From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Luoism (simplified Chinese: 罗教; traditional Chinese: 羅教; pinyin: Luōjiào, Luójiào; literally: "Luo's teaching") or Luozuism (simplified Chinese: 罗祖教; traditional Chinese: 羅祖教; pinyin: Luōzǔjiào, Luózǔjiào; literally: "Patriarch Luo's teaching"), originally known as Wuweiism (Chinese: 无为教; pinyin: Wúwéijiào; literally: "religion of non-action"),[1][note 1] refers to a stream of religious organisations within the Chinese folk religion, which trace their origins back to the preacher Luo Qing alias Luo Menghong (1443-1527[3]), or Luozu ("Patriarch Luo") and the revelation contained in his major scripture, the Wǔbùliùcè (五部六册 "Five Instructions in Six Books").[4]

Patriarch Luo and the movement he started is considered the most important influence within the Chinese tradition of salvation sects.[5] A wide range of religions can be traced to Luoism; their names are numerous[note 2] and have changed over the centuries.[6] Some of them have remained close to the original teaching of Luo as transmitted in his scriptures, while other ones have developed other beliefs only preserving the name of the founding master.[7]


As long as Patriarch Luo was alive, his personality guaranteed the unity of the movement.[8] While some of his disciples may have established separate communities, they didn't contest Luo's position as teacher and leader of Wuweiism.[9] Then, when Luo passed away, apparently without having chosen a successor to the leadership, Wuweiism started to split into different branches all claiming to continue Luo's tradition.[10] The original Wuweiist movement of Luo Menghong became the starting point of various sect traditions.[11]

After little more than half a century after the death of Luo, the activities of Luoist sects began to raise the suspicion of state officials.[12] Just after 1584 several warnings were presented to the throne, against the influence of "Wuweiism" or "Luoism", linking them 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.[13] Born at the end of the 16th century were religious streams with beliefs similar to Luo's ones but not necessarily connected to Luoists, Hongyangism (弘阳教 Hóngyángjiào, "teaching of the Red [or Great] Sun") and Huangtianism (黃天教 Huángtiānjiào, "teaching of the Yellow Sky"),[14] the latter identified as a Taoist variety.[15]

In the same years, Buddhist critics denounced the sects, highlighting that they were known by different names, "Dachengism" (大乘教 Dàchéngjiào, "Great Vehicle") and "Wunianism" (无年教 Wúniánjiào, "teaching without time") in addition to the names already known.[16] 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.[17]

Also the Luo family contributed to the transmission of Luo's teaching.[18] Within the original movement, Luo's wife and two children, Fozheng and Foguang, occupied relevant positions.[19] Successively, Luo's wife continued the teaching according to the original tradition.[20] She founded a branch named "right teaching of the Perfect Stillness" (圓頓正教 Yuándùn zhèngjiào), reappearing as "Yuandunism" (圆顿教 Yuándùnjiào, "teaching of the Sudden Stillness") in the late Ming period but with no relation to Luo's wife.[21]

Fozheng continued the male line of the Luo family.[22] His grandson Wenju is mentioned in the imprint of the 1615 edition of the Wubuliuce, printed in Nanjing.[23] Luo Congshan, the fourth generation patriarch, lived at the beginning of the 17th century.[24] A century later, official records testify that there were still male descendants of Luo active as sect leaders.[25] The centre of the family was in Miyun, where the tomb of Luo Menghong still existed.[26] It was destroyed on official order in 1768.[27]

In the 18th century, the eighth patriarch was Luo Mingzhong, and the religion had been spread from Hebei to Zhejiang and Fujian, reportedly by three persons surnamed Qiang, Wen and Pan, with many congregation temples (an) in the area.[28] After the ninth patriarch the line of hereditary leadership came to an end.[29] An investigation of 1816 testifies that the male descendants of Luo no longer practiced the religion of the forefather.[30]

