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Title: Yi Guan Dao
Description: "I-Kuan Tao"

javewu - June 22, 2006 10:19 AM (GMT)
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Yi Guan Dao

I-Kuan Tao, also Yi Guan Dao, or usually initialized as IKT (translated as the Unity Sect) is a new religious movement that originated in twentieth-century China. At the same time it incorporates much older elements from Confucianism, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism, and recognizes the validity of non-Chinese religious traditions such as Christianity and Islam as well. For this reason it is often classified as a syncretistic or syncretic sect, along with other similar religions in the Hsien Tien Dao (Way of Former Heaven family (see link below).

I-Kuan Tao flourished in Taiwan starting in the 1970s. Currently, it is the third most popular faith in Taiwan (after Buddhism and Taoism). It claims two million members (this may be exaggerated), and in overseas Chinese communities around the world.

A survey in 2002 showed that there were 845,000 followers with over 3,100 temples. In the People's Republic of China it remains banned as an illegal secret society, as was the case in Taiwan until 1987.

The World I-Kuan Tao Headquarters is situated in the United States, in El Monte, California.

The Name

I-kuan (Yi Guan) means something like "one unity." The implication is that the sect harmonizes or integrates otherwise disparate teachings. This term is derived from a passage of Analects (4.15) where Confucius said that his way is that of "an all-pervading unity".

Tao (Dao) has many meanings. When used next to the name of some Chinese religions, it means "religion." For example, Tai Ping Tao (Tai Ping Dao), a renegade religious group in ancient China which had directly led to the decline of the Eastern Han Dynasty. The same word Tao has been used by the Taoist and Confucian traditions to describe the broad patterns of the universe, life, and humanity as well as ritual or religious requirements. The word is often used as a part of the names of religious sects.

Because of the name, I-Kuan Tao is often assumed to be Taoist, and its members do not reject this identification. However its history, teachings, practices, and leadership are different from those of either the "elite" forms of Taoist religion (the Celestial Masters or Complete Purity schools) or the Chinese folk religion of the masses. In the same way I-kuan Tao differs from, and yet also resembles, Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism.

Because the group was banned in Taiwan in the 70s and 80s, it manifested in different names such as The Confucius Mencius Society, The Morality Society etc. They also called themselves "Zhen Li Tian Dao" (The True Celestial Tao).


1. Ming Ming Shang Di "Clear (Luminous) Emperor on High" — analogous to the Judeo-Christian God. Also referred to as Wu Ji Lao Mu, the "Ancient Mother of Limitless Heaven" . He is the high being who transcends all the lesser gods of the Chinese pantheon. The roughly translated full name of this deity is The Clear Brilliant God Immeasureable, The Void, Most Revered Ultimate Divinity, True Ruler of The Universe and All Living Beings.

2. Maitreya, the future Buddha to succeed the historical Sakyamuni Buddha (and who has come already according to I-Kuan Tao; Maitreya was reincarnated as the 17th Patriarch Lu Zhong Yi).

3. Guan Yin, the Buddhist Bodhisattva of Mercy. In I-Kuan Tao, she is referred as The Old Buddha of the South Sea (Nan Hai Gu Fo).

4. Ji Gong, (known as the mad monk), or as Living Buddha Ji Gong (Huo Fo Shi Zun) a lecherous Zen Buddhist monk revered as a reincarnation of an Arhat. Zhang Tian Ran, the founder, is believed to be the reincarnation.

5. Yue Hui or the Moon Wisdom Bodhisattva, is the wife of Ji Gong, a title given to Sun Su Zhen, the mistress of I-Kuan Tao. She is believed to come from a water spirit that helped Ji Gong to salvage human souls.

6. Guan Yu(also called Guan Gong or Guan Di), an apoetheosized Chinese general from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms who is commonly worshipped in Chinese temples, both Buddhist and Taoist. He is characterised as something of a War God. I-Kuan Tao honors him as the commander of the precepts together with Lü Dongbin, Zhang Fei (Three Kingdoms) and Yue Fei.


