Luo teaching

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Ancient set of the Wubuliuce, the scriptures of Luo.

The Luo teaching or Luoism (simplified Chinese: 罗教; traditional Chinese: 羅教; pinyin: Luōjiào, Luójiào) or Luozu teaching (simplified Chinese: 罗祖教; traditional Chinese: 羅祖教; pinyin: Luōzǔjiào, Luózǔjiào; literally: "Patriarch Luo's teaching"), originally known as Wuwei teaching (Chinese: 无为教; pinyin: Wúwéijiào; literally: "teaching 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 mystic and preacher 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] which official title is The Scroll of Apprehending the Way through Hard Work.[5]

Patriarch Luo and the movement he started is considered the most important influence within the Chinese tradition of salvation sects.[6] A wide range of religions can be traced to Luo's teachings; their names are numerous[note 2] and have changed over the centuries.[7] 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.[8]


Luo Menghong was born in 1442 in the area of Jimo, in Shandong province.[9] His religious titles where Luo Qing (Luo the Clear), Luo Jing (Luo the Quiet) and Hermit of Inaction (Wuwei jushi).[10] He died at the age of eighty-five in 1527.[11] The religion he founded was called "Wuwei teaching", a name that has been continued by the purest branches of the movement in later history.[12]

As long as Patriarch Luo was alive, his personality guaranteed the unity of the movement.[13] While some of his disciples may have established separate communities, they didn't contest Luo's position as teacher and leader of the Wuwei teaching.[14] 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.[15] The original Wuwei teaching of Luo Menghong became the starting point of various sect traditions.[16]

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.[17] Just after 1584 several warnings were presented to the throne, against the influence of "Wuwei teaching" or "Luo teaching", 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.[18] Born at the end of the 16th century were religious streams with beliefs similar to Luo's ones but not necessarily connected to Luoists, the Hongyang teaching (弘阳教 Hóngyángjiào, "Red [or Great] Sun") and the Huangtian teaching (黃天教 Huángtiānjiào, "Yellow Sky"),[19] both identifying as Taoist varieties.[20]

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

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 "right teaching of the Perfect Stillness" (圓頓正教 Yuándùn zhèngjiào), reappearing as the "Yuandun teaching" (圆顿教 Yuándùnjiào, "Sudden Stillness") in the late Ming period, which no longer claimed relation to Luo's wife and gave origin to the separated fasting religious sects.[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]

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.[33] After the ninth patriarch the line of hereditary leadership came to an end.[34] An investigation of 1816 testifies that the male descendants of Luo no longer practiced the religion of the forefather.[35]

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.[36] The religion was now known as Lingshan zhengpai ("orthodox school of the Numinous Mountain"), later in the 18th century as the "venerable officers' teaching of fasting" (老官斋教 Lǎoguān zhāijiào).[37] A popular one of many offshoots of the Yao lineage was "Longhua teaching" (龙花教 Lónghuājiào, "Dragon Flower").[38] Other names for Luoism in the 18th century were Yaoism or Yaozuism (Yaozujiao, "teaching of Patriarch Yao"), "Dacheng teaching" and "Sancheng teaching" (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").[39] The Laoguan zhaijiao sect of Yaoism was the origin of the Chinese religions of fasting (斋教 zhaijiao), which separated from Luoism.[40]

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.[41] Another important branching is that started by Sun Zhenkong.[42] A disciple of Yi Ji'nan's school, Pushen, formulated a Chan interpretation of Luo's writings that excluded the Maitreya eschatology.[43]

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.[44] The group expanded to Fujian in the late 19th century, and from there throughout southern China and Southeast Asian Chinese ethnic groups.[45]

Luo Menghong's experience[edit]

An orphan since youth, Luo Qing was raised by relatives and became a soldier.[46] At the age of twenty-eight, for his distressful sentiment of forlornness,[47] he went on a spiritual quest and studied with several teachers,[48] although he was unable to establish permanent relationships.[49] Only at the age of forty, apparently without a direct guidance of a teacher,[50] he reached enlightenment:[51] awareness to be united with the absolute principle of reality.[52] He began gathering disciples and wrote the Wubuliuce ("Five Instructions in Six Books"), first printed in 1527.[53][54]

