The Lookout Tower Tradition

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The Lookout Tower Tradition came into being during the Northern Wei dynasty (AD 439-534) in the Mt. Zonglan area of Shanxi Province. It was another famous Daoist sect, which emerged after The Celestial Masters Sect, The Higher Clarity Sect and The Numinous Treasure Sect. It saw its further development during the Northern Zhou dynasty (557-581) and its prosperity during the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907), when it was the highlight of Daoism. After the rebellion of An Nushan and Shi Chongming, the Lookout Tower Tradition started to decline. In the Yuan dynasty, it was integrated into The Complete Perfection Tradition.


The Lookout Tower Tradition regarded Yin Xi as its founder. Its most important scriptures included The Book of Dao and its Virtue, The Book of Western Ascension and the Book of Sublime Perfection. In addition, its scriptures also included those of the Higher Clarity and Numinous Treasure sects, as well as the Writ of the Three August Ones. The Higher Clarity sect had an especially great influence on the Lookout Tower Tradition. As a result, such scriptures as the Perfect Book of the Great Grotto and the Book of the Inner Landscape of the Yellow Court were also important. In order to contend with Buddhism, the Lookout Tower Tradition insisted on the theory of the 'Conversion of the Barbarians by Laozi', which claimed that Buddha was either a reincarnation of Laozi or had been converted by Laozi, so that the foreign Buddhist religion was but a copy of Daoism. This made the sect a northern stronghold in the polemic between Buddhism and Daoism.


The sect's methods for longevity were characterized by its absorption of techniques from other Daoist sects, belonging either to the Talismans and Registers or Elixir Cauldron traditions. In terms of the history of Daoism's development, as well as the polemic between Buddhism and Daoism, the Lookout Tower Tradition played an important role.