The Way of the Taiping, also known as the Way of the Great Peace, was a Chinese Taoist movement founded by Zhang Jue during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Its adherents all around China participated in the Yellow Turban Rebellion of 184, with the rebellion being suppressed within the same year by the Eastern Han government. The religious movement was greatly reduced and died soon afterwards. The Way of the Taiping was one of the two largest movements within early Taoism, with the other being the Way of the Five Pecks of Rice. During the reign of Emperor Ling of Han, the movement was recorded to have been popular in eight Provinces: Qing Province, Xu Province, You Province, Ji Province, Jing Province, Yang Province, Yan Province, and Yu Province.[1][2]


The Way of the Taiping originated in the reign of Emperor Shun of Han of the Eastern Han Dynasty (126-144). A Fangshi named Gan Ji (Some later histories referred to him as Yu Ji) claimed that he received a divine book called the Taiping Qingling Shu (太平清領書) from a pond in Quyang County, and thereafter started to build elaborate temples and established rituals like the burning of incense and the reading of Taoist manuscripts. He also treated the people's (Baixing) illnesses with burnt Fulu mixed with water, and he became very popular amongst them. According to the Book of Later Han, during the reign of Emperor Shun (r. 125–144), Gong Chong (宮崇), one of Gan Ji's disciples, submitted the Taiping Qingling Shu to the emperor, but did not receive substantial attention. Gong Chong's disciple Xiang Kai tried the same, but his efforts also faltered. Later on, the book fell into the hands of Zhang Jue, who established the Way of the Taiping.[3]

Later Developments

Zhang Jue from Julu Commandery, having obtained the Taiping Qingling Shu, declared himself "Great Teacher" (大賢良師), preached to his disciples and treated peoples' illnesses. He quickly became popular, as he sent his eight disciples around the country, using the "Kind Way" (善道) to preach to the commoners, and within ten years had followers numbering 100,000, across eight Provinces: Qing Province, Xu Province, You Province, Ji Province, Jing Province, Yang Province, Yan Province, and Yu Province.[4] Zhang Jue split his followers into 36 "Fang"s (directions), with the bigger Fang having over 10,000 each, while the smaller Fangs having 7,000 people. He and his brothers gave themselves titles: Zhang Bao was the "General of Land" (地公將軍), Zhang Liang was the "General of the People" (人公將軍); and Zhang Jue was the "General of Heaven" (天公將軍). The Way of the Taiping acted like a military organisation thereafter.[5]


Zhang Jue held a nine-section cane, and often proclaimed that people were sick and suffering because they had sinned. For them to recover, the patients must first reflect on their mistakes, and when they finally show contrition, he would make them drink the Fulu-water mixture. He praised those who recovered as having great faith, and for those who did not as having not enough.[6] The Way of the Taiping worshiped the colour yellow, and followers wore yellow clothes with yellow headbands, and they worshiped the Yellow Emperor, Laozi and Taiyi (太一), who was the greatest God in the pantheon.[7] Taiyi is an anthropomorphism of the North Star.


Zhang Jue proposed the slogan of "Cangtian (heaven, blue sky) is dead, the Huangtian (yellow sky) has been established, the age is at Jiazi (184AD), tianxia experiences great fortune" (蒼天已死,黃天當立,歲在甲子(184年),天下大吉), and theorised that of Zou Yan's cycle of five elements (Wu Xing), the Earth (Yellow) element was to replace the Han Dynasty's Fire element.[8] Zhang Jue's followers wrote the slogan in the capital and yamen walls of the provinces and prefectures, and planned for the leader of the large Fangs Ma Yuanyi to lead the tens of thousands of followers from Jing Province and Yang Province to rise up on the 5th of March 184AD. Ma went around the capital and nearby cities to prepare for the rebellion, and had officials within the Palace walls as spies.[9] But the central government caught wind of the conspiracy, and Ma was torn asunder by chariots for treason. Emperor Ling of Han ordered the arrest of Zhang Jue and his followers, and this prompted Zhang to initiate the Yellow Turban Rebellion in February, with the scale of the rebellion shocking the court. New followers flocked from all over the country to join the Way of the Taiping.[10]


Within the same year of the uprising, Zhang Jue died from an illness, Zhang Bao was killed, and Zhang Liang fell in battle. The Yellow Turban Army still resisted in various locales for the next ten years, and many joined Cao Cao's army later on.[11] The Way of the Taiping survived in a different form, even after the Jin Dynasty, in the worship of the Taiping Di Jun(太平帝君).


  1. ^ 劉學銚 (2005). 中國文化史講稿 (in Chinese (Taiwan)). 知書房出版集團. pp. 63–. ISBN 978-986-7640-65-9. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 太平道。東漢順帝時(西元 126 〜 144 年), 有于吉自稱獲得神仙書《太平經》(又稱《太平青領書》), 共一百七十卷,交其徒弟宮崇,宮崇將此書獻於漢順帝,順帝目爲妖妄不經,僅收藏之,《太平經》並非一人一時之作,內容極爲龐雜...東漢漢靈帝之時宦官、外戚專權,政治黑暗,人民生活痛苦,大平道乘時大為流行於青、徐、幽、冀、荊、揚、兗、豫八州。此為早期道教之兩大派別。
  2. ^ 王新龙 (25 November 2013). 大汉王朝4. Green Apple Data Center. pp. 176–. GGKEY:Q09W4ABH0SS.
  3. ^ 窪德忠:《道教史》,頁82-84。
  4. ^ 窪德忠:《道教史》,頁84-85。
  5. ^ 窪德忠:《道教史》,頁85。
  6. ^ 窪德忠:《道教史》,頁84;秋月觀瑛:〈道教史〉,頁31。
  7. ^ 唐長孺:〈《太平經》與太平道〉,頁140-141。
  8. ^ 唐長孺:〈《太平經》與太平道〉,頁141。
  9. ^ 窪德忠:《道教史》,頁85-86。
  10. ^ 窪德忠:《道教史》,頁85-86;秋月觀瑛:〈道教史〉,頁33。
  11. ^ 窪德忠:《道教史》,頁86。

Further reading