Luo teaching

Last updated
羅教 / 罗教
Type Chinese salvationist religion
Scripture Wubuliuce (五部六册)
FounderPatriarch Luo (罗祖)
Originlate 15th century
Other name(s)Wuweiism (无为教), Luozuism (罗祖教), Changshengdao (长生道 Way of the Eternal Life), [lower-alpha 1] Dacheng (大乘 Great Vehicle), Sancheng (三乘 Third Vehicle), Wukong (悟空 Nothing Emptiness), [lower-alpha 2] Wunian (无年 Timeless), Yuandun (圆顿 Sudden Stillness) teachings, Yaoism

Luodao (罗道 [lower-alpha 3] "Way of Luo") or Luoism (罗教 [lower-alpha 4] ), originally Wuweiism (无为教 [lower-alpha 5] ), refers to a Chinese folk religious tradition, a wide range of sect organisations flourishing over the last five hundred years, [1] which trace their origins back to the mystic and preacher Luo Menghong (1443–1527 [2] ), the Patriarch Luo (罗祖 Luōzǔ [lower-alpha 6] ) and the revelation contained in his major scripture, the Wǔbùliùcè (五部六册 "Five Instructions in Six Books"), [3] which official title is The Scroll of Apprehending the Way through Hard Work [4] and that marked the beginning of the precious scrolls' tradition. [5]


Luo and the movement he started is considered the most important influence within the Chinese salvationist tradition. [6] A wide range of religious groups can be traced to Luo's teachings, their names are numerous and have changed over the centuries. [7] Some of them have remained close to original Wuweiism as transmitted in Luo's scriptures, while other ones have developed other beliefs only preserving the name of the founding master. [8]

Types of Luodao, together with other folk religions, have revived rapidly in China since the 1980s, and if conceptualised as a single group today they are said to have more followers than the five state-sanctioned religions counted together. [9]


Set of the Wubuliuce, the baojuan of Luoism. Precious Volumes of Luoism.jpg
Set of the Wubuliuce, the baojuan of Luoism.

Luo Menghong was born in 1442 in the area of Jimo, in Shandong province. [10] His religious titles were Luo Qing (Luo the Clear), Luo Jing (Luo the Quiet) and the Inactive Hermit (无为隐士 Wúwéi Yǐnshì). [11] He died at the age of eighty-five in 1527. [12] The religious group he founded was called "Wuweiism", a name that has been continued by the purest branches of the movement in later history. [13]

Early direct transmissions

As long as Patriarch Luo was alive, his personality guaranteed the unity of the movement. [14] While some of his disciples may have established separate communities, they didn't contest Luo's position as teacher and leader of Wuweiism. [15] Then, when Luo died, apparently without having chosen a successor to the leadership, the Wuwei teaching started to split into different branches all claiming to continue Luo's tradition. [16]

Little more than half a century after the death of Luo, the activities of Luoist sects began to raise the suspicion of state officials. [17] Just after 1584 several warnings were presented to the throne, against the influence of Luoism linking it to the earlier White Lotus movement, a label which by that time had become a derogatory designation used by official historians to demonise religious groups considered heretical by the established orthodoxy. [18] At the end of the 16th century there were religious groups which influenced and in turn were influenced by the Luoists, Hongyangism (弘阳教 "Red [or Great] Sun") and the Huangtiandao ("Way of the Yellow Sky"), [19] both identifying as Taoist branches. [20]

Documents produced by the Buddhist establishment condemning Luoists testify the activity in the late 16th century of the branches known as Great Vehicles (大乘 Dacheng) [lower-alpha 7] and Timeless (无年 Wunian) [lower-alpha 8] Luoism. [21] The sources show that at the end of the 16th century, Luoist sects had spread widely in northern China, and they were known by different names. [22]

Luo family transmission

Also the Luo family contributed to the transmission of Luo's teaching. [23] Within the original movement, Luo's wife and two children, Fozheng and Foguang, occupied relevant positions. [24] Successively, Luo's wife continued the teaching according to the original tradition. [25] She founded a branch named Sudden Stillness (圆頓 Yuandun) [lower-alpha 9] which by the late Ming dynasty no longer claimed connection to Luo's wife. [26]

Fozheng continued the male line of the Luo family. [27] His grandson Wenju is mentioned in the imprint of the 1615 edition of the Wubuliuce, printed in Nanjing. [28] Luo Congshan, the fourth generation patriarch, lived at the beginning of the 17th century. [29] A century later, official records testify that there were still male descendants of Luo active as sect leaders. [30] The centre of the family was in Miyun, where the tomb of Luo Menghong still existed. [31] It was destroyed on official order in 1768. [32]

