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ReligionThe top 9 Taoist School Selector results of 2991 participants.

Percentages indicate the frequency of the self-selected participants' top results for Taoist School Selector.

#1 36.4%
''Western'' Taoist - There is a lot of talk in the West about Taoism, most of it out of the context of the Chinese society from which it arose. Unlike other Eastern traditions that maintain an identity transcending their cultural contexts, like Buddhism, Taoism depends very heavily on its Chinese roots. There is a lot of good instruction out there in the Taoist arts, and that is actually good for most people. But to claim Taoist affiliation or even understanding requires one to embrace Taoist culture, something very difficult indeed. Many people claim to teach Taoism, but in China no Taoist hangs a shingle out for anyone to walk in and learn the trade secret. Taoists are happy to hire themselves out for services or to teach certain cultivations, but they choose their prospects for initiation, and thus the deeper teachings of Taoism, very carefully. Anyone publicly offering to teach Taoist esoterica, or who claim that you can get the essentials by buying their book, should be viewed with great suspicion.
#2 29.6%
Lay follower of Quanzhen- While emphasizing monastic life, Quanzhen Taoism has attracted a substantial following among unaffiliated Asians. In the mid 19th Century, many laymen who were influenced by Quanzhen teachings and cultivations began organizing civic groups and shrine societies, often inspired by those claiming to have been visited by Lu Dongbin, Mazu, or other Immortals. Mainly arising in Guangzhou and Hong Kong, these Daotan (Taoist Shrine) societies facilitated the practice of Quanzhen arts, as made available to the public, and social betterment programs. Often they were wrapped up in moralistic crusades, emphasizing Quanzhen Taoism's focus on right action and the benefits of good karma. While not officially endorsed by Quanzhen authorities, there seemed to be some unofficial influence exerted by them on these groups. Members of Daotan societies were either uninitiated or received low-level jushi status (a Buddhist term for a layperson who took vows), thus reflecting some Quanzhen direction. In Hong Kong, some of these societies became powerful charitable organizations, exerting great influence on business and civic life. While not all lay Taoists are of Quanzhen influence or direction, the Quanzhen school seems to have been more flexible in allowing a lay category, especially as full initiates are expected to live more austere lives, apart from the public at large, than their Tianshi counterparts.
#3 18.1%
Huang/Lao or Daojia- This describes the core ''philosophy'' attributed to Taoism, without the practices developed by later adepts. Popular among Westerners and academics, those who follow this path are concerned only with a philosophical interpretation of the teachings of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi), Laozi, Zhuangzi and sometime Liezi. While not recognized as a Taoist school of thought by Asian or traditional Taoists, the term comes from a classification created by Han Dynasty historian Sima Qian (c. 100 BCE) to differentiate the current of thought represented by Laozi from those of Confucius and Mozi. This was before the formal establishment of Taoism around 142 CE, and before a spiritual/religious frame of reference became relevant. Huang/Lao philosophy (sometimes called Daojia) is not only a foundation of Taoism, but is also a defining ideology of Chinese cosmology in general, finding its way even into Chinese Buddhism and later Confucianism. Thus, while all Taoists adhere to Huang/Lao philosophy, not all Huang/Laoists are Taoist. Unfortunately, there is no easy, single-word translation into English that distinguishes Daojia (Related to the concept of Tao) from Daojiao (Teachings/Practice of the Tao). Thus, a conflict has arisen in the West, which is semantically irrelevant among Asians.
#4 4.3%
Beiji- Based on Wudang Mountain, Beiji (North Pole Star) Taoists are loyal to Immortal Xuan Wu and follow an ascetic lifestyle, with advanced martial arts and meditation training. Its founder was 15th Century Taoist Immortal Zhang Sanfeng, the developer of Taijiquan. He broke with Quanzhen teachings on ritual and lifestyle, but in recent years the Beiji sect has come under the official state direction of Dragon Gate Taoism. It has, however, retained its distinctive character.
#5 3.5%
