Yiguandao (simplified Chinese: 一贯道; traditional Chinese: 一貫道; pinyin: Yīguàn Dào; Wade–Giles: I-Kuan Tao)[α], meaning the Consistent Way or Persistent Way, is a Chinese salvationist religious sect that emerged from the Xiantiandao ("Way of Former Heaven") tradition in the late 19th century, in Shandong, to become China's most important redemptive society in the 1930s and 1940s, especially during the Japanese invasion.[9] In the 1930s Yiguandao spread rapidly throughout China led by Zhang Tianran, who is the eighteenth patriarch of the Xiantiandao lineage, among thousands of other movements that thrived since the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1911.[10]

In the 1930s Yiguandao was a local religion of Shandong with a few thousand followers, but under Zhang Tianran's leadership and with missionary work the group grew to become the biggest movement in China in the 1940s with millions of followers.[10] After 1949, Xiantiandao sects were proscribed as illegal secret societies and heretical cults. While still banned in China, Yiguandao was legally recognised in Taiwan in 1987 and has flourished since then.[11] In the years 2000–2005 the ban on Yiguandao was lifted in China too, and branches of the movement were tacitly allowed to return to the mainland.[12]

Yiguandao is characterised by an eschatological and soteriological doctrine, presenting itself as the only way to salvation. It also encourages adherents to engage in missionary activity.[5] Yiguandao is the worship of the source of the universal reality personified as the Eternal Venerable Mother, or the Splendid Highest Deity (Chinese: 明明上帝; pinyin: Míngmíng Shàngdì) as in other folk religions. The highest deity is the primordial energy of the universe, identified in Yiguandao thought with the Tao in the wuji or "unlimited" state and with fire. The name used in contemporary Yiguandao scriptures is the "Infinite Mother" (Chinese: 无极母; pinyin: Wújímǔ) and the "lantern of the Mother" (Chinese: 母灯; pinyin: mǔdēng)—a flame representing the Mother—is the central focus of Yiguandao shrines.[5]

Yiguandao symbol red
TypeWay of Former Heaven sect
ClassificationChinese salvationist religion
FounderWang Jueyi
Originlate 19th century
MembersChina, 1940s: 12 million[1]
Japan: ~50.000[2]
South Korea, 2015: 1,3 million[3]
Taiwan, 2005: 810.000[4]
Other name(s)Zhenli Tiandao (真理天道), Tiandao (天道)


Eternal Venerable Mother

Yiguandao focuses on the worship of the Infinite Mother (Wujimu), also known as the Eternal Venerable Mother (Wusheng Laomu), which is also a feature of other Chinese folk religions. It is the source of things, not female nor male, though it is called "mother" or "matrix". It is the primordial force of the universe, the fire, that animates all things. It is the Tao, as Yiguandao doctrines explain:[5]

As the personification of the primordial force, a prototype of the Eternal Mother was given in the works of Luo Qing. At first he used the concept of Wuji ("Unlimited") to refer to the origin of the universe, arguing that Wuji gives birth to heaven and earth and supports all things. Later Luo created a literary personification of the universal source, the "Holy Patriarch of the Great Void" (Wuji Shengzu).[5]

In the 16th century the Eternal Mother began to take the place of the Holy Patriarch. A mythology surrounding the Mother began to form, integrating the beliefs about Maitreya, which had been widespread since the Yuan dynasty. The Maitreya belief is millenarian, claiming that the world would come to an end soon and Maitreya would incarnate himself in the physical plane to save humanity.[5]

In the Mother belief, the Maitreya is one of the three enlightened beings sent by the Mother herself to bring salvation.[5] Further myths explained the creation of the world and mankind: the Eternal Venerable Mother gave birth to yin and yang and two children, Fuxi and Nüwa, who begot auspicius stars and all sentient beings. The human beings were sent to the east and lost their memory of the Mother. The myth of Fuxi and Nüwa is found also in orthodox Chinese mythology.[13]

The figure of the Eternal Mother derives from that of Xiwangmu, the "Queen Mother of the West", the ancient mother goddess of China, related to the mythical Kunlun, the axis mundi, and thus to the Hundun.[13] The Infinite Mother is thought as omnipotent, and regarded by Yiguandao followers as merciful, worried by her sons and daughters who lost their true nature, and for this reason trying to bring them back to the original heaven. Through its development, the Eternal Mother belief has shown the qualities of the three goddesses Xiwangmu, Nüwa and Guanyin.[14]

Gods and teachers

In a typical Yiguandao temple there are, just in front of the flame representing the Mother, Maitreya in the central position, accompanied by Jigong, Yuehui (or Guanyin), Guangong and another deity of one's own choice. In addition, any deity from the Chinese tradition may have a position in the pantheon.[14]

As Yiguandao written material explains:[15]

The important thing to keep in mind is that these deities [...] serve as reminders for us to always keep their teachings in mind, and we honour them for the virtues they embody, such as tolerance, open mind, cheerfulness and generosity (Maitreya); justice, fairness, honour, courage and loyalty (Guangong); compassion, giving, caring and nurturing (Guanyin).

The patriarchs of the faith are Zhang Tianran and Sun Suzhen. They are considered the final patriarchs of the divine revelation and are revered as divine entities.[16]


Yiguandao cosmology
Diagram showing Yiguandao cosmology (in Chinese).