Grand Canal transmission

In the early 18th century Luoist sects spread along the Grand Canal from Hebei to Zhejiang and Fujian; boatmen belonging to Luoist sects recognised the eighth generation descendant Luo Mingzhong as the head of the religion. [33] Records of the late 18th century testify the contribution of three persons surnamed Qiang, Wen and Pan, to the diffusion of the religion in southeast China. [34] They founded three different lines, which congregation halls (an) also functioned as social relief institutions. [35] After the ninth patriarch the line of hereditary leadership came to an end. [36] An investigation of 1816 testifies that the male descendants of Luo no longer practiced the religion of the forefather. [37]

Yin Ji'nan and Yaoism

Meanwhile, in the 16th century Yin Ji'nan (1527-1582) from Zhejiang originated an independent line that successfully spread throughout their native province, Fujian, Jiangxi and surrounding southern provinces. [38] He became the leader of a Luoist group and reformed it into the Venerable Officials' teaching of fasting (老官斋教 Lǎoguān zhāijiào), which in later centuries gave rise to the Xiantiandao. [39]

Yin Ji'nan organised his movement into a hierarchy and integrated the theology about Maitreya, the Wusheng Laomu and the Three Suns eschatology within the original Luoist doctrines [40] through the influence of a Hunyuan sect. [41] Years after Yin's death, Yao Wenyu (1578-1646) rose as the leader of the religion with strong opposition from other influential members, although he greatly expanded the sect's empire. [42] By the time of Yao's successors in the late 17th century the sect was known as the Numinous Mountain (灵山 Lingshan). [lower-alpha 10] [43]

Yaoism later gave rise to the Dragon Flower (龙花 Longhua) [lower-alpha 11] sect and other branches. [44] Wu Zixiang's branch, the Great Vehicle (Dacheng) or Third Vehicle (三乘 Sancheng) [lower-alpha 12] introduced his scripture entitled the "Book of the Great Precepts of the Great Vehicle" (Dacheng dajie jing). [45]

Zhenkongdao and other branches

Another important indirect branching is that started by Sun Zhenkong, claiming to be the fourth patriarch after Qin Dongshan and Master Zhao, a disciple of Luo who founded and independent group called Wujidao (无极道 "Way of the Unlimited"). [46] Patriarch Sun incorporated the theology of Maitreya and Wusheng Laomu just half a century after the death of Luo and called his group the Namodao (南無道). [47] The Namodao later developed into different currents. [48] A disciple of Yi Ji'nan's school, Pushen, formulated a Chan interpretation of Luo's writings that excluded the Maitreya eschatology. [49]

Zhenkongdao (真空道 "Way of the True Void") [lower-alpha 13] founded in Anhui in the 1860s, is another Luoist branch promoting sitting meditation, healing, and scriptures recitation. [50] The group expanded to Fujian in the late 19th century, and from there throughout southern China and Southeast Asian Chinese ethnic groups. [51] It is possibly a continuation of Patriarch Sun's branch.

Luo Menghong's life and mysticism

An orphan since youth, Luo Qing was raised by relatives and became a soldier. [52] At the age of twenty-eight, for his distressful sentiment of forlornness, [53] he went on a spiritual quest and studied with several teachers, [54] although he was unable to establish permanent relationships. [55] Only at the age of forty, apparently without a direct guidance of a teacher, [56] he reached enlightenment: [57] awareness to be united with the absolute principle of reality. [58] He began gathering disciples and wrote the Wubuliuce ("Five Instructions in Six Books"), first printed in 1527. [59]

Written in a lucid vernacular language, Luo's texts are characterised by an egalitarian tone, erasing differences between lay and clergy, upper and lower classes, and men and women. [60] Drawing on his own experience as an orphan, Luo describes the human condition of being lost and in search of one's true home and refuge. [61] He speaks of the final destination that is the absolute principle of being, variously representing it through abstract symbols. [62] An experience similar to that of Luo can be found in the biography of Lin Zhao'en, the founder of the Sanyi teaching. [63]

By the 17th century the teachings of Luo combined with other folk beliefs, namely Maitreyan millenarianism and the folk mother goddess. [64] In the new mythological representation of Luo's enlightenment, humans are children of the primordial goddess. [65] Confused by the desires of the material world, they have forgotten their celestial origin, and so the Mother sends emissaries to remind her children the possibility of return to the original condition in the Three Suns, or stages of the world. [66] The three enlightened beings are Dipankara, Gautama and Maitreya the future one.


