派 Suíshān pài)
  • Yuxian Taoism (遇仙派 Yùxian pài)
  • Yushan Taoism (嵛山派 Yúshān pài)
  • Qingjing Taoism (清靜派 Qīngjìng pài)
  • Sanfeng Taoism (三豐派 Sānfēng pài)
  • Wudang Taoism (武當道 Wǔdāng dào) or Wudang Benshan Taoism (武當本山派 Wǔdāng běnshān pài)
  • Jinshan Taoism (金山派 Jīnshān pài) or Laoshan Taoism (嶗山派 Láoshān pài)
  • ChunYang Taoism (纯阳派 chunyang pài)

Newest schools:

  • Dong Taoism or Eastern Taoism (東派 Dōng pài), Neidan Dong Taoism (内丹東派 Nèidān dōng pài)
  • Xi Taoism or Western Taoism (西派 Xi pài), Neidan Xi Taoism (内丹西派 Nèidān xi pài)

See also


  1. Qing Xitai, 1994.
  2. Andersen, Reiter. 2005.
  3. Andersen, Reiter. 2005. p. 77
  4. Andersen, Reiter. 2005. p. 78
  5. Qing Xitai, 1994.
  6. Qing Xitai, 1994.
  7. Qing Xitai, 1994.
  8. Qing Xitai, 1994.
  9. Qing Xitai, 1994.


  • Poul Andersen, Florian C. Reiter. Scriptures, Schools and Forms of Practice in Daoism: A Berlin Symposium. Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005. ISBN 344705171X
  • Qing Xitai (1994) 卿希泰. Zhongguo daojiao 中國道教, vol. 1, pp. 77–83. Shanghai: Zhishi chubanshe. Online.
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