Ling Pao

Doctrines "Ling Pao" is often translated into English as "sacred jewel". Like other Taoist schools, Ling Pao was concerned with enabling the ascent of the soul to heaven. However, this was modified by the inclusion of the Buddhist notion of salvation for all creatures and reincarnation on earth. Salvation is attained through overcoming this process of rebirth and reaching the Tao.
A distinctive feature of the Ling Pao school was its emphasis on apocalypticism. Various scenarios are presented which describe the cause and manner of the end of the world. The world would end because of the depletion of yin and yang or because the balance between the two forces would collapse. This cataclysm is sometimes associated with the end of cosmic eras, the intervention of supernatural beings into the world of people, the gathering up of virtuous people and subsequent cosmic renewal. In order to ensure personal salvation, prayers, talismans and chanting of texts were used. Obedience was due to the officiating priest who performed the necessary rituals to the gods. Among the important deities are Yuanshi tianzun (the Celestial Venerable One of the Original Beginning), Laojun (the deified Lao Tzu), the Five Emperors, the demon kings and the dragon kings.

History The Ling Pao tradition emerged in the 4th century. It provided a degree of innovation over its predecessor, the Shang Ching tradition, by including elements of Buddhist doctrine into its teaching. The most important figure in the early development of the tradition was Ko Chao Fu (fl. 400 CE), about whose life very little is known. Ko Chao compiled a series of texts known as the Wufujing (Text of the Five Talismans), the most ancient of the Lingbao texts. Such was the success of these texts that soon after their compilation monasteries identified with the Ling Pao school had been established on Mao Shan.
The sect acquired a distinctive liturgy through the work of Lu Hsiu-ching (406-77). Lu Hsiu-ching arranged the diverse Taoist texts into three groups based upon the model of the Buddhist Tipitaka (three baskets).
The history of Ling Pao ritual is one of development from rites performed in isolation to the performance of group services. In the 5th and 6th centuries Ling Pao rites were carried initially by small groups and then by entire villages. Overtime these rites were reformulated as they became codified. Important figures in the recodification of Ling Pao liturgy were Zhang Wanfu and Du Guangting (850-933). During the Sung dynasty further additions and variations were made to the Ling Bao ritual, but the essential Ling Pao liturgy was retained.
Problems developed between the imperial court and the Ling Pao sect when barbarians invaded the north of China in the 12th century, forcing the court to flee to the south. A recently developed ritual called Shenxiao had promised peace to the empire, and its failure to do so caused it to fall from favour. The ritual nevertheless remained popular among people in southern coastal China.

Symbols The Ling Pao school did not identify itself through specific symbols or logos. However, there are interesting visual forms associated with Ling Pao ritual. One famous ritual is the "casting dragons" ritual. This involved throwing plaques containing prayers and golden dragons into caverns, ravines or springs. This rite was done to ensure the safety of the kingdom. In another ritual the priest will sprinkle his sword with water. The water represents water from heaven and the sword is the demon-conquering sword of Chang Tao-ling, the first heavenly master.

Adherents It is not possible to determine the number of adherents associated with Ling Pao.

Main Centre
 Historically the Chung hsu Kuan (Abbey) in Nankin has been the main centre of the Ling Pao movement.