God and the Goddess

In the theology of Luoist sects the absolute principle of the universe is the central focus of meaning and worship. In the original writings of Luo it is represented as "True Void" (真空 Zhēnkōng). [67] Since the 17th century the prevalent representation became a goddess, the Unborn Venerable Mother (無生老母 Wúshēng Lǎomǔ). [68] Other symbols of the source of being, also common to other traditions, are Wújí (the "Unlimited"), Zhēn (真 "Truth", "True Reality"), Gǔfú (古佛 "Ancient Awakened"). [69]

These symbols are commonly combined in sect's precious scrolls to express the impersonal absolute origin according to the tastes of different social groups. [70] The absolute principle is also associated to the Big Dipper asterism. [71]

Luo Menghong's original revelation emphasises the impersonal representation of the absolute. [72] However, he also talks of Holy Patriarch of the Unlimited (无极圣祖 Wújí Shèngzǔ) [73] and of the mother as a duality, the Eternal Parents (無生父母 Wúshēng Fùmǔ). [74] Patriarch Luo is considered an incarnation of the universal God by his followers. [75]


The Three Suns (三阳 sānyáng) eschatological doctrine places itself in a tradition flourishing at least since the Ming dynasty. [76] It can be traced back to a Hunyuan Taoist school named after the concept of hunyuan ("original undetermined") that existed before hundun ("coalesced undetermined") and is the beginning of primordial qi (yuanqi) according to some Taoist cosmologies. [77] Although originally Taoist, these concepts became part of the folk tradition and were incorporated into the sects. [78]

In the earliest sects of the Ming period, the Lord of the Original Chaos (混元主 Hùnyuánzhǔ) represents the origin of the universe developing through three stages, yang, or cosmic periods. [79] In most sect scriptures, these three periods are known as Green Sun (qingyang), Red Sun (hongyang) and White Sun (baiyang). [80] They are known by other names due to oral transmission of the teaching. [81]

The earliest written evidence of this doctrine can be found in the Huangji jieguo baojuan, published in 1430. [82] In this text the three stages are already associated to the three buddhas Dipankara, Gautama and Maitreya. [83]

Practice and salvation

In Luoist writings the symbol of wúshēng (無生 "unborn") means the state of "no birth and no death" that gives enlightenment. [84] The Unborn Venerable Mother or the Holy Patriarch of the Unlimited are personifications of this state. [85] In Luoist traditions, as written for example in the "Book of the Dragon Flower" (Longhuajing), meditation has a crucial role in the path to salvation, that corresponds to the "return to the mother" or the wusheng state. [86] Salvation is the realisation of one's true nature. [87]

See also


  1. Also Changshengism (长生教 Chángshēng jiào)
  2. 悟空教 Wùkōng jiào
  3. 罗道 Luōdào, traditional characters: 羅道 Luódào
  4. 罗教 Luōjiào, traditional characters: 羅教 Luójiào
  5. 无为教 Wúwéijiào
  6. traditional characters: 羅祖 Luōzǔ
  7. 大乘教 Dàchéngjiào
  8. 无年教 Wúniánjiào
  9. 圆顿正教 Yuándùn zhèngjiào, "right transmission of Sudden Stillness"
  10. 灵山正派 Língshān zhèngpài, "orthodox school of the Numinous Mountain"
  11. 龙花教 Lónghuā jiào
  12. 三乘教 Sānchéng jiào
  13. Also Zhenkongism (真空教 Zhēnkōngjiào)

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maitreya</span> Future Buddha in Buddhist eschatology

Maitreya or Metteyya, also Maitreya Buddha or Metteyya Buddha, is regarded as the future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. As the 5th and final Buddha of our times, Maitreya's goal would be to reinstate the Dharma. In all branches of Buddhism, Maitreya is viewed as the direct successor of Gautama Buddha. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, the being is referred to as Ajita. Despite many individuals and religious leaders claiming to be Maitreya throughout history, all Buddhists firmly agree these were false claims.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinese Buddhism</span> Buddhism with Chinese characteristics

