|Doctrines|| ||The key belief of the NCMs was in the Venerable Lord (Lao-chun), the deified Lao-tzu, as the the creator and savior of the universe, who also provided sacred scriptures, practical teachings, and organizational rules. Lao-tzu existed prior to heaven and earth and, making order from chaos, created and formed the world, then continued to descend at regular intervals (his so-called transformations) to bring forth scriptures and teach rulers, being single-handedly responsible for all and any forms culture took on earth. |
A major event among these "transformations" of the god was his transmission of the
Major rites usually involved formal banquets and communal meetings and lasted 7, 5, or 3 days. To prepare for them, members had to purify themselves by abstaining from meat, garlic, and onions, and other forms of impurity. A typical banquet was a vegetarian meal with wine, and rice; it was celebrated with a series of bows and prostrations as well as the burning of incense and offering of prayers or petitions.
|History|| ||Three phases of NCM history can be distinguished. The theocracy under K'ou Ch'ien-chih (423-448), the flourishing of Lou-kuan as a major center (550-750), and the involvement of northern Taoists in debates with Buddhists (6th century).|
K'ou Ch'ien-chih (365-448), born into a Celestial Masters family, was a visionary on Mount Sung, where the Venerable Lord appeared to him several times between 415 and 423. Receiving especially a set of 36 precepts in the "New Code," he went to court, where he found the support of prime minister Ts'ui Hao and became head of a state-sponsored Taoism, geared to bring peace and harmony to the northern (T'o-pa) empire. After establishing Taoist institutions throughout the country, the emperor himself accepted Taoist initiation in 440, changing his reign to "Perfect Lord of Great Peace" (T'ai-p'ing chen-ch"un). Successful for some time, the theocracy declined with K'ou's death in 448 and ended with the execution of Ts'ui Hao in 451.
In the meantime, a local Taoist called Yin T'ung had established his ancestral homestead at the foot of the Chung-nan mountains (60 km southwest of Hsi-an) as the "Lookout Tower" (Lou-kuan) where Lao-tzu transmitted the
In addition, various Lou-kuan masters were active in the debates with Buddhists, held at the imperial court in 520, 570, and the 620s with the goal to prove the superiority of one or the other teaching. Men like Wei Chieh (496-569), Wang Yen (519-604), and Yen Ta (514-609) defended their faith at court, aside from being notable writers or thinkers of the religion.
|Symbols|| ||The NCMs widely produced statues of the Venerable Lord (also called Heavenly Worthy of Primordial Beginning), typically showing the deity clad in a thick robe and wearing a formal square headdress, with a straight triangular beard and a fly-whisk in his right hand, while his left rests on his thigh, holding a tablet. Often he has two attendants at his sides, each grasping a jade audience tablet, and usually the group is placed on a lotus-type platform, guarded to the right and left by lions, with an incense burner in front. Most commonly an inscription is added on the back of the object, but sometimes there are also additional figures, even including buddhas and bodhisattvas. |
About fifty such objects have been unearthed to date--as compared with several thousand Buddhist pieces. The statues closely follow Buddhist models and were usually placed on mountainsides where they could easily communicate with the otherworld. Inscriptions typically contained prayers for the dead, wishing them to avoid the three bad forms of rebirth (animal, ghost, hell) and instead come to life in the heavens; for the happiness and prosperity of currently living family members; for the imperial family and political peace; and for the liberation of all beings. As a whole, the art works show the active, close interaction of Taoism and Buddhism among the people who did not care about the doctrinal squabbles going on at court.
|Adherents|| ||There are no specific NCM adherents today, but its doctrines, practices, and centers survive in the Yin-Hsi-Lineage (|
) of the school of Complete Perfection (Ch'"uan-chen). Lou-kuan, the center of this lineage, is still a functioning Taoist monastery.
| || Lou-kuan monastery, which has recently been restored, has a number of impressive halls, including a main hall dedicated to Lao-tzu, with two stone stelae containing the text of the |