Popular Religion and Shamanism, Part I : "Popular Religion"


Cap. 8. (pp. 315-338) Yu Songqing : "Secret Popular Religions of the Min and Qin Dynasties". [page #s in parentheses repraesent the pagination of the original publication in NAN-KAi XUE-BAO (THE NANKAI JOURNAL) No. 5 (1985).]

p. 317 (316) numerosity of the progeny of the Aeternal Venerable Mother

"The Eternal Venerable Mother sent her ninety-six hundred million sons and daughters – the "children of heavenly origin" (huangtai ernu: ...) ... – down to earth.

Having forgotten their nature in the mundane affairs, they need to be delivered and be sent back to their heavenly home – the "home of original simplicity and emptiness" (zhenkong jiaxiang ...)."

{This assertion of forgetfulness of original nature and necessity of being delivered and returned, is commonly made in Gnostic texts}

p. 318 (317) exemption of women from drinking the Lake of Blood

"The Precious Repentance of Blood Lake of Red Sun of the Primordial Origin (Hunyuan hongyang xuehu baochan ...), a scripture of the Red Sun Sect (Hongyang jiao ...), said : When the women in this world give birth to a child, ... waters {amniotic fluid} flow out of their body ... . After a woman’s death, her deliverance would depend on whether she had drunk the waters ... . This faith ... had a relationship with Daoism ... . ... The popular sects held that if the people recited these [Daoist] scriptures for a deceased woman, the woman would be exempted from drinking the water ... and be freed".

pp. 319-20 (318) supremacy of the Aeternal Venerable Mother

p. 319

"in the Red Sun Sect, the supreme god was ... the Patriarch of the Primordial Origin (hunyuan laozu ...) ... . In the Sect of Complete and Sudden Enlightenment (Yuandun jiao ...), this position was held ... by the Ancient Buddha As It Originally Is (tinzhen gufo ...).

In both the Red Sun Sect and the Sect of Complete and Sudden Enlightenment, however, the Eternal Venerable Mother ... was even said to have married the Patriarch of the Primordial Origin or the Ancient Buddha As It Originally Is. ...


In the Sect of Complete and Sudden Enlightenment, which emerged a little later than the Red Sun Sect, she enjoyed a more prestigious place than she had in Red Sun Sect. ...


The Dragon Flower Scripture ["Verified by the Ancient Buddha as It Originally Is" (p. 316)] said :


"After the emergence of the Ancient Buddha, heaven and earth was established;

after the rise of the Eternal Venerable Mother, Former Heaven was established."


It was also said : "The Eternal Venerable Mother begets yin and yang. The yin is the daughter and the yang is the son. Their names are Fuxi and Nu:wa .. ." {yin = goddess Nu:-wa; yan = god Fu-xi} ...

p. 320

The secret folk religions of the Qing not only worshiped the Eternal Venerable Mother as the supreme deity and took "zhen kong jia xiang wu sheng lao mu" (... the homeland of original simplicity and emptiness and the Eternal Venerable Mother) as its {their} eight-character mantra; they also venerated the Mother as the protector {protectrix} of their sect and its followers".

p. 321 (319) redunion with the Aeternal Venerable Mother

"The "Bodhisattva of the Great Vehicle" (dacheng pusa pin ...) section of The Precious Scroll of Explaining the Great Vehicle (Xiaoshi dacheng baojuan ...) depicts the happy scene when the Eternal Venerable Mother is reunited with her sons and daughters. It said : "... All children are redeemed and reunited. They have returned home ... . They see the Mother sitting on the Lotus Throne, surrounded by golden light. ... When children and mother meet, both are smiling. The Mother feels happy. It is the great day of reunion. All people walk on the road of Bodhi (enlightenment) and join in the Dragon Flower Assembly, where the children throw themselves into the Mother’s arms. The Mother sits aloft on the nine-level lotus seat and looks happy and at ease. Light illuminates everything and all of them enjoy ultimate joy. When the children see their Mother, they smile with heartfelt delight.""