Chinese Buddhism or Han Buddhism is a Chinese form of Mahayana Buddhism which has shaped Chinese culture in a wide variety of areas including art, politics, literature, philosophy, medicine and material culture. Chinese Buddhism is the largest institutionalized religion in Mainland China. Currently, there are an estimated 185 to 250 million Chinese Buddhists in the People's Republic of China It is also a major religion in Taiwan and among the Chinese Diaspora.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">East Asian Yogācāra</span> East Asian traditions representing the Yogachara school of Buddhism

East Asian Yogācāra refers to the traditions in East Asia which represent the Yogachara system of thought. The 4th-century Gandharan brothers, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu, are considered the classic philosophers and systematizers of this school, along with its other founder, Maitreya-natha.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yiguandao</span> Chinese salvationist religious sect

Yiguandao / I-Kuan Tao (traditional Chinese: 一貫道; simplified Chinese: 一贯道; pinyin: Yīguàn Dào; Wade–Giles: I1-Kuan4 Tao4), meaning the Consistent Way or Persistent Way, is a Chinese salvationist religious sect that emerged in the late 19th century, in Shandong, to become China's most important redemptive society in the 1930s and 1940s, especially during the Japanese invasion. In the 1930s Yiguandao spread rapidly throughout China led by Zhang Tianran, who is the eighteenth patriarch of the Latter Far East Tao Lineage, and Sun Suzhen, the first matriarch of the Lineage.

The Xiantiandao, also simply Tiandao is one of the most productive currents of Chinese folk religious sects such as the White Lotus Sect, characterised by representing the principle of divinity as feminine and by a concern for salvation of mankind.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guiyidao</span> Chinese salvationist folk religious movement

Guiyidao, better known as Precosmic Salvationism in contemporary Taiwan, and historically also known by the name of its institutions as Daodeshe (道德社), Guiyi Daoyuan (皈依道院) or later Daoyuan (道院)—respectively "Community of the Way and its Virtue", "School of the Way of the Return to the One" or simply "School of the Way"—is a Chinese folk religious movement of salvation belonging to the Xiantiandao tradition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">White Lotus</span> Religious and political movement in China

The White Lotus is a syncretic religious and political movement which forecasts the imminent advent of the "King of Light" (明王), i.e., the future Buddha Maitreya. As White Lotus sects developed, they appealed to many Han Chinese who found solace in the worship of Wusheng Laomu.

Zailiism or Liism (理教), also known as the Baiyidao or Bafangdao, is a Chinese folk religious sect of north China, founded in the 17th century by Yang Zai. It claims a Taoist identity and is centered on the worship of Guanyin as the incarnation of the principle of the universe, the "Only God of the Unlimited".

The Chinese religions of fasting are a subgroup of the Chinese salvationist religions. Their name refers to the strict vegetarian fasting diet that believers follow. This subgroup originated as the Lǎoguān zhāijiào sect that departed from the eastern "Great Vehicle" proliferation of Luoism in the 16th century and adopted features of the White Lotus tradition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Queen Mother of the West</span> Mother goddess in Chinese religion and mythology

The Queen Mother of the West, known by various local names, is a mother goddess in Chinese religion and mythology, also worshipped in neighbouring Asian countries, and attested from ancient times. From her name alone some of her most important characteristics are revealed: she is royal, female, and is associated with the west.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sanyi teaching</span>

The Harmonious Church of the Three-in-One, or Sanyiism and Xiaism, is a Chinese folk religious sect of Confucian character founded in the 16th century by Lin Zhao'en, in Putian. In 2011, it was officially recognised by the government of Fujian.

The doctrine of the Three Suns or three stages of the end-time, or Three Ages, is a teleological and eschatological doctrine found in some Chinese salvationist religions and schools of Confucianism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinese ritual mastery traditions</span> Chinese folk religion

Chinese ritual mastery traditions, also referred to as ritual teachings, or Folk Taoism, or also Red Taoism, constitute a large group of Chinese orders of ritual officers who operate within the Chinese folk religion but outside the institutions of official Taoism. The "masters of rites", the fashi (法師), are also known in east China as hongtou daoshi (紅頭道士), meaning "redhead" or "redhat" daoshi, contrasting with the wutou daoshi (烏頭道士), "blackhead" or "blackhat" priests, of Zhengyi Taoism who were historically ordained by the Celestial Master.

Dacheng teaching of Mount Jizu, is a Chinese folk religious sect, a branch of Luoism in western China established by Zhang Baotai (張保太) in the late 17th century, during the Manchu-ruled Qing dynasty.

