The Complete Perfection Tradition

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As the biggest and most important of the new Daoist sects emerging in the Song and Yuan dynasties (960-1368), the Complete Perfection Tradition saw its prosperity during the Jin and Yuan dynasties (1115-1368). After the Yuan dynasty, the Complete Perfection Tradition and The Orthodox Oneness Tradition became the two main Daoist sects, a situation which remains unchanged even today.

First Stage

Wang Ze, founder of the Complete Perfection Tradition, styled himself Chong Yangzi, and is known as Wang Chongyang. He came from a rich family in Hanyang city, Shanxi. After repeated failures in his career, he turned to Daoism. He claimed, in a small town called Ganhe, that he had been taught a secret formula by a mystic whom he had met in the forth Zhennong year (1159). After that, he left his family, starting to practice Dao in a cave located near Nanshi village on Mt. Zhongnan. He called the cave the 'Grave for the living', and called himself madman Wang, in reference to his feigned madness. In the seventh Dading year (1167), he set his shelter on fire and moved to Shandong peninsula where he started to preach the Complete Perfection Tradition. Seven adepts, Ma Yu, Tan Chuduan, Liu Chuxuan, Qiu Chuji, Wang Chuyi, Hao Datong and Shun Bu'er, became his disciples and ultimately became the backbone of Complete Perfection Tradition which would develop and prosper in the later period. The seven disciples also later established their respective branches. They came to be called The Seven Perfect Ones of the North. Wang Chongyang stayed in Shandong peninsula for merely three years to found and spread his religion. In the fall of the ninth Dading year (1169), he came back to Shanxi along with four disciples (Qiu, Liu, Tan and Ma), while Wang Chuyi and Hao Datong remained on Mt. Kunyu practicing Dao. Patriarch Wang died en route in Kaifeng city. Collecting more than one thousand poems left by him, his disciples edited and published the Compilation of the Complete Perfection. After his death, Ma Yu, his first disciple, became the master, while the other six disciples continued preaching in such places as Shandong, Hebei, Shanxi and Henan, which in turn increased the sect's influence in the lower classes of society. Under Ma's leadership, the Complete Perfection Tradition focused on Non-interference, emptiness of all desires, and realization of one's inner nature. Meanwhile, it tried to attract more followers through its simple life and arduous religious practice. During this period, it established neither ties with the ruling class nor Daoist temples of its own. This was the first stage of the Complete Perfection Tradition's development.

Second Stage

The Complete Perfection Tradition saw its second stage from 1187 to 1219, when it started to develop and expand its religious organization. In this period, Liu Chuxuan became the patriarch, succeeded by Qiu Chuji. During this period, the Shandong peninsula was the center of the sect's religious activities. Also in this period, the Complete Perfection Tradition tried to win recognition from the rulers of the Jin regime. It also began to construct Daoist temples as reliable bases for its religious activities. Owing to its increasing influence among the lower classes, the sect started to win itself more attention from the Jin regime. In the first and third Taihe years (1201 and 1203), patriarch Wang Chuyi was summoned to the imperial court, which in turn promoted the sect's social status and strengthened its spread in the lower classes.


Starting in 1219, the Complete Perfection Tradition witnessed its third stage, which led it to the height of its influence. It was patriarch Qiu Chuji who led the Complete Perfection Tradition to prosperity. In response to the invitation of the Mongol Emperor Gengis Khan, Qiu, although in his seventies, went along with his disciples to the Snowy Mountains of Afghanistan and convinced the emperor to stop killing. In this way, Qiu won himself not only the respect of Gengis Khan who called him Immortal Qiu, but also the privilege of controlling religious personnel in the whole country, as well as exemption from taxation and corvee. Patriarch Qin came back to Beijing in 1224 and lived in the Temple of the Supreme Ultimate, also called Eternal Spring Temple, which later became the headquarters of the Complete Perfection Tradition. Patriarch Qiu also advocated establishing temples and saving people, which led to the large-scale construction of Daoist temples and increased enrollment of Daoist monks. After that, the temples of the Complete Perfection Tradition could be found everywhere in the North. Patriarch Qiu died in 1227. He was buried in the Eternal Spring Temple's Chushun Hall, which is now known as The White Cloud Temple in Beijing. The Complete Perfection Tradition clearly made great progress under patriarch Qiu's leadership.

Third Stage

The Complete Perfection Tradition came to its heyday in the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), when the number of temples as well as followers increased at an unprecedented pace. Many famous Daoists emerged. This shows that the Complete Perfection Tradition was in its golden age. Afterwards, Yin Zhipin and Li Zhichang, who succeeded to patriarch Qiu, further expanded the sect. Owing to its continuous development as well as to support from the rulers, the Complete Perfection Tradition reached its highest point. In the North, it became the center of Daoism. Meanwhile, it even saw its influence expand in southern areas such as Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Hubei and Fujian.


In the beginning of the Yuan dynasty, Mt. Wudang was the center of the Complete Perfection Tradition in the South. There were many followers in these areas. In fact, even before the Complete Perfection came to the South, the Southern Lineage of the Golden Elixir, which also practiced Inner Alchemy, had emerged there. Attributing the Inner Alchemy tradition to patriarch Zhong Liquan, patriarch Lu Dongbin and patriarch Liu Haichan, the Southern Lineage claimed to flow from the same source as the Complete Perfection Tradition in the North. Limited by its modest scale, the Southern Lineage had never won too much attention from the Yuan regime. Consequently, the followers of the Southern Lineage converted to the Complete Perfection Tradition during the Yuan dynasty. These included Li Daochun and Chen Zhixu. The Complete Perfection Tradition thus spread both in the South and in the North, matching the Orthodox Oneness Tradition in religious scale and social influence. Because the Yuan emperors conferred many respectable titles upon its patriarchs, the political status of the Complete Perfection was enhanced too. In the Sixth Zhiyuan year (1269), emperor Hu Bilie conferred the title of Perfect Sovereign upon the Imperial Sovereign Donghua, Zhong Liquan, Lu Dongbin, Liu Haichang and Wang Zhe -- the Five Forefathers of the Complete Perfection Tradition, who later came to be known as The Five Northern Patriarchs. Wang Zhe's seven disciples also came to be known as the Seven Perfect Ones. In the third Zhida year (1310), the Yuan emperor Wu granted the respectable title of 'Imperial Sovereign' to the Five Forefathers of the Complete Perfection, and the title of 'Perfect Sovereign' to the Seven Perfect Ones. Eighteen other Daoists, among whom was Yin Zhiping, a disciple of patriarch Qiu Chuji, were also distinguished as 'Perfect Men'. At that time, some knowledgeable Daoists from the Complete Perfection Tradition were involved in Daoist affairs in the Academy for the Talented.

Fourth Stage

The Complete Perfection Tradition witnessed its fourth stage from the middle to the end of the Yuan dynasty, when it started to decline internally while retaining the external appearance of prosperity. The Complete Perfection Tradition was deteriorating. In this period, no more renowned Daoists emerged in the sect. The sect's development came to a standstill. In contrast, the Orthodox Oneness Tradition became increasingly prosperous after the middle of the Yuan dynasty.