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Wei Huacun
Traditional Chinese 魏華存
Simplified Chinese 魏华存

Wei Huacun (252–334), courtesy name Xianan (贤安), was a founder of the Shangqing sect of Daoism.

Overview

She was born in modern Jining, Shandong in former county Rencheng (任城) in 252. Her father, Wei Shu (魏舒), was a government official. From an early age she displayed a propensity for studying the works of Laozi and Zhuangzi, and practicing Daoist methods of cultivation.

At the age of 24, she was married to Liu Wen (刘文) against her will by her parents and had two sons. After they grew up, she resumed her Daoist practices. At some point she became a libation pourer in the priesthood of the Celestial Masters sect of Daoism.

According to her Shangqing hagiographers, her devotion to Daoist cultivation so impressed a number of immortals that she received revelations from them 31 volumes of Daoist scriptures which would become the foundation of Shangqing Daoism. Among these was the Yellow Court Classic (黄庭经), which detailed a form of meditation involving the visualizations of deities within the adept's body, a practice that would become a defining feature of Shangqing. Shangqing has sometimes been described as a "mystical" form of Daoism, emphasizing the notion of the human body as a microcosm containing universal energies, which could be actualized by ecstatic union with deities. With the emphasis on meditation, there would be much less attention paid to physiological cultivation by ingesting herbs and drugs, which had been important in earlier forms of Daoism.

When Wei's disciple Yang Xi (杨羲) formally founded the Shangqing school, 30 years after her passing, Wei was acknowledged as the first "patriarch" of Shangqing Daoism and, as an immortal, would be a source of continuing revelations. The sect would be centered on Mao Mountain (茅山), situated to the south of Nanjing, and would thus be also known as the Maoshan sect. From the 6th to the 10th century, Shangqing would be the most prominent Daoist sect and would gain favor among aristocrats of the Tang Dynasty court. The Shangqing scriptures were regarded as possessing a high literary quality that previous Daoist scriptures did not, and their vivid esoteric imagery was an inspiration to artists and poets.

References

This article contains Chinese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.
  • Qing, Xitai, "Wei Huacun". Encyclopedia of China (Religion Edition), 1st ed.
  • Robinet, Isabelle. Taoism: Growth of a Religion. Trans. Phyllis Brooks. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.
  • Saso, Michael. The Gold Pavilion: Taoist Ways to Peace, Healing, and Long-life.North Clarendon: Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1995.
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