Taoism (Daoism, daojiao 道教) is a Chinese indigenous religion based on the teaching of acquisition of long life (immortality), on methods of struggle with the deadly origins of micro- and macrocosm, and on the rituals and practices that were thought to allow an ordinary person to become a heavenly being. Many of contemporary researchers consider the first centuries A.D. to be the beginning of the history of Taoism as an authentic organized religion of China. As it is commonly believed, one of the first wide-ranging and viable Taoist religious organizations was formed in the south-east of China near 142 A.D. by Zhang Ling (Zhang Dao-ling 張道陵). This religious community was guided by the ideology and cult practices which distinguished it from the folk religiousness. The history of Taoism as an organized national religion takes its rise in this movement which is also named the Way of Heavenly Masters (Tianshidao 天師道). Taoism takes an exceptional place in the history of Chinese civilization. Specialists tend to think that Taoism reflected ethno-psychological features of the Chinese people in the greatest degree because everyday life of the majority of the Chinese society – peasants, craftsmen and tradesmen, was wholly within the sphere of its influence. In addition, Taoism seriously influenced the evolution of Chinese Buddhism as well as some aspects of Confucian philosophy, especially the metaphysics of Neo-Confucianism.

The paper focuses on analysis of one of the major sources on Early medieval Taoism, i.e. the text from Taoist Canon, entitled Jiu zhen ming ke 九真明科, or Bright Code of the Perfected [Kings] from the Nine [Heavens] (alternative title’s translations  Illustrious Code of the Nine Real Men and The Sworn Code of the Nine Zhenren). Active formation of Taoism and its religious institutions took place in the 3–6th centuries. The Jiu zhen ming ke suggested is a perfect reflection of this process. Jiu zhen ming ke is one of the earliest Taoist Codes survived to the present. It originated among the followers of Supreme Purity scriptural lineage. It was the flagship of moral standards and rules for transmission of the Taoist scriptures of Supreme Purity lineage (Shangqing jingpai 上清經派). So, the first aspect of the explicit expression of the contents of this Code is the bibliographical. The Jiu zhen ming ke includes the list of scriptures (and texts of category of fu ) which were of great value and respect among the followers of the Supreme Purity lineage. But these so-called bibliographic descriptions are subject to no proper bibliographical goals and performed the task of a different kind  they explained the rites and rituals related to the listed scriptures. Accordingly, Jiu zhen ming ke is a treasury source for the researcher interested in regulations of religious life of Taoist community, standards of religious ethics and rites of Confession. Moreover, the Code reflects some ideas of the otherworld and posthumous purgatory. This indicates that Jiu zhen ming ke can definitely be the valuable source for the study of the spiritual world of Early medieval China.


Key words: Early medieval China, Taoism, Way of Heavenly Masters, Supreme Purity lineage, Jiu zhen ming ke 九真明科, Taoist scriptural legacy.

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About the author



Sergey V. Filonov – PhD (Philosophy of Religion), DSc (History), Professor at the Department of Chinese Studies,

Principal research fellow at the Research Center for Sinological Studies, Amur State University;

21 Ignatievskoe shosse, Blagoveshchensk, Russia, 675027; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.