Lu Xiujing

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Life of Lu Xiujing

Lu Xiujing (AD 406-477), whose courtesy name was Yuande and whose sobriquet was Jianji, was a renowned Daoist priest of Song during the Southern Dynasties. He was a native of Dongqian, Wuxing, and a descendent of Lu Kai, the chief minister of Wu during the period of the Three Kingdoms (AD 220-280). Lu Xiujing studied Confucianism from early youth and acquired encyclopedic knowledge. Moreover, he was fond of Daoist arts by nature and intensively studied precious books. Having grown up, he abandoned his wife and children and entered the mountains to study Dao, following his desire to stand aloof from the world. At first he led a secluded life on Mt. Yunmeng. Then in order to pursue his studies of Dao and look for traces of Immortals ( 仙 Xian ), he traveled to all the famous mountains, and his reputation spread far and wide.


Development of Daoism

During the last years of Yuanjia of Song of the Southern Dynasties, when Lu Xiujing went to the capital to sell elixirs, Liu Yilong, Emperor Wen of Song, admired his Daoist style and thus called him to the inner palace to explain Daoist theories and arts. At that time the emperor's mother Wang deeply believed in the Huang-Lao Tradition ( 黃老道 Huanglao Dao ), so she condescended to become his student. Later, Lu Xiujing traveled to the south so as to escape the chaos in the years of Taichu. He established a Daoist temple on Mt. Lu and lived there in seclusion to practice Dao. In the third year of Taishi during the reign of emperor Ming of Song, he went to Jiankang again in response to the emperor's call. Emperor Ming built Chongxu Temple on Tianyin Mountain situated in the northern suburbs, and let Lu Xiujing live there. During this period, Lu Xiujing preached Dao broadly, and gave deep explanations to the profound canon. He attracted the attention of both the court and the commoners, and both Daoist priests and laymen began to believe in him. Daoism began to prosper there. Sun Youyue, Li Guozhi and so on were Lu Xiujing's most famous disciples.


Rectification of Daoism

In view of some abuses at that time that were harmful to the development of Daoism, Lu Xiujing put forward some measures of rectification:

  1. He forbade the self-ordination of Daoist officials and carried out the system of promoting rank according to one's merits and virtues.
  2. He paid great attention to the function of Daoist fasts and rituals, and held that "fasting and righteousness are the foundation of seeking Dao." He maintained that the Cultivation of Dao ( 修道 Xiudao ) should include the three practises of worship, recitation of scriptures and meditation, so as to purify one's spirit and behaviour, and that the supreme Dao can be attained when the spirit and behaviour are pure. Lu Xiujing compiled more than 100 volumes of Daoist scriptures of fast rituals and commandments. This resulted in the preliminary unification and perfection of Daoist rituals. The Celestial Masters Tradition ( 天師道 Tianshi Dao ) consolidated by him was called the Southern Celestial Masters Tradition ( 南天師道 Nan Tianshi Dao ) in later ages.
  3. He sorted and classified the Daoist canon. It is said that he recorded altogether 1,228 volumes of Daoist scriptures, formulas and talismanic charts. His compilation of the Catalogue of Scriptures of the Numinous Treasure ( 靈寶經目 Lingbao Jingmu ) greatly advanced the development of the Numinous Treasure sect ( 靈寶派 Lingbao Pai ). He created a system of classifying the Daoist canon into three Grottoes' ( 洞 Dong ), twelve sections and four supplementary sections, which was used for classifying Daoist books and compiling the Daoist Canon during the various periods after the Sui and Tang dynasties.