The Life of Lou Jingyuan (1689-1776)
Lou Jingyuan( 婁敬垣 Lou Jingyuan ), born in Louxian County, Songjiang (in today's Songjiang County, Shanghai) was a Daoist of the Orthodox Oneness Tradition ( 正一道 Zhengyi Dao ) during the Qing Dynasty. He was styled Langzhai, and his alternate names were Sanchen and 'Unofficial Historian of the Highest Clarity'. Lou Jingyuan loved Daoism since he was a child, and revered Yang Chunyi of the Temple of Benevolence and Relief ( 仁濟觀 Renji Guan ), and Zhou Dajing of Mt.Longhu, as his masters of Daoist practice. Lou practiced the Five Thunder Battle Formation Skills ( 五雷陣法 Wulei Zhenfa ) and the secret Talismans and Registers ( 符籙 Fulu ) of different sects, and he became a Daoist who knew sublime Daoist skills with 'comprehensive Talismans and Registers'. In the 5th year of Yongzhen (1727), Lou followed Zhang Xilin to Beijing, the Celestial Master ( 天師 Tianshi ) of the 55th generation, and was ordered to worship the stars and pray for rain. His manners of talking and acting were quite appreciated by Emperor Yongzhen. In the 9th year of Yongzheng (1732), Lou cured the illness of Emperor Yongzheng, and was granted the position of fourth-rank official of Mt. Longhu and Abbot at the Hall of Imperial Peace ( 欽安殿 Qin’an Dian ). Later he followed the emperor in practicing Buddhism, writing the poem 'In Praise of Spiritual Nature' ( 性地頌 Xingdi Song ). In the 11th year of Yongzhen (1734), the Hall of Great Brightness ( 大光明殿 Daguang Mingdian ) was built on imperial order for him to live in. Under the support of the emperor, he founded the Zhengyi sect ( 正乙 Zhengyi ) of the Orthodox Oneness Tradition, and was conferred the title 'Perfect Man of Sublime Orthodoxy" ( 妙正真人 Miaozheng Zhenren ) in the 8th month of the same year. After Qianlong succeeded to the throne, Lou was appointed as third-rank Councillor of the emperor, in charge of the printing business of the Daoist Administration Office ( 道錄司 Daolu Si ), and of managing the Temple of the Sacred Mountain of the East ( 東嶽廟 Dongyue Miao ) in Beijing. He was quite distinguished in Beijing, with a sudden rise in social status. As a result people of all walks swarmed to make friends with him.
The Relationship between Lou Jingyuan and the Emperors
Lou Jingyuan could get privilege from emperor Yongzhen because of his loyalty to the imperial court of the Qing Dynasty. He focussed on loyalty and piety, beneficence and salvation instead of talking about peculiar theories of alchemy. In his contact with influential officials, he did not mention the Daoist skills of Refinement of the Vital Breath and Nourishing of Perfection ( 煉氣養真 Lianqi Yangzhen ), but rather declared that the skills of alchemy and drugs were tricks that evil persons took advantage of to earn their living. Were the perfect immortals willing to save the world in human society? The Reverend Prince Yan visited his house, and asked him about the skills of Nourishing Life ( 養生 Yangsheng ). He replied that 'you are one of the immortals, because you can lead a wealthy and luxurious life with beautiful garments and delicious food". Since there was stewed pork at the table, he said with a smile: 'Eating stewed pork is the best skill of Nourishing Life. Why are you looking for it somewhere else?' The Reverend Prince admired him very much, and praised him highly: 'The revered Mr. Lou is a real Daoist follower." Because of his loyalty to the imperial court, even emperor Yongzheng evaluated him as having 'honest nature and sincerity to Daoism", and offered him prizes and honors to praise his cultivation of purity and tranquility and encourage the people of later times".
His Thought and Works
Lou Jingyuan thought that 'each mind is the mind of Buddha' and that 'there exists Dao everywhere'. He got along with Yongzheng's opinion that the three religions shared the same origin, and favoured the integration of Buddhim and Daoism. Due to this, Lou was treated favorably by the emperors all his life. At Youngzheng's court, he was the only Daoist who was selected the Emperor's Selection of Quotations ( 御選語錄 Yuzuan Yulu ). At Qianlong's court, he was appointed again as a high-ranking councillor of the emperor. He died at the age of 90. Among the Daoists of the late Qing dynasty, Lou Jingyuan was the only one who left his works to later generations. His works included the following:
- Commentary of The Book of Nanhua ( 南華經注 Nanhua Jing Zhu ) (1 volume),
- The Emperor's Selection of Quotations of the Perfect Man of Sublime Orthodoxy ( 御選妙正真人語錄 Yuxuan Miaozheng Zhenren Yulu ) (1 volume),
- Second Edition of the Records of Mt. Longhu ( 重修龍虎山志 Chongxiu Longhushan Zhi ) (16 volumes),
- Yellow Register Rituals ( 葽籙科儀 Huanglu Keyi ) (12 volumes),
- Mystery Rituals for Petitioning Pre-Existence ( 先天奏告玄科 Xiantian Zougao Xuanke ) (1 volume).