Yiguandao conceives the cosmos as tripartite, consisting of litian (the right heaven), qitian (the spiritual heaven) and xiangtian (the material plane). Litian is the heaven of the Eternal Mother, where there's no cycle of rebirth; qitian is the plane imbued by the gods and spirits who despite being in a higher realm than human beings, can still incarnate as matter.[17] Xiangtian is the physical world that is composed of all visible things, with colors and shapes, including all the stars and the sky. Only litian is eternal, and qitian and xiangtian will be re-absorbed into litian.[17]


Yiguandao involves an eschatologicalsoteriological belief: Grieving over the loss of her children, the Eternal Mother sent to the material world three enlightened beings over the "Three Eras". Accordingly, the human history is divided into "Three Eras": Qingyang Qi or Green Yang Era, Hongyang Qi or Red Yang Era, and Baiyang Qi or White Yang Era. Dipankara Buddha presided over salvation in the Green Yang Era, Gautama Buddha in the Red Yang Era, and Maitreya Buddha will preside over the third period of salvation, the White Yang Era, which began in 1912.[18]

Extreme ruthlessness and craftiness in human behaviour and disasters are associated with the end of the third period and final salvation. Cultivation of the Tao is the opportunity of repenting and purifying during the White Yang Era. Those who devote their efforts to the spread of the Tao will be repaid for their merits, regardless of their societal status.[18]

Practices and writings

Three Treasures

The rite of initiation involves the "offering of the Three Treasures" (chuan Sanbao), which are the xuanguan (the heavenly portal), the koujue (a mantra), and hetong (the hand gesture).[19] The Three Treasures are the saving grace offered by the Eternal Mother to people who received the initiation. They enable Yiguandao members to transcend the circle of birth and death and directly ascend to Heaven after they die.[20]

Yiguandao followers regard the initiation ceremony as the most important ritual.[20] The full meaning of the Three Treasures is a secret of Yiguandao followers and is strictly prohibited to be spread openly to outsiders who did not go through the initiation process.[21] The Three Treasures are also used in daily life as a form of meditation.[22]

Yiguandao Canon

A unitary anthology of Yiguandao's writings, the Yiguandao Canon (一貫道藏 Yīguàndào zàng), was published in the 2010s with the purpose of offering a systematic overview of the religious doctrines.[23]


19th century origins

Yiguandao originated in the late 19th century in Shandong as a branch of Xiantiandao ("Way of Former Heaven"), which in turn was founded in Jiangxi in the 17th century Qing dynasty as an offshoot of the Venerable Officials' teaching of fasting (老官齋教 Lǎoguān zhāijiào), a branch of the Dacheng (大乘 "Great Vehicle") or Yuandun (圆顿 "Sudden Stillness") eastern proliferation of Luoism.[24][25] It has also been traced to the White Lotus tradition.[11][26][27]

In the 1870s, under persecutions from the Qing, Xiantiandao fragmented into several independent groups. One branch led by the Shandong native Wang Jueyi later developed into Yiguandao.[28] According to Yiguandao records, Wang Jueyi was designated as the 15th patriarch of Xiantiandao through a divine revelation through writing.[28] Wang renamed his sect the "Final Salvation" (Mohou Yizhu) and deeply contributed to the development of its theology and ritual, now being regarded as the real founder of modern Yiguandao.[28]

After a persecution started in 1883 becaused the Qing suspected that the sect intended to organise a rebellion, Wang was forced to live secretly until his death.[29] Liu Qingxu succeeded the leadership becoming the 16th patriarch. In 1905, borrowing a Confucius saying that "the way that I follow is the one that unifies all" (wudao yiyiguanzhi), he gave the religion the name Yiguandao ("Unity Way").[29]

Under Liu the Yiguandao remained small. Things changed after Lu Zhongyi became the 17th patriarch in 1919. Claiming to be the incarnation of Maitreya, Lu gathered thousands of members in Shandong. When Lu died in 1925 one group of the followers he left was led by Zhang Tianran, the man who became the 18th patriarch in following years.[29]

Zhang Tianran's leadership and spread in the 1930s

Zhang Tianran
Zhang Tianran.

Between the late years of the Qing dynasty and 1945, China went through a period of crisis, civil unrest and foreign invasion.[30] The Confucian orthodoxy and the empire crumbled quickly. In the republican China between 1912 and 1949 folk religious sects mushroomed and expanded rapidly.[30]

Zhang Tianran, whose secular name was Zhang Guangbi, was born in 1889 in Jining, Shandong. In 1915, he was initiated into Yiguandao by Lu Zhongyi, the 17th patriarch of the sect. After the death of Lu in 1925 the movement fragmented due to strife over the leadership. One of the subgroups that formed was led by Zhang Tianran.[31]

In 1930, Zhang Tianran became the 18th patriarch of Yiguandao.[29] He took Sun Suzhen as his partner, proclaiming that their marriage was a message from the Eternal Mother, and that he was the incarnation of Jigong, a deified miracle monk that lived between the late 12th and the 13th century.[32] However, few members welcomed the new claims; many challenged the validity of the revelation and left the group. For this reason, Zhang Tianran and his wife moved to Jinan in 1931. There, different religious groups were competing with each other, and Zhang Tianran began preaching Yiguandao himself.[31]

Zhang Tianran recruited hundreds of followers, and Jinan became the main base of Yiguandao.[33] Many initiated members began preaching in other big cities, where Yiguandao was well received. From 1934 Yiguandao missionaries were sent to Tianjin and Qingdao. To facilitate the spread Zhang Tianran restructured Yiguandao, that since then had preserved the nine-levels structure (jiupin liantai) of Xiantiandao. The new structure had four levels, Zhang as the patriarch, and below him the leaders of the way (daozhang), the initiators (dianchuan shi), and further below the masters of the altars (tanzhu). The initiators functioned as missionaries, while the masters of altars were managers of administrative units composed of multiple congregations.[33]

With the rapid growth of Yiguandao, Zhang Tianran's status as a divine patriarch (shizun) was strengthened, with a large number of pamphlets published to justify his divinity. The following one is an example:[34]

When our great teacher was born, his eyes and eyebrows were perfectly shaped, and there was depth and wisdom in his eyes. [...] On his forehead, he had a third eye. His nose was straight like that of a dragon, and his head was like that of a god. His mouth was perfect and he already had a long beard. His earlobes touched his shoulders, and his arms were very long (all signs of great wisdom and ability). He walked beautifully and perfectly, with long strides, and was obviously not of the mortal world. On his left hand, he had a red birthmark shaped like the sun and on his right one like the moon; they were so red that they would leave a mark when he touched his hand to paper. On his left foot, he had the seven stars of the Big Dipper, and on his right foot, the six stars of the Southern Dipper. Because of this, although he had been born into the mortal world, everyone knew that he was one with the Universe—the living enlightened Jigong, who was sent by heaven to save humanity.

