Zhang Daoling, the First Celestial Master of Taoism

Temple ruins excavated at the Palace of Zhang Daoling, the First Celestial Master of Taoism

(Read the article on one page)

An important ancient temple site dedicated to the founder of a sect of Taoism has recently been excavated by Chinese archaeologists.

In China's Jiangxi Province, the archaeological site of ruins of The Great Shangqing Palace, said to be among the largest and best preserved in south China, have been undergoing excavations since last June, according to news site China.org.

Covering approximately 10,000 square meters (about 100,000 square feet), the temple at Mount Longhu was built in the area where Taoist master Zhang Ling (also known as Zhang Daoling) was believed to have lived and to have founded the Tianshidao movement of ancient Taoism.

The natural beauty of Mount Longhu in China, traditionally thought to be the place of origin of ancient Taoism, and site of the ruins of the The Great Shangqing Palace temple.

The natural beauty of Mount Longhu in China, traditionally thought to be the place of origin of ancient Taoism, and site of the ruins of the The Great Shangqing Palace temple. Wikimedia Commons

News site Outlook reports that Xu Changqing, head of the Jiangxi provincial archaeological institute said, “It was a very important Taoist site in history.”

MORE

A cliff-side Taoist temple at Mount Longhu.

A cliff-side Taoist temple at Mount Longhu. Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

The indigenous Chinese belief system of Taoism was first recorded in historical record in the third or fourth century B.C. However, it did not act as an organized religion until Zhang Daoling (34-156) established the Way of the Celestial Masters sect in 142.

Promising immortality and longevity, Zhang Daoling interpreted Taoism much like his contemporaries. “But unlike the others, he emphasized the importance of religious organization,” notes Encyclopaedia Britannica . The Way of the Celestial Masters became popularly known as the “Way of the Five Pecks of Rice”, as payment of five pecks (40 dry quarts) of rice per year was required to maintain membership.

The First Celestial Master Zhang Daoling spread the popular movement through the province of Sichuan, and focused on ridding the world of decadence, as well as establishing a new state made up of the “chosen people”.  Eventually the powerful Taoist sect, under the succeeding leaderships of Zhang Daoling’s son and grandson, rebelled against the Han Dynasty in 184 in what is known as the Five Pecks of Rice Rebellion. They then founded the theocratic state of Zhang Han in Sichuan.

MORE

Zhang Daoling, also commonly called Zhang Ling, was an Eastern Han dynasty (2nd Century CE) Taoist hermit who founded the Way of the Celestial Masters.

Zhang Daoling, also commonly called Zhang Ling, was an Eastern Han dynasty (2nd Century CE) Taoist hermit who founded the Way of the Celestial Masters. Public Domain

The Great Shangqing Palace temple built in honor of Zhang Daoling was destroyed by fire in 1930, but excavations have been able to recover porcelain and pottery pieces, building components, and glazed tiles.

Research at the site is still ongoing. The work “provides scientific evidence for research on ancient Chinese royal architecture,” said Xu Changqing.

The Tianshifu Gate of the Celestial Master Temple at Mount Longhu.

The Tianshifu Gate of the Celestial Master Temple at Mount Longhu. Celestial Masters Mansion (Tianshi Fu) is known in full as Mansion of the Celestial Masters Descended from the Han Dynasty. It is in the center of Shangqing Town and is a place where every generation of Celestial Master lived and offered sacrifices to gods. Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

Featured Image: Illustration of Zhang Daoling riding a Tiger, as pictured in
Myths and Legends of China.
Public Domain

By Liz Leafloor

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

Male and female cones on the Wollemi pine
A popular idea in science fiction is the resurrection of prehistoric creatures such as dinosaurs, mammoths, and even Neanderthals. In reality, such a resurrection of a prehistoric creature has yet to be achieved, although there is currently an attempt to create a hybrid mammoth-elephant embryo by a Harvard team.

Human Origins

Noah's Sacrifice - watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot
The imperfect state of archaeological researches in the Near East impedes any definite identification of the original race or races that created the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. According to Gordon Childe, however, the predominant racial element in the earliest graves in the region from Elam to the Danube is the ‘Mediterranean’.

Ancient Places

Male and female cones on the Wollemi pine
A popular idea in science fiction is the resurrection of prehistoric creatures such as dinosaurs, mammoths, and even Neanderthals. In reality, such a resurrection of a prehistoric creature has yet to be achieved, although there is currently an attempt to create a hybrid mammoth-elephant embryo by a Harvard team.

Opinion

The ancient and mysterious Sphinx, Giza, Egypt.
In 1995, NBC televised a prime-time documentary hosted by actor Charlton Heston and directed by Bill Cote, called Mystery of the Sphinx. The program centered on the research and writings of John Anthony West, a (non-academic) Egyptologist, who, along with Dr. Robert Schoch, a professor of Geology at Boston University, made an astounding discovery on the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article