Seven ‘All True’ Greats VII

Qiu Chu-qi (丘處機) and his eighteen disciples left their home base in Qixia (棲霞) in Shandong in 1219 for Great Snow Mountain (大雪山) in present-day Afghanistan where Genghis Khan was staying with his army on an expedition to the West. It took the Chinese Taoist caravan two years to reach the camp of the Universal Mongol Emperor.

Genghis Khan welcomed the Eternal Spring and his retinue to his military camp. A temporary camp was set up for them to stay as political advisors to the Mongol emperor. Genghis Khan wanted to know how to rule his vast empire and learn how to remain healthy and vigorous in old age. Qiu advised the Mongol emperor to practice All True Taoism, urging the latter to respect Heaven, love the people and refrain from killing. In particular, the Eternal Spring recommended: “Your Majesty now rules all the land bordering on the Four Seas. What you need, Sire, is to suspend the use of force of arms, assign the wise to rule the people, and lessen or exempt tax to let all the people have rest and recuperation so as to usher in peace for the entire empire.” The recommendation was accepted.

Then a thunderbolt struck Genghis Khan’s military camp one day. The emperor sent for Qiu for divination. When the Taoist master came to the camp, Genghis Khan asked: “Why did Heaven strike our camp with a thunderbolt? You know full well we the Mongols fear the ire of Heaven, albeit we always respect and worship Heaven.” The Eternal Spring replied: “Sire, the worst of three thousand sins is impiety to one’s parents. And there is no tradition of filial piety among Your subjects. What Your Majesty has to do (to avoid the ire of Heaven) is to teach them to be filial sons and daughters.” Filial piety is the highest Confucian value, though placed second right after loyalty, while Xiao jing (孝經), Book of Filial Piety, is an apocrypha in the Confucian canon. It is one of the three books that form the canon of the syncretic All True school of Taoism, the other two being Laozi’s Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing (道德經) or the Treatise of the Tao and Its Power and Prajnaparamita hrdaya sutra (般若心經) or the sutra of Sagaciously Moving Toward That Shore of the Buddhist Way.

Thereupon, Genghis Khan summoned all his princes, khans and ministers to his camp court to announce a new decree. He proclaimed: “Heaven sent an Immortal to Us to teach the importance of filial piety. All of you should never forget it!” Filial piety has since become a Mongolian value. The Mongols called the Taoist master “Qiu the Immortal. (丘神仙)”

After a year with Genghis Khan as his advisor, the Eternal Spring requested retirement. The Mongol emperor tried to dissuade the Taoist master in vain. Finally, Qiu was granted permission to leave.

Genghis Khan made him the patriarch of all Taoists in his domains, where All True priests were exempted from tax and corvee or unpaid labor.

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