Fuji, shanshu and rituals

Yiguandao oil lamp
An oil lamp is an element at the center of a Yiguandao shrine, below the effigy of Maitreya.

With its centralised authority and highly organised form, Yiguandao had an extraordinary power of mobilisation. At first, fuji, the practice of receiving direct revelations from the gods which is closely linked to the Chinese intellectual tradition since the Song dynasty, contributed to the dynamism of the movement.[35]

Divine revelations were published in "morality books" (shanshu), and distributed to the general public for moral edification of the society. Divine writing was also used to offer oracles for everyday problems.[36]

Fuji was introduced into Yiguandao despite Wang Jueyi, the 15th patriarch of the lineage, discouraging it. Zhang Tianran distinguished between "innate writing" (xiantian ji), received by juvenile media and considered superior to "acquired writing" (houtian ji), received by old media. Youth purity is considered more conductive of divine revelation. Zhang emphasised that only Yiguandao fuji is xiantian ji (revealing the original Heaven).[36]

Divinely inspired writing was later rejected by some branches of Yiguandao, as new scriptures produced new schisms, and gradually declined within the religion as a whole.[37]

Yiguandao also spread and gathered financial support through the performance of "rituals of salvation of the ancestors".[36] Rules and practices for the followers were also systematised.[38] Zhang Tianran also gave much importance to aggressive missionary work, contrasting with the Chinese tradition of peaceful coexistence. In 1938 he held missionary workshops named "stove meetings" (lu hui) to train missionaries in Tianjin.Hundreds of missionaries were trained in these workshops, and they were sent all over the country. Many became influential leaders of Yiguandao.[39]

Rapid growth in the 1940s

Through missionary activity, in the political and social turmoil caused by the Japanese invasion of China in the 1940s, that made Yiguandao's millenarian beliefs more convincing to the masses, the religion grew rapidly, reaching an estimated membership of 12 million.[1] Even a number of top officials of the Japanese puppet government of Wang Jingwei converted to Yiguandao.[40]

Suppression in China after 1949

With the rise of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, Yiguandao was suppressed, being viewed as the biggest reactionary huidaomen. In December 1950 The People's Daily published the editorial "Firmly Banning Yiguandao" (Jianjue Qudi Yiguandao), proclaiming that the movement had been used as a counterrevolutionary tool by imperialists and the Kuomintang. The article claimed that Yiguandao members were traitors collaborating with the Japanese invaders, Kuomintang spies, and reactionary landlords.[41]

The editorial marked the beginning of the country-wide campaign of eradication of Yiguandao. The main target of the campaign was to destroy the movement's organisation and leadership. The top leaders were executed or sent to prison, the members were forced to undergo political re-education and they were kept under close surveillance.[42]

An exhibition denouncing Yiguandao was held in Beijing in January 1951. In 1952 the communists released "The Way of Persistently Harming People" (Yiguan Hairen Dao), a film against Yiguandao. A number of Yiguandao believers, including Sun Suzhen, fled to Hong Kong and later to Taiwan, where the religion currently thrives.[43]

Spread to other regions and return to the mainland

2014TIBE Day6 Hall1 I-Kuan Tao 20140210
Yiguandao advocated stand at the 22nd Taipei International Book Fair (2014), near the Taipei World Trade Center.
The Old Town Hall 14B Orford Road Walthamstow Village London E17 9LN
Yiguandao UK headquarters in Walthamstow, London.


In Kuomintang-governed Taiwan after 1949, there was initially a climate of restrictions of Chinese traditional religions and Yiguandao was attacked as immoral, politically charged, and suspect of cooperation with communists of mainland China. Yiguandao was officially outlawed in 1952 and driven underground. The Buddhist circles of Taiwan actively participated in the demonisation of Yiguandao criticising it as heterodox "White Lotus" and called for its suppression, and succeeded in opposing the government when there was a proposal for lifting the ban in 1981.[44]

In the period of rapid economic growth of Taiwan, starting in the 1960s and proceeding through the 1980s and 1990s, Yiguandao spread its influence by entering business and industrial development. Many members became important businessmen, for instance Zhang Rongfa, the founder of the Evergreen Marine Corporation, was the chief initiator of a Yiguandao subdivision and in the 1990s almost all the managers of his corporation were Yiguandao members.[45] The same strategy of "combining missionary work and business" facilitates the development of Yiguandao in mainland China, where Yiguandao businessmen began reestablishing the religion since the 1980s by means of investment.[46] Another mean by which Yiguandao expanded in Taiwan was that of charity.[47]

Through the years of the ban Yiguandao persisted as an underground phenomenon. In 1963 it was reported that the religion had about fifty thousand members, and grew rapidly through the 1970s and the 1980s, counting more than 324,000 members in 1984. Five years later in 1989 Yiguandao had 443.000 members or 2.2% of Taiwan's population.[48] Recognising the social power of the religion, the Kuomintang officially gave Yiguandao legal status on 13 January 1987.[49] As of 2005 Yiguandao has 810.000 members in Taiwan (3.5% of the population) and tens of thousands of worship halls.[50] Its members operate many of Taiwan's vegetarian restaurants.


