T'ai Ping Tao - Yellow Turbans

Doctrines The doctrines of T'ai Ping Tao derive from its founder, Chang Chueh (d. 184 C.E.), who proclaimed the imminent downfall of the Han dynasty and the subsequent establishment of a utopian society. Chang Chueh's teachings were inspired by a now lost work entitled T'ai Ping Ch'ing Ling Shu (Book of Great Peace or Great Equality), which is attributed to Yu Chi, a magician and healer who lived in Shangtung. Chang Chueh assumed the 'magician-healer' mantle of Yu Chi, and he took the teachings of the Great Peace to the people. Chang taught that the Han mandate symbolised by wood and the 'green heaven' had expired and was to be replaced in the chai-tzu (first year) - i.e. 184 CE - of the next sixty year cycle by earth (symbolising the people) and the Yellow Heaven (symbolising the Great Peace).
Chang Chueh taught that evil was the cause of sickness and that evil was a deviation from the 'Way'. Healing was central to the practice of the T'ai Ping Tao and they built 'pure chambers' (Chih shih) where they carried out healing ceremonies and collective worship. They believed in a close relationship between the health of the individual and the health of society, and sickness was understood in both a moral and physical sense. The principle of suggesting a link between the health of individuals and the health of the larger society was in itself compatible with the tenets of the Han rulers. The moral code was seen as the medicine that brought about the cure, and health implied the rejection of evil and a return to the 'Way'.

History The T'ai Ping Tao sect was founded by Chang Chueh around 170 C.E. in the area around Shangtung. The T'ai Ping Ch'ing Ling Shu was presented at the Han court, but was rejected by the Confucian Officials because of its Taoist emphasis, their principal objection being that it did not observe the hierarchy of relationships so beloved of these officials and that, by advocating a utopian society based on the equality of all people, the text challenged the power and authority of the Emperor.
The members of the sect made their teachings available to the ordinary people and this is one of the first examples of openness in 'religious' teaching in the Chinese tradition. The sect was organised along semi-military lines with the three Chang brothers assuming the position of generals. Chang Chueh was the 'General of Heaven'. Chang Liang 'the General of Earth' and Chang Pao the 'General of Man'. The tripart leadership of the movement indicates that in some respects Chang Chueh was using established tenets of Confucianism. The three generals that headed the movement mirrored the Confucian triad of relationships between heaven, man and earth. The notion of Great Peace was also the state doctrine, though in a hierarchical form, and Confucianism ultimately rested on a Utopian ideal. There must have been enough outward resemblance to the official doctrine of the state for the leaders to have been able to recruit so many followers in such a short time and to organise them in such a military fashion.
In 175 C.E. Chang Chueh sent eight of his followers around the central and eastern provinces to recruit members to the sect. The head of each local community was called its 'General' and from the beginning there was an organisation of the members along military lines. Between 175 and 184 C.E. the movement expanded to the extent that by 184 C.E. it had centres in eight provinces.
A number of factors explain the rapid growth and popularity of the movement. This was the first time that the 'people' were offered an alternative to the status quo. The T'ai Ping Tao generals were not hermit recluses living apart from society; they were married men who fulfilled their family and social responsibilities. In this respect they followed the familiar behaviour of the leaders of Han society and did not greatly change the existing social structures. The strong sense of purpose and a firm belief that the Great Peace would be established gave impetus to the struggle with the corrupt rulers.
When, in 184 C.E., rebellion did occur it was rapidly and brutally put down by the commissioners of the Emperor. The Chang brothers and many local leaders were killed. However, the sect continued to pose a military threat until 205 C.E. This rebellion plus the rise of Chang Lu and the Heavenly Master Sect in Szechwan led to the ultimate downfall of the Han. The Taoist 'religion' developed in these two areas of the empire at the same time, yet despite their similarities they appear to have had no direct connection with each other. The T'ai Ping faded from view until the second T'ai Ping rebellion in the nineteenth century, which aided the downfall of the Chin (Manchu) dynasty.

Symbols In accordance with Chang Chueh's proclamation that the "blue Heaven" of the Han dynasty was to be replaced by the "yellow Heaven" of his perfect society, the followers of the sect wore yellow kerchiefs which led to them be known as the Yellow Turbans.

Adherents The movement has no contemporary adherents.

Main Centre
 The movement had its origin in Shangtung province.