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.[55] 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.[56] He speaks of the final destination that is the absolute principle of being variously as "Home", "Mother" (Mu), "True Emptiness" (Zhenkong) and "Limitless" (Wuji).[57] An experience similar to that of Luo can be found in the biography of Lin Zhao'en, the founder of the Sanyi religion.[58]

By the 17th century the teachings of Luo combined with other sect currents and folk beliefs, namely Maitreyan millenarianism and the folk goddess Wusheng Laomu ("Unborn Ancient Mother").[59] In the new mythological representation of Luo's enlightenment, humans are children of the primordial goddess.[60] 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.[61] 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",[62] or Xukong, "Emptiness".[63] It is commonly personified through the symbol of a goddess, Wusheng Laomu, the "Unborn Ancient Mother".[64] 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").[65]

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]").[66] The source of all being is also associated to the Big Dipper asterism.[67]

Luo Menghong's original revelation emphasises the impersonal representation of the absolute principle, using symbols such as Zhenkong.[68] However, he also talks of Wuji Shengzu ("Limitless Holy Patriarch") or in other occasions uses the symbol "Mother" (Mu or Niang).[69] Patriarch Luo was considered an incarnation of God, Wuji Shengzu, by his followers.[70]

Eschatology—the Three Suns[edit]

The Three Suns (三阳 sānyáng) eschatological doctrine places itself in a sect tradition ("Sanyang teaching", 三阳教 Sānyángjiào) flourishing at least since the Ming dynasty.[71] 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.[72] Although originally Taoist, these concepts became part of the folk tradition and were incorporated in the sect milieu.[73]

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.[74] In most sect scriptures, these three periods are known as Green Sun (qingyang), Red Sun (hongyang) and White Sun (baiyang).[75] Otherwise they are known by other names, variations originated by oral transmission of the teaching.[76]

The earliest written evidence of this doctrine can be found in the Huangji jieguo baojuan, published in 1430.[77] In this text the three stages are already associated to the three buddhas Dipankara, Gautama and Maitreya.[78]

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.[79] Wusheng Laomu or Wuji Gufo are personifications of this state.[80] 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.[81] Salvation is the realisation of one's true nature.[82]

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 Wukong teaching (悟空教 Wùkōng jiào, "Nothing-Void") and Changsheng teaching (长生教 Chángshēng jiào, "Eternal Life") or Changshengdao (长生道 "way of Eternal Life"), 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. ^ Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 169
  6. ^ Seiwert, 2003. pp. 214-215
  7. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 215
  8. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 215
  9. ^ Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 169
  10. ^ Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 169
  11. ^ Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 169
  12. ^ Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 172
  13. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 235
  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. 237
  35. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 238
  36. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 257
  37. ^ Seiwert, 2003. pp. 258-259
  38. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 259
  39. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 259
  40. ^ Ma, Meng. 2011. p. 173-175
  41. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 264
  42. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 505
  43. ^ Seiwert, 2003. pp. 264-265
  44. ^ Goossaert, Palmer. 2011. p. 209
  45. ^ Goossaert, Palmer. 2011. p. 209
  46. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  47. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  48. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  49. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  50. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  51. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  52. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 446
  53. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  54. ^ Wǔbùliùcè
  55. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  56. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  57. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  58. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 448
  59. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  60. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  61. ^ Nadeau, 2012. p. 231
  62. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  63. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 331
  64. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 331
  65. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  66. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  67. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  68. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  69. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  70. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 387
  71. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 326
  72. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 326
  73. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  74. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  75. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  76. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 327
  77. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 328
  78. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 328
  79. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 390
  80. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 390
  81. ^ Seiwert, 2003. p. 390
  82. ^ 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
  • Xisha Ma, Huiying Meng. Popular Religion and Shamanism. Brill, 2011. ISBN 9004174559

External links[edit]