Yiguandao was transmitted in the Korean peninsula (where its name is vocalised 일관도 Ilgwando) in the 1940s through the pioneering work of Dukbuk Lee, Sujeun Jang, Buckdang Kim and Eunsun Kim. Korean Ilgwando is incorporated as the International Moral Association which was founded in the 1960s by Buckdang Kim (1914-1991), and as of 2015 it has 1.3 million members in South Korea (2.5% of the population).[3]


In the 1950s Yiguandao spread to Japan (where its name is Ikkandō), during the persecutions in mainland China, and there it has attracted about fifty thousand members from both Chinese minorities and Japanese ethnic groups. It is articulated into two main branches: ① Kōmōseidōin (孔孟聖道院 Kǒng Mèng Shèngdào Yuàn, "School of the Holy Way of Confucius and Mencius") and Sentendaidōnihonsoōtendan (先天大道日本総天壇 Xiāntiāndàdào Rìběn Zǒng Tiāntán, "Japan Headquarters of the Great Way of Former Heaven") with 8000 members each; and ② Tendō (天道 Tiāndào, "Heavenly Way") and Tendo Sotendan (天道総天壇 Tiāndào Zǒng Tiāntán, "Headquarters of the Heavenly Way") respectively with 300 and 30.000 members.[2]

Southeast Asia

Since the 1970s Yiguandao spread to Southeast Asia. In Thailand (where it is named อนุตตรธรรม Anuttharatham) it has grown so strong in recent decades to come into conflict with Buddhism; as of 2009 there were over 7000 worship halls, and it is reported that 200.000 Thais each year convert into the religion.[8] In Singapore the Yiguandao has three great public halls (white multiple-storied buildings with traditional Chinese architectural features) and more than 2000 house churches.[51]

Mainland China

The relationship between the government of mainland China and Yiguandao began to change by the mid-1980s.[52] In those years, Yiguandao was spreading secretly back to mainland China from Taiwan; entrepreneurs belonging to Yiguandao were building temples, networks and factories.[53] According to scholar Philip Clart, missionaries from Taiwan have been particularly active in proselytisation in Fujian, where there is strong presence of Taiwanese-owned companies and joint ventures.[54] According to a 1996 report the movement can be found in every province of China, and in 1978 there was one of the biggest cases of government suppression against the "Fraternal Army of the Soldiers of Heaven" (天兵弟子军 Tiānbīng Dìzǐjūn)[55] formed by thousands of Yiguandao members.[56] As of 1999 the Japanese publication Tokyo Sentaku reported that there were 2 million Tiandao members in Sichuan, equal to 2.4% of the province's population.[57]

In the 1990s backroom meetings between Chinese government officials and representatives of Yiguandao were held; by the mid-2000s these meetings had become public. Between 2000 and 2005 Yiguandao was removed from the Chinese government's official list of "evil cults", and branches of the organisation were tacitly allowed to return to China.[58] Yiguandao also cooperates with academic and non-governmental organisations in mainland China.[59] In an attitude of growing interest for the movement on the mainland, by the 2010s a Yiguandao text was published in the People's Republic.[60]

Structure and schisms

Yiguandao is a collection of at least nineteen divisions (subsects).[50] Generally all of them share the rule to not proselytise among members of other branches of the "golden line" of Yiguandao.[37] Since the 1980s some denominations of Yiguandao have established a professionalised clergy.[61]

The primary organisation unit of Yiguandao are local worship halls (佛堂 fótáng, literally "halls of awakening"). Although some of them may develop into elaborate complexes of public buildings, they are in most cases private house churches (the gatherings are held in private homes of Yiguandao members), a type of organism which provides Yiguandao the ability to blossom in the private sphere circumventing states' definitions and management of "religion".[51]

There are a number of divisions which are no longer considered to be part of Yiguandao; some of them are: the Miledadao founded by Wang Haode in 1982, the Haizidao founded by Lin Jixiong in 1984, the Holy Church of the Middle Flower (Zhonghua Shengjiao) founded by Ma Yongchang in 1980, the Guanyindao founded by Chen Huoguo in 1984, the Yuande Shentan founded by Wu Ruiyuan, and the Jiulian Shengdao founded by Lin Zhenhe in 1992.[37]

See also


  1. ^ Japanese: 一貫道 Ikkandō;[6]
    Korean: 일관도 Ilgwando;[7]
    Thai: อนุตตรธรรม Anuttharatham.[8]


