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This article contains Chinese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.

The Three Pure Ones (Chinese: 三清pinyin: Sānqīng) also translated as the Three Pure Pellucid Ones, the Three Pristine Ones, the Three Clarities, or the Three Purities, are the three highest Taoist deities.

The religion of Taoism has many different deities that embody different qualities. Each respective deity has ceremonies pertaining to how people must appeal to them. Deities are worshiped in temples by many Taoists. The Three Pure Ones are examples of Taoist deities. They are the highest powers in the Taoist pantheon. "The Three Pure Ones" are manifestations of the primordial cosmic energy, Chi (Qi)." By the time of the Song Dynasty(~960-1127), the Three Pure Ones had come to represent the three divine natures of all living beings: past, present and future.

In the Taoist scheme of things, the entire manifested universe is ruled by three original forces, the Three Pure Ones. The Three Pure Ones were brought into existence through the interaction of yin and yang. The Taoist classic, the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu, tells us:

The tao produced the one (Tai Chi)
The one produced two (yin and yang)
The two produced the three (The three pure ones);
The three produced all the myriad beings (all of existence) (Yudelove, 114).

The "Three Pure ones" are:

The Jade Purity, The Yuanshi Tianzun (Chinese: 玉清; Pinyin: Yùqīng), is also known as "The Universally Honoured One of Origin", or "The Universal Lord of the Primordial Beginning" (元始天尊, Yuanshi Tianzun).

The Supreme Pure One, (Chinese: 上清; Pinyin: Shàngqīng), is also known as "The Universally Honoured One of Divinities and Treasures", or "The Universal Lord of the Numinous Treasure" (靈寶天尊, Lingbao Tianzun).

"In terms of worldview, the emergence of the Shàngqīng revelations signifies a major expansion of Taoism. Where the celestial masters had added the pure gods of the Tao to the popular pantheon, Shàngqīng enlarged this to include an entirely new layer of existence between the original, creative force of the Tao, represented by the deity "yuan shi tian wang" (heavenly king of primordial beginning), and created world as we know it. This celestial layer consisted of several different regions, located both in the far reaches of the world and in the stars, and imagined along the lines of the ancient paradises Penglai and Kunlun. It was populated by various divine figures: pure gods of the Tao who were emanations of original cosmic qi; immortals who had attained celestial status through effort and the proper elixir..." (Kohn, 89)

The Supreme Pure One is associated with yin and yang and was responsible as the custodian of the sacred book. Shangqing also calculates time and divides it into different epochs.

The Grand Pure One (Chinese: 太清; Pinyin: Tàiqīng), also known as "The Universally Honoured One of Tao and Virtues" or "The Universal Lord of the Way and its Virtue" (道德天尊, Daode Tianzun) or the "Grand Supreme Elder Lord" (太上老君, Taishang Laojun).

It is believed that Taishang Laojun manifested himself in the form of Lao Tzu. The Grand Pure One is also the treasurer of spirits, known as the Lord of Man who is the founder of Taoism. He is the most eminent, aged ruler, which is why he is the only Pure One depicted with a pure white beard.

"There seem to have been a number of stages in the process of Lao Tzu's eventual deification. First, the legendary figure began as a teacher and writer whose image eventually blended with that of the Yellow Emperor when Lao Tzu came to be identified as a confidant of royalty. Traditional accounts, such as the life-story summarized earlier, transformed him into a cultural hero whose mother conceived him virginally. By the mid-second century C.E., Lao Tzu had become the deity who delivered to Zhang Daoling the revelation of a new religious faith, giving rise to the Celestial Master's school. His image was still not complete. Next, perhaps, also around the second or third century CE, Laozi seems to have been identified as a creator god who also enters the world to rescue humanity from tribulation. Lao Tzu was now capable of incarnating himself, almost like Buddhist bodhisattva. Not long thereafter he joined the triad of the Three Pure Ones, and finally Lao Tzu emerged as the chief divine person. We have here one of the more interesting examples of apotheosis, or deification, in the history of religion."(Renard, 28)

According to Daozang, The Universally Honoured One of Tao and Virtues had manifested many various incarnations to teach living beings, and Lao Tzu is one of his incarnations.

Each of the Three Pure Ones represents both a deity and a heaven. The first heaven is Yu-Qing, and it is found in the Jade Mountain, The entrance to this heaven is named the Golden Door. "He is the source of all truth, as the sun is the source of all light". The Grand Pure One (Lao-Jun) rules over the heaven of Tai-Qing. The Supreme Pure One (Ling-Bao Tian-Song) rules over the heaven of Shang-Qing. The Three Pure Ones are often depicted as throned elders.

Schools of Taoist of thought developed around each of these deities. Taoist Alchemy was a large part of these schools, as each of the Three Pure Ones represented one of the three cinnabar fields of the body: jing, qi and shen. The congregation of all three Pure Ones resulted in the return to Tao.

The first pure one is universal or heavenly chi. The second pure one is human plane chi and third pure one is earth chi. Heavenly chi includes the chi or energy of all the planets, stars and constellations as well as the energy of god (the force of creation and universal love). Human plane chi is the energy that exists on the surface of our planet and sustains human life and the earth force includes all of the forces inside the planet as well as the five elemental forces.

See also


  • Barrow, Terrence; Williams, Charles Alfred Speed. "Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs." Tuttle Publishing, Singapore. 2006: 372.
  • Ching, Julie; "The Religious Thought of Chu His." Oxford University Press US, Oxford. 2000: 168-169.
  • Fowler, Jeaneane; "An introduction to the Philosophy and Religion of Taoism." Sussex Academic Press, Brighton, Portland. 2005: 202-205.
  • Dobbins, Frank Stockton; Williams, Samuel Wells; Halls, Isaac Hollister; "Errors Chains." Standard publishing house, California. 1883: 224
  • Kohn, Livia; " Daoism and Chinese Culture." Three Times Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2001: 89
  • Morgan, Harry.T; "Chinese Symbols and Superstitions." Gale Research Company, Detroit. 1972: 148.
  • "The Taoist Deities". October 19, 2008. [1]
  • Werner, E.T.C.; "Myths and Legends of China." Kessinger Publishing. 2003: 124-126.
  • Whiting, Roger; "Religions for Today." Nelson Thorne, Cheltemham. 1991: 14.
  • Yudelove, Eric; "100 Days to Better Health, Good Sex and Long Life." Llewellyn Worldwide, Saint Paul, MN. 1997: 114.
  • "Yu Di," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2008. [2]
  • "Yuan Shi," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia Yuan Shi," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2008. [3]

External links



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