Chinese salvationist religions or Chinese folk religious sects are a Chinese religious tradition characterised by a concern for salvation of the person and the society. They are distinguished by egalitarianism, a founding charismatic person often informed by a divine revelation, a specific theology written in holy texts, a millenarian eschatology and a voluntary path of salvation, an embodied experience of the numinous through healing and self-cultivation, and an expansive orientation through evangelism and philanthropy.

The Maitreya teachings or Maitreyanism, also called Mile teachings, refers to the beliefs related to Maitreya practiced in China together with Buddhism and Manichaeism, and were developed in different ways both in the Chinese Buddhist schools and in the sect salvationist traditions of the Chinese folk religion.

The Way of the Gods according to the Confucian Tradition, also called the Luandao or Luanism or—from the name of its cell congregations—the phoenix halls or phoenix churches, is a Confucian congregational religious movement of the Chinese traditional beliefs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Taigu school</span>

The Taigu school, also Great Perfection or Yellow Cliff teaching, is a mystical folk religious sect of Confucianism spread especially in Jiangsu, Anhui and Shandong. It was founded by Zhou Xingyuan, a man with shamanic skills entitled Taigu by followers.

Baguadao or Eight Trigram Teaching (八卦教) is a network of Chinese folk religious sects, one of the most extended in northern China. The tradition dates back to the late 17th century Ming dynasty, and was heavily persecuted during the following Qing dynasty when affiliated sects organised an uprising in 1813, led by Lin Qing. Affiliated sects appeared under various names, but during the latter half of the 18th century they adopted Bagua Jiao as their common designation.

The Church of the Highest Supreme is a Chinese folk religious sect of northern China. The origins of the sect are obscure, although Thomas David Dubois traces it to the theological tradition of the networks of Hongyangism (弘阳教), another northern folk religious sect which has been officially registered under the auspices of the Chinese Taoist Association since the 1990s.


  1. Seiwert, 2003. p. 215
  2. Nadeau 2012. p. 230
  3. Seiwert, 2003. pp. 214-215
  4. Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 169
  5. Seiwert, 2003. p. 228
  6. Seiwert, 2003. pp. 214-215
  7. Seiwert, 2003. p. 215
  8. Seiwert, 2003. p. 215
  9. 大陆民间宗教管理变局 Management change in the situation of mainland folk religion. Phoenix Weekly, July 2014, n. 500. Pu Shi Institute for Social Science: full text of the article Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine .
  10. Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 169
  11. Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 169
  12. Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 169
  13. Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 172
  14. Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  15. Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  16. Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  17. Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  18. Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  19. Seiwert, 2003. p. 444
  20. Seiwert, 2003. p. 343
  21. Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  22. Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  23. Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  24. Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  25. Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  26. Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  27. Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  28. Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  29. Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  30. Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  31. Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  32. Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  33. Seiwert, 2003. p. 238
  34. Seiwert, 2003. p. 238
  35. Seiwert, 2003. p. 239
  36. Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  37. Seiwert, 2003. p. 238
  38. Seiwert, 2003. pp. 251-257
  39. Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 173-175
  40. Seiwert, 2003. p. 253
  41. Seiwert, 2003. p. 255
  42. Seiwert, 2003. pp. 255-257
  43. Seiwert, 2003. pp. 258-259
  44. Seiwert, 2003. p. 259
  45. Seiwert, 2003. p. 259
  46. Seiwert, 2003. p. 243
  47. Seiwert, 2003. pp. 244-247
  48. Seiwert, 2003. p. 248
  49. Seiwert, 2003. pp. 264-265
  50. Goossaert, Palmer. 2011. p. 209
  51. Goossaert, Palmer. 2011. p. 209
  52. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  53. Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  54. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  55. Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  56. Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  57. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  58. Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  59. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  60. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  61. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  62. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  63. Seiwert, 2003. p. 448
  64. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  65. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  66. Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  67. Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  68. Seiwert, 2003. p. 331, p. 444
  69. Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  70. Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  71. Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  72. Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  73. Seiwert, 2003. p. 221
  74. Seiwert, 2003. p. 444
  75. Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  76. Seiwert, 2003. p. 326
  77. Seiwert, 2003. p. 326
  78. Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  79. Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  80. Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  81. Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  82. Seiwert, 2003. p. 328
  83. Seiwert, 2003. p. 328
  84. Seiwert, 2003. p. 390
  85. Seiwert, 2003. p. 390
  86. Seiwert, 2003. p. 390
  87. Seiwert, 2003. p. 390