  1. ^ a b Lu 2008, pp. 37–38.
  2. ^ a b Ng Ka Shing. Yiguan Dao in Japan: A Case Study of a Chinese Religion in the Japanese Settings.
  3. ^ a b Kim 2015.
  4. ^ "Taiwan Yearbook 2006". Government of Information Office. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-07-08. Retrieved 2007-09-01.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Lu 2008, p. 23.
  6. ^ Kubo Noritada. "Ikkando ni tsuite (On the Unity Sect)". Toyo Bunka Kenkyujo kiyo, n. 4, March 1953: 186-187.
  7. ^ Official website: Korean 일관도 Ilgwando International Morality Association
  8. ^ a b Yusheng Lin. Yiguandao and Buddhism in Thailand. 2015.
  9. ^ Ownby (2015), pp. 702–703.
  10. ^ a b Lu 2008, p. 21.
  11. ^ a b Goossaert, Palmer, 2011. p. 340
  12. ^ Kuo (2017), p. 245.
  13. ^ a b Lu 2008, p. 24.
  14. ^ a b Lu 2008, p. 25.
  15. ^ Lu 2008, pp. 150–151.
  16. ^ Lu 2008, pp. 143–144.
  17. ^ a b Lu 2008, p. 27.
  18. ^ a b Lu 2008, p. 26.
  19. ^ Lu 2008, pp. 27, 106.
  20. ^ a b Lu 2008, p. 28.
  21. ^ Lu 2008, pp. 27–28.
  22. ^ Lu 2008, p. 106.
  23. ^ Billioud (2017), p. 211.
  24. ^ Ma (2011), p. 173–175.
  25. ^ Palmer (2011), p. 4.
  26. ^ Topley, 2011. p. 211
  27. ^ Ter Harr, 1999. pp. 16-59
  28. ^ a b c Lu (2008), p. 3.
  29. ^ a b c d Lu (2008), p. 4.
  30. ^ a b Lu 2008, pp. 29–30.
  31. ^ a b Lu 2008, p. 31.
  32. ^ Lu 2008, pp. 31–33.
  33. ^ a b Lu 2008, p. 32.
  34. ^ Lu 2008, p. 34.
  35. ^ Lu 2008, p. 34a: "Also the use of spirit writing accounted for the sect's amazing power of mobilization. [...] Spirit writing activity was closely linked to the Chinese intellectual tradition. As a divinatory way of gaining some foreknowledge of examination questions, spirit writing had been widely practiced by the educated, especially examination candidates, since the Song dynasty."
  36. ^ a b c Lu 2008, p. 35.
  37. ^ a b c Lu 2008, p. 101.
  38. ^ Lu 2008, p. 36.
  39. ^ Lu 2008, p. 37.
  40. ^ Lu 2008, p. 38.
  41. ^ Lu 2008, p. 39.
  42. ^ Lu 2008, p. 40.
  43. ^ Lu 2008, p. 41.
  44. ^ Lu 2008, pp. 49–50.
  45. ^ Lu 2008, pp. 58–59.
  46. ^ Lu 2008, p. 59.
  47. ^ Lu 2008, p. 60.
  48. ^ Lu 2008, p. 63.
  49. ^ Lu 2008, p. 64.
  50. ^ a b Lu 2008, p. 5.
  51. ^ a b Francis Lim Khek Gee. The Eternal Mother and the State: Circumventing Religious Management in Singapore. Asia Research Institute, Working Paper No. 161, August 2011.
  52. ^ Kuo (2017), p. 243.
  53. ^ Lu 2008, p. 166.
  54. ^ Australian Government Refugee Review Trubunal: CHN32439 – China – Yiguandao 2007 report.
  55. ^ Munro (1994), p. 270.
  56. ^ Thom Beal. China cracks down on rural cults. World Tibet Network News, Tuesday, June 11, 1996.
  57. ^ Tokyo Sentaku [in Japanese]. 1 June 1999. "Cult Groups Seen Shaking Party Leadership" (FBIS-CHI-1999-0614 1 June 1999/WNC). Cited in: ecoi.net, The Tian Dao (Yi Guan Dao, Yiguandao, Yi Guandao) sect and treatment of believers by the authorities. [CHN32887.E] [ID 171890].
  58. ^ Kuo (2017), pp. 244–245.
  59. ^ Xinping, Zhuo (2014). "Relationship between Religion and State in the People's Republic of China" (PDF). Religions & Christianity in Today's China. 4 (1): 22–23. ISSN 2192-9289. Very often academic organizations or non-governmental organizations in China Mainland collaborate with Yiguandao (normally under the title of "Society for Confucian and Mencian Morality"), Dejiao (Religion of Virtue) and Tiandijiao (Religion of the Emperor of Heaven).
  60. ^ Billioud (2015), p. 299.
  61. ^ Lu 2008, p. 167.


External links


Budai, Hotei or Pu-Tai (Chinese: 布袋; pinyin: Bùdài; Japanese: 布袋, romanized: Hotei; Vietnamese: Bố Đại) is a semi-historical Chinese monk who is venerated as deity in Chinese Buddhism and was also introduced into the Japanese Buddhist pantheon. He allegedly lived around the 10th century in the Wuyue kingdom. His name literally means "Cloth Sack", and refers to the bag that he is conventionally depicted as carrying as he wanders aimlessly. His jolly nature, humorous personality, and eccentric lifestyle distinguishes him from most Buddhist masters or figures. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the "Laughing Buddha" (Chinese: 笑佛; pinyin: Xiào Fó). The main textual evidence pointing to Budai resides in a collection of Zen Buddhist monks’ biographies known as the "Jingde Chuandeng Lu", also known as The Transmission of the Lamp.

Buddhism in Taiwan

Buddhism is one of the major religions of Taiwan. Taiwanese people predominantly practice Mahayana Buddhism, Confucian principles, local practices and Taoist tradition. Roles for religious specialists from both Buddhist and Taoist traditions exist on special occasions such as for childbirth and funerals. Of these, a smaller number identify more specifically with Chinese Buddhist teachings and institutions, without necessarily eschewing practices from other Asian traditions. Around 35% of the population believes in Buddhism.Taiwanese government statistics distinguish Buddhism from Taoism, giving almost equal numbers for both. In 2005, the census recorded 8 million Buddhists and 7.6 million Taoists, out of a total population of 23 million. Many of Taiwan's self-declared "Taoists" actually observe the more syncretistic practices associated with Chinese traditional religion which is based on Buddhism. Self-avowed Buddhists may also be adherents of more localized faiths such as Yiguandao, which also emphasize Buddhist figures like Guanyin or Maitreya and espouse vegetarianism.

