|Doctrines|| ||"Three in One" refers to this religion's explicit syncretism of the Three Religions of China: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, represented by images of their founders (Confucius, Lao Tzu and Shakyamuni Buddha) on its altars. While these three religions are all believed to give expression to the one ultimate reality, the hsia, they do not play equal roles on the doctrinal level; at least in the thought of the founder Lin Chao-en (1517-1598) Confucianism held the pride of place. It was Lin's aim to reinvigorate Confucianism as a religious project, an endeavour to attain sagehood through a programme of moral-cum-spiritual cultivation that would involve the whole human being. In this he reacted against what he perceived to be the shallowness of Confucian studies of his age, which tended to be reduced to prepatory schooling for the civil service examination, devoid of spiritual significance for the learner. |
Lin encouraged his disciples to integrate the study of the canonical texts with their practice in a closely regulated daily schedule of recitations, lectures, discussions, and meditations, as well as in various forms of community work. He developed a system of meditation called "Confucian mind-cultivation" (K'ung-men hsin-fa), which is based on his interpretation of the Book of Changes and of Taoist concepts of internal alchemy, while also drawing on Buddhist meditative techniques. The ultimate aim of these meditations is to gradually, through nine distinct stages, rise to a state of mystical oneness in which the original sagely mind would finally unfold itself free of any restrictions.
|History|| ||The San-i Chiao's founder Lin Chao-en was born in 1517 into a scholarly family in P'u-t'ien of Fukien province. After achieving his first academic degree in 1534, Lin became disillusioned with his studies, realizing the spiritual irrelevance of a system of learning geared merely towards providing officials for the imperial administration. In 1546, he abandoned his conventional studies and set out on a quest to discover a spiritual path for himself. In 1551 he began his career as a teacher, instructing a first group of disciples in the method of mind cultivation he had developed in the interceding years. His reputation grew and was solidified by the prominent role he and his students played in the period from 1556 and 1563, when P'u-t'ien suffered frequent bloody attacks from Japanese pirate raiding parties. Lin Chao-en coordinated relief efforts, distributing food and medicine to refugees and burying the many corpses scattered over the countryside.|
Lin became a respected public figure and his school attracted ever more students. After his death in 1596, the general recognition of his sagehood triggered a wave of veneration for Lin and shrines were built that honoured him on an equal footing with the Founders of the Three Religions. His works were reprinted and became sacred texts for the developing religion that regarded him as its founding patriarch. The San-i Chiao remained largely a regional religion, centred in Southeast China. After the Communist revolution in 1949 it was suppressed, but there are indications that it is currently (1998) experiencing a considerable revival in Fukien province. The line of tradition, however, was never completely ruptured as from the late nineteenth century onwards emigrants from the Hsing-hua area of Fukien (which includes P'u-t'ien) established San-i Chiao temples in Southeast Asia and on Taiwan, where they still remain active to the present day.
|Symbols|| ||There exists no single abstract emblem used by all existing San-i Chiao groups. Their temples are, however, easily recognized by the prominent image of Lin Chao-en (also called Hsia-wu-ni) on the altar, often flanked by images of Cho wan-ch'un and Chan San-feng, two Taoist interlocutors of Lin.|
|Adherents|| ||No statistics available.|
| ||No single administrative centre exists for the religion as a whole, each temple conducting its own business. P'u-t'ien county in Fukien province is the religion's historical centre and in view of the current revival there may come to play a significant role in the future.|