Master Zhang, whose full name was Zhang Ling, or Zhang DaoLing (34-156), was the founder of the Five Pecks of Rice Sect of Taoism during the Eastern Han Dynasty. A native of Fengxian County, Jiangsu Province, he studied in the Imperial College and well versed in the Five Classics. He practiced meditation in Heming Mountain in today’s Dayi County, Sichuan Province in the reign of Emperor Shundi (r.125-144). In 141, he wrote twenty-four Taoist texts and institutionalized Taoism, which was called the Five Pecks of Rice Sect, calling himself Occult Master of Great Purity. Its believers had to pay five pecks of rice as contribution to support his institution. It emphasized repenting one’s mistakes and have faith in Taoists canons. It propagated its doctrine by praying and drawing charms, and gave treatment with blessed holy water or incantations.
Legends of Master Zhang
Many legends are told about him. One said that Zhang DaoLing was the eight descendants of Zhang Liang, a high official of the Han Dynasty, he was a tall man, with extraordinary appearance characterized by full forehead, red hair, green eyes, straight nose and square mouth, bushy eyebrows and big ears. All this features, plus his beard, gave the impression that he looked like an immortal priest. In the tenth year of the Jianwu period under the reign of the Emperor Guangwu of the Eastern Han Dynasty, he was born in the Tianmu Mountain.
Before he was born his mother dreamed about a tall immortal wearing a gold crown and embroidered robe descending from the Big Dipper to her room. He gave her a scented plant, and suddenly vanished. She awakened to find her quilt, clothes and the entire room was lingered with an extraordinary fragrance that last for a month. Then she became pregnant. On the day when she was in labour, the courtyards was permeated in colored clouds, and the room was bright with red beams. The fragrance again fills the air. Daoling was able to walk as soon as he was born.
He was extremely intelligent as he had knowledge and can memorize the entire Dao De Jing, astronomy, geography and mystic diagrams at the age of seven. He passed the second degree Imperial examination, as became the magistrate of Jingzhou. Albeit an official he was determined to practice meditation. Before long he tender his resignation and lived in seclusion in Beimang Mountain. It was said that one day a white tiger bought scriptures in it’s mouth to him. Emperor He Di appointed him as Imperial tutor to the crown prince, and conferred on him the title Marquis of Jixian. He was invited to take up the official position, three times, but he always refused. In A.D. 90, he went to Long He Mountain in Jiangxi Province where he tried alchemy – to make pills of Immortality and delivered sermons for about thirty years, his disciples totaling more than three thousand.
Master Zhang was well known for curing people with Talismans, blessed holy water, and delivered people from danger and disaster.
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