Distinguishing features of Taiwanese Buddhism is the emphasis on the practice of vegetarianism, the influence of Humanistic Buddhism, and the prominence of large centralized Buddhist organizations. Four Buddhist teachers who founded institutions that are particularly influential are popularly referred to as the "Four Heavenly Kings of Taiwanese Buddhism", one for each cardinal direction, with their corresponding institutions referred to as the "Four Great Mountains". They are:

North (Jinshan): Master Sheng-yen (聖嚴, d. 2009) of Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山)

South (Dashu): Master Hsing Yun (星雲) of Fo Guang Shan (佛光山)

East (Hualien): Master Cheng Yen (證嚴) of the Tzu Chi Foundation (慈濟基金會)

West (Nantou): Master Wei Chueh (惟覺, d. 2016) of Chung Tai Shan (中台山)Following the Chinese Civil War, Buddhism experienced a rapid increase in popularity in Taiwan, attributed to Taiwan's economic miracle following the war and several major Buddhist organizations promoting modern values such as equality, freedom and reason, which was attractive to the country's growing middle class. Taiwanese Buddhist institutions are known for their involvement in secular society, including the providing of a number of public goods and services such as colleges, hospitals and disaster relief.

Chinese folk religion in Southeast Asia

Chinese folk religion plays a dynamic role in the lives of the overseas Chinese who have settled in the countries of this geographic region, particularly Burmese Chinese, Singaporean Chinese, Malaysian Chinese, Thai Chinese and Hoa. The Indonesian Chinese, by contrast, were forced to adopt en masse either Buddhism or Christianity in the 1950s and 1960s, abandoning traditional worship, due to Indonesia's religious policies which forbade Chinese traditional religion. Chinese folk religion, the ethnic religion of Han Chinese, "Shenism" was especially coined referring to its Southeast Asian expression; another Southeast Asian name for the religion is the Sanskrit expression Satya Dharma (literally "Truth Law").

The Chinese folk religion of Southeast Asia is markedly typified by the interaction with Malay indigenous religions (Malaysian and Indonesian folk religion) and the adoption of gods of Hindu derivation, such as Brahma, Ganesha and Hanuman. The philosophical forms of Confucianism and Taoism are followed, and organised forms of the Chinese folk faith, such as the Church of Virtue, Yiguandao and Zhenkongism, have taken significant foothold among Southeast Asian Chinese.

In Singapore about 11% of the total population is Taoist, composed by a 14.4% of the Chinese Singaporeans identifying as Taoists. In Malaysia, around 10% of Chinese Malaysians practice Chinese folk religions, corresponding to around 1% of the whole country population. However, numbers may be significantly larger since many folk religious Chinese register as "Buddhists" for census purposes. In Indonesia, Taosu Agung Kusumo, leader of the Majelis Agama Tao Indonesia, claims there are 5 million Taoist followers in the country as of 2009.

Chinese salvationist religions

Chinese salvationist religions or Chinese folk religious sects are a Chinese religious tradition characterised by a concern for salvation (moral fulfillment) of the person and the society. They are distinguished by egalitarianism, a founding charismatic person often informed by a divine revelation, a specific theology written in holy texts, a millenarian eschatology and a voluntary path of salvation, an embodied experience of the numinous through healing and self-cultivation, and an expansive orientation through evangelism and philanthropy.Some scholars consider these religions a single phenomenon, and others consider them the fourth great Chinese religious category alongside the well-established Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Generally these religions focus on the worship of the universal God, represented as either male, female, or genderless, and regard their holy patriarchs as embodiments of God.

Church of the Highest Supreme

The Church of the Highest Supreme (太上会 Tàishànghuì; or "Most Supreme", "Most High"; also known as 太上门 Tàishàngmén, the "Gate of the Highest Supreme") is a Chinese folk religious sect of northern China. The origins of the sect are obscure, although Thomas David Dubois traces it to the theological tradition of the networks of Hongyangism (弘阳教), another northern folk religious sect which has been officially registered under the auspices of the Chinese Taoist Association since the 1990s.Extensive fieldwork by Dubois in the late 1990s and early 2000s has produced documentation about the Church of the Highest Supreme as the most influential folk religious sect in rural counties of Hebei, followed by the Church of the Heaven and the Earth. These two religions "energetically revived" in rural Hebei since the late 1970s, with the tacit approval of the local government, after pressures from campaigns against some sects in the 1950s and the cessation of any public religious activity in the years of the Cultural Revolution.The Church of the Highest Supreme and the other sects of north China provide ceremonies for public and private religious life of local populations, and their ritual specialists are portrayed as moral exemplars and earnest sources of knowledge about the sacred.

Dīpankara Buddha

Dīpankara (Sanskrit and Pali Dīpaṃkara, "Lamp bearer") is one of the Buddhas of the past. He is said to have lived on Earth one hundred thousand aeons ago. According to some Buddhist traditions, Dīpankara was a Buddha who reached enlightenment eons prior to Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha.

Generally, Buddhists believe that there has been a succession of many Buddhas in the distant past and that many more will appear in the future; Dīpankara, then, would be one of numerous previous Buddhas, while Gautama was the most recent, and Maitreya will be the next Buddha in the future.

Chinese Buddhism tends to honor Dīpankara as one of many Buddhas of the past. Dīpankara, Gautama, and Maitreya are "the Buddhas of Three Times" in Yiguandao.

East Asian religions

In the study of comparative religion, the East Asian religions or Taoic religions form a subset of the Eastern religions. This group includes Chinese religion overall, which further includes Ancestral Worship, Chinese folk religion, Confucianism, Taoism and so-called popular salvationist organisations (such as Yiguandao and Weixinism), as well as elements drawn from Mahayana Buddhism that form the core of Chinese Buddhism and East Asian Buddhism at large. The group also includes Japanese Shintoism and Korean Sindoism (both meaning "Ways of Gods" and identifying the indigenous shamanic religion and ancestor worship of such peoples), which have received influences from Chinese religions throughout the centuries. Chinese salvationist religions have influenced the rise of Korean and Japanese new religions—for instance, respectively, Jeungsanism, and Tenriism; these movements draw upon indigenous traditions but are heavily influenced by Chinese philosophy and theology.

All these religious traditions, more or less, share core Chinese concepts of spirituality, divinity and world order, including Tao 道 ("Way"; pinyin dào, Japanese tō or dō, and Korean do) and Tian 天 ("Heaven"; Japanese ten, and Korean cheon).

