Zhang Jixian

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Life of Zhang Jixian

Zhang Jixian (AD 1092-1127) was styled Zunzheng (also Jiawen and Daozheng) and was also known by his literary name Shuranzi, which means 'Detached Master'. He was a famous Daoist priest during the last years of the Northern Song dynasty, and the thirtieth generation Celestial Master ( 天師 Tianshi ) of the Celestial Master Tradition ( 天師道 Tianshi Dao ), which he inherited at the age of nine. Zhang Jixian was a reticent person. After the Chongning years during the reign of emperor Huizong, he was called to the eastern capital four times to perform Ritual Offerings ( 醮 Jiao ) in the inner court. He was granted the sobriquet "Gentleman of Emptiness and Tranquility" ( 虛靖先生 Xujing Xiansheng ), ranked equal to a Senior Official ( 大夫 Dafu ) entitled to discuss government affairs, and was bestowed the Seal of the Chief Official of Yangping Diocese ( 陽平治都功印 Yangpingzhi Dugong Yin ), which was engraved in jade from Mt. Kunlun. Zhang Jixian was favored by emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty, but he aspired to lead a simple life, and liked to relax himself and soothe his spirit in mountains and Cultivate Dao ( 修道 Xiudao ) quietly, so he asked several times to return to the mountains. He built a temple behind the Temple of Highest Clarity ( 上清宮 Shangqing Gong ) where he emptied his mind and sat in oblivion. Emperor Huizong dedicated the Temple of Quiet Communion ( 靜通庵 Jingtong An ) to him, which contained a 'Pavilion of the Detached Master' ( 翛然亭 Shuran Ting ). Zhang Jixian further built the three Temples of the Numinous Treasure ( 靈寶 Lingbao ), of the Tapestry of Clouds ( 雲錦 Yunjin ), and of Perfect Chastity ( 真懿 Zhenyi ). He also transformed the ancestral hall into the Temple for Preaching the Law ( 演法觀 Yanfa Guan ). It is said that he predicted national crises and asked his disciple Wang Daojian to tell emperor Huizong that he should cultivate his moral conduct in order to avoid calamities". His works In Praise of the Great Dao ( 大道歌 Dadao Ge ), On Mind ( 心說 Xinshuo ), and so on were handed down to posterity, and his disciples Wu Zhengyang, Wang Daojian and the like were well-known. Later, emperor Wuzong conferred on him the title "Perfect Sovereign of Emptiness, Tranquility, Mysterious Communion, and Magnificient Enlightenment." ( 虛靖玄通夕悟真君 Xujing Xuantong Hongwu Zhenjun )


Zhang Jixian combined various schools of thought. He inherited the Daoist Skills of Talismans and Registers ( 符籙道法 Fulu Daofa ) handed down in the family, and he also practised both Inner Alchemy ( 內丹 Neidan ) and Outer Alchemy ( 外丹 Waidan ). He held that the reason for human beings' transmigration in the Three Worlds ( 三界 Sanjie ) between life and death is that the six senses will be activated once a thought arises in the mind". Therefore, people must fast in order to refine morals", and should be cautious in speech and moderate in eating and drinking, eliminate moral faults and desires, calmly Keep to Oneness, be indifferent to fame or gain, keep quiet and do nothing, look at nothing and listen to nothing, and swim with the tide" so as to become pure and upright, and thus all the calamities can be warded off". Zhang Jixian held that "Dao is not far away; it is within the body", and that of the mind controls the breath, and the breath stays within the body, one can achieve longevity without employing various techniques". He advised those who came to receive the Secret Registers of the Celestial Masters ( 天師秘錄 Tianshi Milu ) to escape worldly affairs and introspect, so that all of them could attain Dao".