Meanwhile, in the early 17th century Yao Wenyu from Zhejiang originated a wave of branches that successfully spread to Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Fujian, Anhui and Guangdong.[31] The religion was now known as Lingshan zhengpai ("orthodox school of the Numinous Mountain"), later in the 18th century as the "teaching of the Ancient Official requiring vegetarianism" (老官齋教 Lǎoguān zhāijiào).[32] A popular one of many offshoots of the Yao lineage was "Longhuaism" (龙花教 Lónghuājiào, "teaching of the Dragon Flower"), that still exists in Taiwan.[33] Other names for Luoism in the 18th century were Yaoism or Yaozuism (Yaozujiao, "teaching of Patriarch Yao"), Dachengism and Sanchengism (三乘教 Sānchéngjiào, "Third Vehicle"), the latter two after the transmission of Wu Zixiang, who incorporated his own scripture Dacheng dajie jing ("Book of the Great Precepts of the Great Vehicle").[34]

Another wave of branches that started with Yin Ji'nan, contributed to the incorporation of Maitreya and Wusheng Laomu symbolism into the original Luoist dictrines.[35] Another important branching is that started by Sun Zhenkong.[36] A disciple of Yi Ji'nan's school, Pushen, formulated a Chan interpretation of Luo's writings that excluded the Maitreya eschatology.[37]

Zhenkongism (真空教 Zhēnkōngjiào, "religion of the True Void"), founded in Anhui in the 1860s, is another Luoist branch promoting sitting meditation, healing, and scriptures recitation.[38] The group expanded to Fujian in the late 19th century, and from there throughout southern China and Southeast Asian Chinese ethnic groups.[39]

Luo Menghong's experience[edit]

An orphan since youth, Luo Qing was raised by relatives and became a soldier.[40] At the age of twenty-eight, for his distressful sentiment of forlornness,[41] he went on a spiritual quest and studied with several teachers,[42] although he was unable to establish permanent relationships.[43] Only at the age of forty, apparently without a direct guidance of a teacher,[44] he reached enlightenment:[45] awareness to be united with the absolute principle of reality.[46] He began gathering disciples and wrote the Wubuliuce ("Five Instructions in Six Books"), first printed in 1527.[47][48]

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.[49] 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.[50] He speaks of the final destination that is the absolute principle of being variously as "Home", "Mother" (Mu), "True Emptiness" (Zhenkong) and "Limitless" (Wuji).[51] An experience similar to that of Luo can be found in the biography of Lin Zhao'en, the founder of the Sanyi religion.[52]

By the 17th century the teachings of Luo combined with other sect currents and folk beliefs, namely Mileist millenarianism and the folk goddess Wusheng Laomu ("Unborn Ancient Mother").[53] In the new mythological representation of Luo's enlightenment, humans are children of the primordial goddess.[54] 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.[55] The three enlightened beings are Dipankara, Gautama and Maitreya the future one.


ZhenkongWusheng Laomu[edit]

Main article: Wusheng Laomu

In the context of Luoist sects, the absolute principle of the universe is the central focus of meaning and worship. In the original scriptures of Luo the origin is represented as Zhenkong, "True Emptiness",[56] or Xukong, "Emptiness".[57] It is commonly personified through the symbol of a goddess, Wusheng Laomu, the "Unborn Ancient Mother".[58] Other symbols of the source of all being, also common to other traditions, are Wuji (the "Undetermined"), Zhenkong ("True Emptiness"), Zhen (the "Truth", "True Reality"), Gufo (the "Ancient Buddha [Awakening]"), Zu (the "Patriarch").[59]

These symbols are commonly combined together in sect baojuan (writings) to express the impersonal absolute principle (for example Wuji Zhenkong, "Limitless True Emptiness") or its personal representation (for example Wusheng Laomu or Wuji Gufo, the "Limitless Ancient Buddha [Awakening]").[60] The source of all being is also associated to the Big Dipper asterism.[61]