Early Chinese philosophies defined the Tao and advocated cultivating the de, "virtue", which arises from the knowledge of such Tao. Some ancient schools merged into traditions with different names or became extinct, such as Mohism (and many others of the Hundred Schools of Thought), which was largely absorbed into Taoism. East Asian religions include many theological stances, including polytheism, nontheism, henotheism, monotheism, pantheism, panentheism and agnosticism. East Asian religions have many Western adherents, though their interpretations may differ significantly from traditional East Asian religious thought and culture.

The place of Taoic religions among major religious groups is comparable to the Abrahamic religions found in Europe and the Western World as well as across the Middle East and the Muslim World and Dharmic religions across South Asia.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic."

A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.


Maitreya (Sanskrit), Metteyya (Pali), is regarded as a future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. In some Buddhist literature, such as the Amitabha Sutra and the Lotus Sutra, he is referred to as Ajita.

According to Buddhist tradition, Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. According to scriptures, Maitreya will be a successor to the present Buddha, Gautama Buddha (also known as Śākyamuni Buddha). The prophecy of the arrival of Maitreya refers to a time in the future when the dharma will have been forgotten by most on the terrestrial world.

Maitreya has also been adopted for his millenarian role by many non-Buddhist religions in the past, such as the White Lotus, as well as by modern new religious movements, such as Yiguandao.

Maitreya (disambiguation)

Maitreya is the future Buddha in Buddhist eschatology.

Maitreya may also refer to:

Maitreya (Mahābhārata), a sage in the Indian epic Mahabharata

Maitreya (Share International), an organization that claims Maitreya has been living in London, England since the 1970s

Maitreya (Theosophy), a member of the so-called Masters of the Ancient Wisdom

Maitreya-nātha, the reputed co-author of a number of Yogacara Buddhist treatises

Maitreya Great Tao, a Yiguandao splinter sect founded by Wang Hao-te

Maitreya teachings, a set of beliefs that developed in China as early as the 6th century CE

Maitreya Upanishad, one of the minor scriptures of Hinduism

Akshay Kumar Maitreya, Indian historian and social worker

Arya Maitreya Mandala, a Tibetan Buddhism Order founded by Anagarika Govinda

Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero, a Sri Lankan monk and scholar

Sananda Maitreya (fka Terence Trent D'Arby), an American singer-songwriter

Religion in Taiwan

Taiwan is characterised by a diversity of religious beliefs and practices, predominantly those pertaining to Chinese culture. Freedom of religion is inscribed in the constitution of the Republic of China. According to the census of 2005, 35% of the Taiwanese population adhered to Buddhism, 33% to Taoism (including local religion), 3.9% to Christianity, 18.7% identified themselves as not religious, and approximately 10% were adherents of folk religious movements of salvation (among them 3.5% adhered to Yiguandao).

Many statistical analyses try to distinguish between Buddhism and Taoism in Taiwan, which, along with Confucianism, are rather aspects within broader "Chinese religion". It is hard to make such distinction because various Taoist deities are worshipped alongside deities which originated in Buddhism, for instance Guanyin, in many temples across the country.

Religion in Thailand

There is no official state religion in the Thai constitution, which guarantees religious freedom for all Thai citizens, though the king is required by law to be a Theravada Buddhist. The main religion practised in Thailand is Buddhism, but there is a strong undercurrent of Hinduism with a class of brahmins having sacerdotal functions. The large Thai Chinese population also practises Chinese folk religions, including Taoism. The Chinese religious movement Yiguandao (Thai: Anuttharatham) spread to Thailand in the 1970s and it has grown so much in recent decades to come into conflict with Buddhism; in 2009, it was reported that each year 200,000 Thais convert to the religion. Many other people, especially among the Isan ethnic group, practise Tai folk religions. A significant Muslim population, mostly constituted by Thai Malays, is present especially in the southern regions.


Shangdi (Chinese: 上帝; pinyin: Shàngdì; Wade–Giles: Shang Ti), also written simply, "Emperor" (Chinese: 帝; pinyin: Dì), is the Chinese term for "Supreme Deity" or "Highest Deity" in the theology of the classical texts, especially deriving from Shang theology and finding an equivalent in the later Tian ("Heaven" or "Great Whole") of Zhou theology.Although in Chinese religion the usage of "Tian" to refer to the absolute God of the universe is predominant, "Shangdi" continues to be used in a variety of traditions, including certain philosophical schools, certain strains of Confucianism, some Chinese salvationist religions (notably Yiguandao) and Chinese Protestant Christianity. In addition, it is common to use such term among contemporary and secular Chinese, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese societies typically for a singular universal deity and a non-religion translation for the God in Christianity.

Three Suns (eschatology)

The doctrine of the Three Suns (Chinese: 三阳; pinyin: sānyáng) or three stages of the end-time (Chinese: 三期末劫; pinyin: sānqímòjié), or Three Ages, is a teleological and eschatological doctrine found in some Chinese salvationist religions and schools of Confucianism.According to the doctrine, the absolute principle, in many salvationist sects represented as the Wusheng Laomu, divides the end time into three stages, each of which is governed by a different Buddha sent by the Mother to save humanity: the "Green Sun" (qingyang) governed by Dīpankara Buddha, the "Red Sun" (hongyang) by Gautama Buddha, and the current "White Sun" (baiyang) by Maitreya. In different sects the three periods are known by slightly different names, variations originated by oral transmission of the teaching. The doctrine is especially important in the Xiantiandao group of sects, the most notable one being Yiguandao.

