Monday, October 28, 2013

More Zhang Sanfeng Lore

Chang San-Feng, Taoist Grand Master: Bibliography, Quotes, Writings, Lore, Encounters
Research by Mike Garofalo


    "Zhang Sanfeng ("Zhang Triple Abundance" or "Zhang Three Peaks") is a famous Taoist said to have live between the end of the Yuan and beginning of the Ming periods.  His historical existence, however, is unproved.  In early biographies―including the one in the Mingshi (History of Ming)―he is usually said to be a native of Yizhou (Liaoning), but other sources give different birthplaces.  According to these works he was seven feet tall and had enormously big ears and eyes, his appearance suggested the longevity of a turtle and the immortality of a crane, and his beard and whiskers bristled like the blades of a halberd.  He tied his hair in a knot and, regardless of the season, wore only a garment made of leaves.  In his youth, Zhang is supposed to have studied Buddhism under the Chan master Haiyun (1021-56), but then mastered neidan and reached immortality.  He was known for his extraordinary magical powers as well as his ability to prophesy.
    In the first years of the Ming period, Zhang reportedly established himself on Mount Wudang (Wudang Shan, Hubei), where he lived in a thatched hut.  With his pupils he rebuilt the mountain monasteries destroyed during the wars at the end of the Mongol dynasty.  From Mount Wudang, Zhang went to the Jintai guan (Abbey of the Golden Terrace) in Baoji (Shananxi), where he announced his departure, composed a hymn, and passed away.  Later he came back to life, travelled to Sichuan, and visited Mount Wudang.
    The belief in the real existence of Zhang Sanfeng during the Ming Dynasty is reflected in the emperor's continued efforts to locate him.  The search for Zhang started in 1391 by order of the Hongwu Emperor (1368-1398) and was extended from 1407 to 1419 by the Yongle Emperor (1403-1424).  Both sent out delegates several times, but they all returned without success.  Promoted by the Ming emperor's interest, a cult developed around Zhang that spread widely and lasted until the later years of the Qing dynasty.
    As time went on, the legends about Zhang Sanfeng multiplied and became increasingly exaggerated.  Zhang is known as the founder of taiji quan (a claim without historical evidence) and the patron saint of practitioners of this technique.  During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a connection to the sexual techniques (fangzhong shu) was also established and texts dealing with these practices were ascribed to him.  The belief that Zhang was the master of Shen Wansan, a popular deity of wealth, led to his own identity as a god of wealth in the seventeenth century.  The Western Branch (Xipai) of neidan and various Qing sects also regarded Zhang Sanfeng as their first patriarch."
-  Martina Darga.  The Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism (EoT), 2008, 2011, Volume II, p. 1233-35, article about Zhang Sanfeng in the EoT by Martina Darga. 






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