Luo Menghong's original revelation emphasises the impersonal representation of the absolute principle, using symbols such as Zhenkong.[62] However, he also talks of Wuji Shengzu ("Limitless Holy Patriarch") or in other occasions uses the symbol "Mother" (Mu or Niang).[63] Patriarch Luo was considered an incarnation of God, Wuji Shengzu, by his followers.[64]

Eschatology—the Three Suns[edit]

The Three Suns (三阳 sānyáng) eschatological doctrine places itself in a sect tradition ("Sanyangism", 三阳教 Sānyángjiào) flourishing at least since the Ming dynasty.[65] It can be traced back to a Taoist school named Hunyuan, from the concept of hunyuan ("original chaos") that existed before hundun ("still chaos") and is the beginning of primordial qi (yuanqi) according to some Taoist cosmologies.[66] Although originally Taoist, these concepts became part of the folk tradition and were incorporated in the sect milieu.[67]

In the earliest sects of the Ming period, the Lord of Original Chaos (Hunyuan Zhu) represents the origin of the universe developing through three stages, yang, or cosmic periods.[68] In most sect scriptures, these three periods are known as Green Sun (qingyang), Red Sun (hongyang) and White Sun (baiyang).[69] Otherwise they are known by other names, variations originated by oral transmission of the teaching.[70]

The earliest written evidence of this doctrine can be found in the Huangji jieguo baojuan, published in 1430.[71] In this text the three stages are already associated to the three buddhas Dipankara, Gautama and Maitreya.[72]

Practice and salvation[edit]

In Luoist sects' baojuan (writings) the symbol of wusheng ("unborn") is used in the abstract sense of realising the state of "no-birth-no-death", that is enlightenment.[73] Wusheng Laomu or Wuji Gufo are personifications of this state.[74] In Luoist traditions, as written for example in the Longhuajing, meditation has a crucial role as the path to salvation, that is the "return to the Mother", the wusheng state.[75] Salvation is the realisation of one's true nature.[76]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Also Wuwei fa ("law of non-action") or Wuwei miaofa ("wonderful law of non-action").[2]
  2. ^ Other contemporary designations are Wukongism (悟空教 Wùkōngjiào, "religion of the Nothing-Void") and Changshengism (长生教 Chángshēngjiào, "religion of longevity"), amongst the many ones.


  1. ^ Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 169
  2. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  3. ^ Nadeau 2012. p. 230
  4. ^ Seiwert, 2003. pp. 214-215
  5. ^ Seiwert, 2003. pp. 214-215
  6. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 215
  7. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 215
  8. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  9. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  10. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  11. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  12. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  13. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  14. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 444
  15. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 439
  16. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  17. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  18. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  19. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  20. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 236
  21. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  22. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  23. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  24. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  25. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  26. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  27. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  28. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 238
  29. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 237
  30. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 238
  31. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 257
  32. ^ Seiwert, 2003. pp. 258-259
  33. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 259
  34. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 259
  35. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 264
  36. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 505
  37. ^ Seiwert, 2003. pp. 264-265
  38. ^ Goossaert, Palmer. 2011. p. 209
  39. ^ Goossaert, Palmer. 2011. p. 209
  40. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  41. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  42. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  43. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  44. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  45. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  46. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  47. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  48. ^ Wǔbùliùcè
  49. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  50. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  51. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  52. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 448
  53. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  54. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  55. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  56. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  57. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 331
  58. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 331
  59. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  60. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  61. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  62. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  63. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  64. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  65. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 326
  66. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 326
  67. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  68. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  69. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  70. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  71. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 328
  72. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 328
  73. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 390
  74. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 390
  75. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 390
  76. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 390


  • Hubert Michael Seiwert. Popular Religious Movements and Heterodox Sects in Chinese History. Brill, 2003. ISBN 9004131469
  • Xisha Ma, Huiying Meng. Popular Religion and Shamanism. BRILL, 2011. ISBN 9004174559
  • Randall L. Nadeau. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religions. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
  • Vincent Goossaert, David Palmer. The Religious Question in Modern China. University of Chicago Press, 2011. ISBN 0226304167