Tiandao (disambiguation)

Tiandao (Chinese: 天道; pinyin: Tiāndào; literally: 'Way of Heaven'; Vietnamese: Thiên Đạo, Japanese: Tendō) is a Chinese word used in many philosophical and religious contexts in China and the Sinosphere. It can also refer specifically to:

Xiantiandao, a group of Chinese religions

Yiguandao, a particular religion in this group

Tendo (religion), a Japanese sect of this religionOther uses include:

Mou Zongsan (1909–1995), New Confucian philosopher

A Manifesto for a Re-appraisal of Sinology and Reconstruction of Chinese Culture (1958), group work

Huang-Lao 2nd-century BCE Chinese school of philosophy

Wang Hao-te

Wang Hao-te (1921–1999) was the founder of the Great Way of Maitreya (Chinese: 彌勒大道; pinyin: Mílè Dà Dào), which is based in Hsinchu, Taiwan. According to Taiwan's survey in 2004 this religion has 1,000,000 members and 2000 temples all over the world. Wang was born in 1921, the 28th day of the 7th lunar month (August 31, 1921) in a small village called Zhang Gu in Shandong province in China. He went to Taiwan when he was 17 years old during the 2nd War time and he was introduced to Yiguandao in 1948 by chance. He was a hardworking, well loved and down to earth talented young man and he was the only person appointed to take care of Sun Su Zhen or "Shi Mu" 師母 when he was 23 years old, the great mistress of Yiguandao for 11 years until her death in 1975, 4 April.

In 1987, Wang set up the Providence Maitreya Buddha Institute (Chinese: 天恩彌勒佛院; pinyin: Tiān'ēn Mílè Fó Yuàn) in Hsinchu, Taiwan. Unfortunately, Wang died of CO2 poisoning on Christmas Day in 1999 during his mission to Chiang Mai, Thailand; left his only daughter Wu Xian. The Great Way of Maitreya led by Wang has had a large number of followers for the past sixty over years.

Way of the Gods according to the Confucian Tradition

The Way of the Gods according to the Confucian Tradition (Chinese: 儒宗神教 Rúzōng Shénjiào), also called the Luandao (鸾道 "Phoenix Way" or 鸾门 Luánmén, "Phoenix Gate") or Luanism (鸾教 Luánjiào) or—from the name of its cell congregations—the phoenix halls or phoenix churches (鸾堂 luántáng), is a Confucian congregational religious movement of the Chinese traditional beliefs.The first phoenix hall was established in Magong, the capital of the Penghu Islands, in 1853, and from there the movement spread throughout mainland China and Taiwan. Other names of the movement are Rumen (儒门 "Confucian Gate[way]) or Holy Church of the Confucian Tradition (儒宗圣教 Rúzōng Shèngjiào).The aim of the phoenix halls is to honour the gods through Confucian orthopraxy (rú 儒 style), spreading morality through public lectures and divinely-inspired books (善书 shànshū). The Confucian Way of the Gods is defined as Houtiandao (后天道 "Way of Later Heaven" or "Way of the Manifested") by the antagonistic Xiantiandao (先天道 "Way of Former Heaven" or "Way of the Primordial") traditions, which claim to be closer to the God of the universe.


The Xiantiandao (Chinese: 先天道; pinyin: Xiāntiān Dào; literally: 'Way of Former Heaven', or "Way of the Primordial"; Vietnamese: Tiên Thiên Đạo, Japanese: Sentendō), also simply Tiandao (Chinese: 天道; pinyin: Tiāndào; literally: 'Way of Heaven'; Vietnamese: Thiên Đạo, Japanese: Tendō) is one of the most productive currents of Chinese folk religious sects such as the White Lotus Sect, characterised by representing the principle of divinity as feminine and by a concern for salvation (moral completion) of mankind.

Xiantiandao was founded in Jiangxi in the 17th century Qing dynasty as an offshoot of the Venerable Officials' teaching of fasting (老官齋教 Lǎoguān zhāijiào), a branch of the Dacheng (大乘 "Great Vehicle") or Yuandun (圆顿 "Sudden Stillness") eastern proliferation of Luoism. It has also been traced to the earlier Wugongdao (五公道 "Way of the Five Lords"), a Yuan dynasty offshoot of the White Lotus tradition.The Xiantiandao religions were considered heterodox and suppressed throughout the history of China; they are still mostly forbidden in Mainland China, yet they thrive in Taiwan where at least 7% of the population adheres to some sect derived from the Xiantiandao.

The Xiantiandao movement is not limited only to Chinese-speaking countries, with at least one sect, the Tendō (天道, "Way of Heaven"), active in Japan. In Vietnam, "Tiên Thiên Đạo" doctrines ultimately influenced the rise of the Minh Đạo sects since the 17th century and subsequently of Caodaism in the 20th century.Sects that are or have been considered as part of the Xiantiandao stream are:

Guigendao (归根道 "Way of the Return to the Root")

Guiyidao (皈依道, "Way of the Return to the One"), best known by its corporate name of School of the Way of the Return to the One or simply School of the Way (道院 Dàoyuàn)

Shengdao (圣道 "Holy Way"), best known by its incorporate name of Tongshanshe (同善社 "Community of the Goodness")

Tiandi teachings (天帝教 "Heavenly Deity")

Yaochidao (瑤池道 "Way of the Jasper Lake")

Yiguandao (一貫道 "Complete Way")

Haizidao (亥子道 "Way of the Children")

Miledadao (弥勒大道 "Great Way of Maitreya")

Yixin Tiandao Longhua Hui (一心天道龙华会 "Dragon Flower Church of the Heart-bound Heavenly Way")

Yuanmingdao (圆明道 "Way of the Bright Circle")

Zhang Tianran

Zhang Tianran (張天然) (8 August 1889 – 29 September 1947) was the eighteenth patriarch as well as the founder of the I-Kuan Tao (Yiguandao) religious sect. He is usually referred to as the Father of I-Kuan Tao, or as Shi Zun (師尊), meaning the Honored Teacher.

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