Lingbao- Founded in the 5th Century CE, the Lingbao (Numinous Treasure) sect emphasized moral improvement through meditation, ritual, and scriptural recitation. Principal scriptures of this sect are attributed to 5th Century Taoist Immortal Ge Hong. The confession of and atonement for sins was a major part of their community practice, as cleansed karma leads to a cleansed body. Taoist monasticism may have begun with Lingbao communities. It fused elements of Zhengyi and Shangqing Taoism, as well as Buddhism.
#6 3.3%
Quanzhen- Perhaps the most divergent and influential school of Taoism, Quanzhen (Complete Reality) Taoism draws its beliefs from the teachings of Immortal Lu Dongbin, the 11th Century Taoist who taught the virtue of a simplified practice, and the value of Buddhist and Confucian teachings as a complement to Taoist tradition. His followers, notably Wang Chongyang, founded the first lineages which branched out to dozens of sects. The most dominant sect is the Dragon Gate (Lungmen) sect, headquartered at the White Cloud Temple in Beijing. Quanzhen Taoists live in monastic communities, whose initiates undergo years of strict training in internal alchemy, ritual, martial arts, medicine, and other arts. Initiates follow a life of celibacy, poverty, abstention from alcohol and meat, and a strictly regimented daily routine. Many major monasteries are near population centers, where monks hold great influence on the public at large, across all social classes.
#7 2.1%
Shangqing- Founded by Taoist mystic Lady Wei Huacun a century after the rise of Tianshi Taoism, Shangqing (Highest Clarity) Taoism focused on the transformation of the practitioner through elaborate visualizations, meditation and energy work. Advanced practitioners believed that deities and spirits, especially those of the opposite gender, visited them during their meditations and exchange energies with them. Shangqing Taoists often lived in seclusion, either alone or in groups with their peers and masters. Although it is believed that the last Shangqing lineages died out about 800 years ago, their practices laid the foundations for modern internal alchemy, and thus were highly influential in the rise of other schools of Taoism.
#8 1.4%
Tianshi- The first formal school of Taoism, the Tianshi (Celestial Master) school is best represented by the Zhengyi (Orthodox Unity) sect founded by Zhang Daoling in the 2nd Century CE. The sect is headed by an heir of Zhang, currently the 63rd Generation Celestial Master Zhang Enpu. Lineage transmission is usually through a descendant of the same gender, often picked at an early age and groomed for eventual ordination. Initiates are known as Daoshi (Dignitaries of the Tao) and are respected public figures, functioning as professional advisors, healers, and ritual conductors. A prodigious Daoshi can become a Gao Gong (Ritualist of High Merit), leading high ritual, community liturgies, and such. Tianshi Taoists are believed to be able to converse with dieties on the community's behalf through elaborate ritual, as well as control spirits and draw upon the power of Tao through the use of talismans and charms. Zhengyi Taoism was formerly headquartered at Dragon-Tiger Mountain (Longhushan) until the 1960's when Zhang Enpu and his court fled to Taiwan during the Cultural Revolution.
#9 1.1%
Redhead/Tangki/Fangshi- This class of folk ritualists is descended from the ancient fangshi, itinerant mystics who performed services to communities in their circuit. While not really Taoist, they have assimilated many early Taoist practices, such as sorcery, exorcism and divination, into their list of services. Mostly, they appear in festivals officiated by Taoists, Buddhists, or Confucianists, but are never allowed to participate in high liturgy. Still, they are regarded more or less favorably by the communities they serve. Their practices are usually handed down along family lineages, although sometimes one who shows promise, but is not part of a Tangki's family, may be trained in minor ritual and practice. Some communities may even designate apt individuals (usually during adolescence) to learn mediumism and other trademark practices. The regimen they follow varies according to lineage, with Maoshan and Kunlun sorcerers living very austere lives, while others live according to the norms of their village. Kenneth Dean's Taoist Ritual and Popular Cults of Southeast China has an excellent first-hand account of the role of these minor ritualists in a village festival in Fujian province in the early 1990s.

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