p. 322 (319) incarnation of the Aeternal Venerable Mother

According to the "patriarch of the Red Sun Sect in the period of Daoguang ..., the Mother had been reincarnated in Guogongying of Qingyuan County (Hebei) during the reign of Kangxi. She had been married and given birth to a child. Then her husband abandoned her. Later, her son was struck down by light[n]ing. After these [events], she began practicing and teaching disciples in a big temple of Guogongying."

p. 322 (320) other female deities

"there were many other female deities in the secret folk religions of Ming and Qing dynasties. ... some came from Chinese myths, such as

the Auntie Queen Mother (wangmu niangniang ...),

the Venerable Mother of Mount Li (lishan laomu ...) and

the Seventh Immortal Woman (qixiang ...)".

p. 322 (320) the s^i-bu xiu-xin (‘10-step practice’), as expounded in "The Precious Scroll of Attaining the Origin of the August Ultimate Spoken by the Buddha (Foshuo huangji shouyuan baojuan ...)"

"In the ten-step practice,

the first is the Seven Mountains, which is are guarded by the Patriarch of Heavenly Origin (Tianyuan zu ...) and the Earth Flower Mother (Dihua mu ..);

from the six passes of the second step to the six passes of the sixth, each is guarded by the Grand Mother ... ."

pp. 322-3 (320) goddesses worshipped in the White Waterlily Sect

p. 322

"In the early years of Qianlong, the deities worshipped by "A Branch of Flowers" -- ... a female head of White Lotus Sect ... – included

"the Grand Mothers of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism (Sanjiao zumu ...),

the twelve Old Mothers

p. 323

and the Sacred Mothers of Nine Dragons (Jiulong shengmu ...)."

p. 323 (320) as promulgated by the "Way of Sages and Virtues" (S^en-xian Dao) : sets of : palace, heaven, and level, leading to the Aeternal Venerable Mother [as recorded in "Transcripts of Memorial to the Throne Preserved by the Grand Council .., in the First Archives of China in the Forbidden City ..., no. 2307"]

the Palace of __

in the Heaven of __

is ruled by the Sacred Mother of the __ Level





Min & Na-mo-sa








Dan-qiu of Wu-s^ui


5th, who is the Aeternal Venerable Mother

pp. 325-6 the West Great Vehicle Sect and its scriptures

p. 325


"the West Great Vehicle Sect (Xi dacheng jiao ...) ... was established by ... a nun, whose name was Lu: Niu ... . ...



"The Lady Lu: Stops the Imperial Vehicle" (Lu:shi jujia ...) of Miscellaneous Collections in the Date Grove (Zaolin zazhu ...), written by Tan Qian ... in the Ming ... was a story about Lu: Niu. ... In The Precious Scroll of New Enlightenment and Salvation of All Sentient Beings (Pudu xinsheng jiuku baojuan), this story was further elaborated to say that the nun disguised herself as an insane woman who urged the Emperor not to fight. ... . ... this nun often visited the imperial court and later built the Temple of Protecting the Ming. This temple was the birthplace of the West Great Vehicle Sect. ...

p. 326


Among the nuns at the Temple of Protecting the Ming ... was Zhang Guiyuan ... from the reign of Jiajing. Zhang completed a new set of scriptures – "Five Sections and Six Volumes" (wubu liuce ...), which was modeled on the "Five Sections and Six Volumes" of Luo Qing ..., the founding patriarch of the Luo Sect (Luo jiao ...). It included :"


Xiao-s^i __ Bao-juan

‘Explaining- __ Pretious-Scroll’-



the Great-Vehicle



the Perfect-Penetration



the Manifestation of the Nature



the Perfect-Enlightenment


S^ou-yuan Xin-jue

the Attainment of the Origin and the Wisdom of Enlightenment

p. 327 (323) transformation of the Smelling Incense Teaching into the Sect of Complete and Sudden Enlightenment

