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Three Pure Ones

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The Three Pure Ones (Classical Chinese: 三清; Pinyin: Sānqīng) also translated as the Three Pure Pellucid Ones, the Three Pristine Ones, the Three Divine Teachers, the Three Clarities, or the Three Purities is the Taoist Trinity, the three highest Gods in the Taoist pantheon. They are regarded as pure manifestation of the Tao, and are regarded as the originator of all sentient beings in existence. From the Taoist classic Tao Te Ching, it was held that "The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things"[1]. It is generally agreed that: Tao produced One - Tao produced Tai Chi; One produced Two - Taiji produced Yin and Yang. However, the subject of how Two produced Three has remained a popular debate among Taoist Scholars. Most scholars believe that it refers to the Interaction between Yin and Yang, with the presence of Chi, or life force [2] In religious Taoism, it is therefore held that the interaction between Yin and Yang manifests Three Pure Ones, of which created all Life as we know.

As the Three Pure Ones are manifestation of Primordial Celestial Energy, they are formless. But to illustrate their role in Creation, they are often portrayed as elderly deities robed in the three basic colours from which all colours originated: Red, Blue and Green (sometimes Yellow), and holding onto a divine object associated with their task. For example, the Fan held by Daode Tianzun a symbol of Completion of the Creation.

They are sometimes compared to the Christian concept of a triune God due to the roles played by each of them (the Creator, the Guardian, and the Teacher).

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 Laozi. 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 Laozi's eventual deification. First, the legendary figure began as a teacher and writer whose image eventually blended with that of the Yellow Emperor when Laozi 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., Laozi 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. Laozi was now capable of incarnating himself, almost like Buddhist bodhisattva. Not long thereafter he joined the triad of the Three Pure Ones, and finally Laozi 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 Laozi 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 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. " 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.

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

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Three Pure Ones. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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