Zhang tianshi (張天師
), the celestial master Zhang, represents Zhang Daoling (34-165) and his inheritages. Zhang Daoling was one of the founders of religious Daoism in Han dynasty. His inheritages now is the sixty fifth generation.
Before Zhang Daoling became a Daoist, he was an official scholar. He had been the chief in Jiangzhou (江州). It is said that he was a descendent grandson of Zhang Liang (張良). Zhang Daoling abandoned his official carrier later. He escaped to Mountain Beimang (北邙山) and devoted himself in Daoist practices. The government failed in summoning him to be an official in central government many times. Finally, he went to Sichuan (四川) province and founded Wudoumi dao (五斗米道), an early religious Taosit school. He also claimed that Laozi descented to earth and imparted all the knowledge and skill of Daoism. Laozi also titled him as Santian fashi Zhengyi zhenren (三天法師
), the master among three heavens and Orthodox Unity true man. He wrote twenty four books on Daoism and a commentary of the Laozi, named Laozi Xiang Er Zhu (老子
想爾注). Early Daoist church was also founded by him. After he ascented to heaven and became immortal, his teaching was inherited by his son Zhang Lu (張魯) and grandson Zhang Heng (張衡). Zhang Lu later led his Daoist churches and disciples moved to Henan (河南) under the reign of Cao Cao (曹操) and. It is said that the fourth generation of Zhang tianshi, Zhang Sheng (張盛) did not follow Cao Cao anymore and escaped to Long Hu shan(龍虎山), Mountain Dragan and Tiger in Jiangxi (江西). Zhang tianshi’s school and teaching dwelled in there from that time until 1949.
At the beginning, Zhang tianshi’s school is one of various Daoist school in Chinese religion. Until Five dynasties and Song dynasty, Zhang tianshi started to flourish and became the icon of Daoism. It was because of the royal house’s supporting. In the Yijian zhi (夷堅志), written by Hong Mai (洪邁), there are numbers of stories about Zhang tianshi. Zhang tianshi as an exorcist was presented in the stories. It is crediable that there were some devotees at that time. The title Zhang tianshi was not official recognized until Yuan dynasty. Then the descendents of Zhang Daoling becaming the official chief of Daoist group in Jiangnan (江南). As a result, the legacy of Zhang tianshi was mixed with other school and became the Zhengyi school (正一道), one of two major Daoist schools.
In Taiwan, the belief of Zhang tianshi started from Qing dynasty. Some Zhengyi Daoist held ritual in Taiwan and made it spread. In 1919, it was estimated about eight temples dedicated to Zhang tianshi. People also took the imgae or talisman of Zhang tianshi as a protection to devil. After the Second World War, the sixty-third generation of Zhang tianshi moved to Taiwan and became the official representation of Daoism in Taiwan. Then the belief of Zhang tianshi was in relation with government. However, the legacy of Zhang tianshi still keeps the connetion with those Daoists whose surname is not Zhang, those Zhengyi school Daoists. Besides, there are also some temples dedicated to Zhang tianshi by mediumship. Summarily, there are about over ten temples dedicated to Zhang tianshi in Taiwan now.
Keywords: the celestial master Zhang, Zhang tianshi, Zhang Daoling, Zhengyi school