"The founder of the Sect of Complete and Sudden Enlightenment was Gong Chang ... . ... Gong was originally a head of a small group in the Smelling Incense Teaching (Wenxiang jiao ...). He was introduced by sister [nun] Zhang Cui to the Patriarch Wang. In "Lineage of the Lotus Patriarchs", Zhang [Cui] was called "Sister Zhang Cuihua ... of the Central Sacred Land." ... Beneath her, there were Ten Guardians of Virtue. ... She recommended Gong Chang to Patriarch Wang, one of descendants of Wang Sen, in Shifokou of Luanzhou. ... Later the successors of this sect continued the work of preaching the doctrine of the Smelling Incense Teaching

in the name of the Pure Tea Teaching (Qingchamen jiao ...) or

{cf. the name of the "Tea Party" of Ron Paul}

the Sect of Complete and Sudden Enlightenment."

pp. 327-8 (323) origin of the Dragon Gate Sect

p. 327

"The Dragon Gate Sect (Longmen jiao ...) was founded by Granny Mi ... . According to the Volume Forty-One of Collected Memorials of Na Yancheng ..., the Lord of Learnedness and Fortitude (Na wenyi gong zouyi ...), Granny Mi lived in the period of Wangli and she was married to a man surnamed Liu. This woman had been conferred the title of "Mother Superintendent of the Teaching and Attaining the Origin" (Zhangdao shouyuan laomu ...) by the emperor ... .

Madam Liu-Gong ... and her son, who were ... spreading this sect in the years of Jiaqing, were twelfth-generation descendants of Granny Mi. The Dragon Gate Sect prevailed in northern Hebei. In Haocheng of Hebei, there was a temple dedicated the Granny Mi, where Granny Mi’s tomb was located ... . ... The Scroll of Nine-Level Attainment of the Origin (Jiupin shouyuan juan ...), contained the words : "The family Liu ...

p. 328

knows that the throne of the Family Zhu ["... the surname of the Ming royal family"] has been unstable. Liu is chasing a pig ["pig ‘zhu ...’ is homophonous"] ... . In the year of jiazi, the sage descends. At the time of wu on the third day of the third month, the family Li ... rises up. In the year of three jia ..., the dragon and snake appears and the region of Youyan (... i.e., the location of Beijing) shall be punished with disasters."

It was said that "the third day of the third month" was the birthdate of Granny Mi. The surname of her husband was "Liu ..."; thus "Liu is chasing a pig (Zhu ...)." ... "(T)he family of Li rises up" means that they joined the forces of Li Zicheng (... a rebel who ... overthrew the Ming before ... the Manchu Qing)." {"LZ"}

"LZ" = "Li Zicheng (Chuang Wang)" http://history.cultural-china.com/en/46History2745.html

pp. 328-9 other foundresses-originatrices of religious sects

p. 328


"Madam Wei-Wang ..., also known as the Vegetarian Granny Wei (Weizhaipo ...) ... was conferred the title of "Superintendent of the Right and Charge of the Left Central Palace" and she was then promoted to "Primordial Buddha of the Administration-General Palace."



"When The Precious Scroll of the Happiness of All Sentient Beings (Zhongxi baojuan ...) introduced


the Dark Blue Sun Sect (Xuanyang jiao ...),

{I have often witnessed the sun praeternaturally appear dark-blue in the cloudless sky.}


it mentioned a Madam Jin ... from Zhucheng

p. 329


of Shandong, who created the Sect of Supporting the Sun (Tuoyang jiao ..) in the period of Daoguang."


"The Veritable Record of the Emperor Gao of Qing Dynasty (Qing Gaozong shilu ...) recorded that ... Madam Liu and Madam Zhao-Wang ... co-administered the Red Sun Sect."

pp. 329-30 religious sects whose male founders were succeeded by a woman

p. 329


"Madam Zhang ... was the wife of Li Tiancheng ... ,

p. 330


the leader of the Heavenly Principle Teaching in the period of Jiaqing. After Li died ..., Madam Zhang became the leader".



