Zhang Daoling (Patriarch of the Celestial Masters)

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The origin of Zhang Daoling

Zhang Daoling, the Ancestral Celestial Master ( 祖天師 Zu Tianshi ), was named Ling and later Daoling, and styled Fuhan. He was a man of Feng County in the state of Pei, and an eighth-generation grandson of Zhangliang (Zifang). Born inquisitive in studies, he once was a student of the Great State Academy. He widely studied the Five Confucian Classics and delved deeply into the Huang-Lao Tradition ( 黃老道 Huanglao Dao ). At the age of seven, he had learned and totally mastered the Book of Dao and its Virtue ( 《道德經》 Daode Jing ), Books of Auguries ( 緯書 Weishu ), and the Magical Figures of the Yellow River Chart and of the Luo River Writ ( 河圖洛書 Hetu Luoshu ). He grew up to be a learned man. Quitting office and devoted to the study of Dao, he founded the Tradition of the Celestial Master of the Mighty Commonwealth of Orthodox Oneness[ ( 正一盟威天師道 Zhengyu Mengwei Tianshi Dao ), commonly known as the Five Pecks of Rice Tradition ( 五斗米道 Wudoumi Dao ). Thenceforth, he was called the Ancestral Celestial Master.

Cultivating Dao and vanquishing demons to benefit the people

Zhang Daoling first cultivated Dao as a recluse on Mt Beimang, and later on Mt Fanyang, after he obtained the Yellow Emperor Nine Cauldron Alchemical Scripture ( 《黃帝九鼎丹經》 Huangdi Juiding Danjing ). After ingesting the finished Elixir, he was able to transform subtly, to divide and distribute his figure and image, and acquired the marvelous ability to appear when seated and to disappear when standing. He often simultaneously rowed a boat in a lake, read scriptures in his room, entertained guests at his desk, and walked singing poems while holding a stick. He was wondrous and marvelous beyond people's expectations. Later, in a cave on Mt Wan, he acquired hidden scriptures and secret talismans, and mastered the art of commanding the mountain deities. Hearing that in the Shu area (present-day Sichuan), there were many famous mountains where the people were simple and easy to transform, he went to Shu with his disciples and cultivated Dao on Mt Heming. After seeing the Venerable Sovereign ( 老君 Laojun ), he prepared medicine in his hermitage and refined it according to the Law. After accomplishing the elixir three years later, he dared not to ingest it. He told his disciples that, though the great elixir had been accomplished, it was not to be taken before greatly benefiting the world. Only after doing this, could one take the elixir and ascend to Heaven to become a subject of the Three Pristine Ones ( 三清 Sanqing ) without feeling ashamed. Then the Venerable Sovereign sent the Jade Maiden of Purity and Harmony ( 清和玉女 Qinghe Yu’nu ) to teach him the way to exhale and inhale the pure and harmonious Vital Breath. After practicing a thousand days, he was able to see the Five Viscera ( 五臟 Wuzang ) in the body and invoke deities from the outside. Thus, he defeated all the demons of the Six Heavens. Formerly, thousands of demons crowded Shu in the daytime and caused diseases at will. People had long suffered their misery. After subduing the big demons, Zhang Daoling scattered their subordinate ghosts in the northwestern wilderness. He swore with the ghosts that man owns the day and ghosts the night, thus distinguishing Yin and Yang. Whoever offends this is to be killed by the Law of Orthodox Oneness ( 正一之法 Zhenyi Zhufa ). Hence, the dead spirits and living men were separated, which greatly benefited the people of Shu. After this victory, the Supreme Venerable Sovereign ( 太上老君 Taishang Laojun ) gave Zhang Daoling the title of Celestial Master of Orthodox Oneness ( 正一天師 Zhengyi Tianshi ).

Securing immortality

On the 9th day of the ninth lunar month of the second year of the Yongshou era, Zhang Daoling went to Yuntai Diocese, gave his son Zhang Heng the remaining elixir, seal, sword, and the Talismans and Registers of the Inspector of Merits ( 都功符籙 Dugon Fulu ), saying that "This highest Dao was transmitted to me by the Supreme Venerable Sovereign in person. This Talisman governs the Three-and-Five Inspectors of Merits and the central administrative unit of the Orthodox Oneness. A son of each generation inherits my station, and he who is not of my blood must not receive this transmission." That day, Zhang Daoling, together with his wife Yong and the disciples Wang Chang and Zhao Sheng, ascended to Heaven in daylight. He was the first Celestial Master of Daoism and the ancestor of the Orthodox Oneness.