In the Qian-lon reign, " "A Branch of Flowers" (Yi zhi hua ...), the female head of the White Lotus Sect, was ... in Funiu Mountain in Henan. Her surname was Cai ... . She claimed to have been sent by the founding patriarch. Therefore, she was worshiped by followers and was called the female general superintendent. ... In Cai’s religious group ..., a woman surnamed Hao ... called herself the Mother of Lily Magnolia (Yulan laomu ...). Deities worshiped by this sect were largely female, such as

the Mother of Three Teachings (Sanjiao zumu ...),

the Twelve Mothers (Shi-er zumu ...) and

the Nine-Dragon Mother (Jiulong zumu ...). ...


This woman, "A Branch of Flowers from Funiu Mountain," organized an insurgency that was woman-centered and" religious.

{cf. The women –"insurgents" in Lusistrate, line 266 ("L266").}

"L266" = http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0242%3Acard%3D266

p. 330 women prominent in religious sects having male leaders

p. 330 (324)

"Moreover, in the years of Wanli, Liu Tianxu ... called himself the Patriarch of Non-Action and the reincarnation of the August Ultimate Buddha of Sunshine ... . Among his followers, Madam Yue, a widow, declared herself to be Bodhisattva Guanyin. [DB]


Wang Lun ... from Shandong claimed to be the Patriarch of Original Chaos ... with the "Ten-Finger Mother," his wife." ["WC"]

p. 331 (325)

"In the ... Qianlong ..., ... the Pristine Water Teaching (Qingshui jiao ...) ... was led by Wang Lun ... in Shandong. In this ..., Madam Yu (a.k.a. the Five-Sage Mother) ... was the sister-in-law of Wang Lun". [YJ, vol. 6]

DB = The Posthumous Collection of Ding Bin.

"WC" = "Sealed Memorials to the Throne by Wang Cong-yi".

YJ = Yu Jiao : Miscellaneous Writings in the Booth of Dream (Men-c^an Za-z^u).

pp. 335-6 religious sects involved in sexual behaviour

p. 335 (328)

"the words of ... a follower of the Subsidized-Student Sect (Linsheng jiao ...) ... read as follows : "I joined the heterodoxy ... because ... I could meet young ladies and chose one of them (for sex).""

p. 335, fn. 21

"Among important and influential sects ... put on the tag of "excessive indulgence in sex ..." : "The Stealth Society (Qiaoqiao hui ...), which prevailed in Shaanxi and Gansu in the years of Jiaqing of Qing, was one. In the sect, there were halls named such as "Disseminating Elixir" (chuandan ...), "Tossing Elixir" (gundan ...), "Receiving Elixir" (dedan ...) and the like." ("Transcripts of Memorial to the Throne Preserved by the Grand Council" (Jun-ji-c^u Lu Fu Zou-z^e), n. 2297)

p. 336 (329)

"The Precious Scroll of the Happiness of All Sentient Beings (Zhongxi baojuan ...), which was compiled by Chen Zhongxi in the reign of Daoguang, listed seventy secret religious sects. Among these, some, such as

the Heavenly Sun Sect (Qianyang jiao ...) in Xinyang of Henan,

the Pristine Obscurity Sect (Qingxuan jiao ...) in Hangzhou, and

the Sect of the Kan-Li Trigram (Kan Li jiao ...) created by Huaqingong ... in Beijing[,]

worked enthusiastically on the art of sexual nutrition (absorbing yin and replenishing yang) and circulating the vital breath. These were non-mainstream Daoist sects".


RELIGIOUS STUDIES IN CONTEMPORARY CHINA COLLECTION, Vol. 1 = Ma Xisha & Meng Huiying (edd.) : Popular Religion and Shamanism. Brill, Leiden, 2011.