Within the broad category of Chinese religion we may distinguish between folk practices which neither expect clear membership commitments nor make clear demands; and on the other hand, various sectarian movements which enjoy a clearer identity, and at the same time a weaker influence over the wider society. The folk religious practices are absorbed almost unconsciously, from childhood. Sectarian religious identity must be voluntarily chosen. Such sectarian identity might be Buddhist, Christian, or any of the religious movements that originated within the Chinese cultural sphere.

Some sectarian religious movements, such as Chan Buddhism (Chinese Zen) may endure for centuries, and become regulated by the state. Others are more ephemeral, such as the family of Buddhist movements lumped together under the name of White Lotus. These were loosely inspired by the vegetarian, millennarian, syncretistic religion of Manichaeism, which survived in China — and assimilated to Chinese culture — a full thousand years after it had disappeared in the West. The White Lotus sects tended to be suppressed by the state, but passed on certain influences to later groups such as the Hsien Tien sects.

Philip Clart (link below) gave this following summary of I-Kuan Tao's history:

"Also called T'ien-tao ("Way of Heaven"). Founded in 1930 by the "eighteenth patriarch" Chang T'ien-jan (1889-1947) in the city of Chi-nan, the capital of Shantung province, the sect in 1934 moved its centre of activity to T'ien-chin and from there spread rapidly all over mainland China. After Chang T'ien-jan's death in 1947, the sect's nominal leadership passed into the hands of Chang's second wife Madame Sun Hui-ming. Effectively, however, the sect split up into a number of separate branches (usually said to be eighteen) that continued to develop more or less independently. There thus exists today no independent leadership for the sect, which has become a family of closely related yet autonomous branch associations."

Madam Sun is not really Chang's wife. At the chaotic time in China, coupled with feudal thinking of Chinese community at that period, it was inappropriate for a man and a woman who had no family connection travelling together. In order to silence the critics and misconceptions of the public, they declared that they were married to each another. They were married in the name but never a husband and wife.

Official history

The official history from I-Kuan Tao stated that I-Kuan Tao or Tao can be divided into 3 periods. The first is The early 18 Eastern line, originated from the mythical figure Fu Xi, the creator of the Bagua, this is followed by other mythical and historical figures such as Shen Nong, Huang Di (Yellow Emperor), Laozi the author of the Dao De Jing, Confucius, and the last is Mencius. Then it is said because of the turmoil period in China, Laozi brought Tao to India and initiated Sakyamuni Buddha.

The second lineage called the 28 Western line begins. This followed the Buddhist Chan or Zen lineage from Sakyamuni to Mahakasyapa, and finally Bodhidharma.

It is said that Bodhidharma brought the Tao back to China to begin the Later 18 Eastern line. Following the Zen lineage from Bodhidharma to the sixth patriarch of Chinese Chan, Huineng. The lineage then continues with sectarian figures.

Research pointed that it stemmed from Xian Tian Dao or Way of Former Heaven. The founder of Xian Tian Dao is Huang De Hui (1624-1690). I Kuan Tao and Xian Tian Tao considered him as the 9th patriarch. Findings from the Ching dynasty documents mentioned Wang Jue Yi (1821-1884), the 15th patriarch, propagated SanJiao YiGuan zhi zhi (Unity of 3 Religions) in the 1850s.

However I Kuan Tao started to flourish in China during the leadership of the 18th patriarch Zhang Tian Ran. During the leadership of Zhang Tian Ran, I-Kuan Tao spread from Shandong to many cities in North, Central and Southern China. Zhang Tian Ran died shortly after the war in 1947. After Zhang’s death, his second wife Sun Su Zhen took over the leadership of I-Kuan Tao.

When communism took over in China, many of I-Kuan Tao followers and leaders depart to Hong Kong and Taiwan. In 1951 I Kuan Tao was banned in PRC and many of the followers and leaders were persecuted. Sun Su Zhen and other I Kuan Tao leaders left China, and arrived in Hong Kong. Sun then moved to Taiwan in 1954, she lived almost isolated and under the care of Wang Hao De until her death in 1975.

The present

Zhang Pei-Cheng, the current leader of I-Kuan Tao, brought the sect's teachings to Taiwan in 1947. Today, the sect claims 50,000 worship groups (30,000 in Taiwan) and supports several schools including Sung Nien University (Taiwan). Its members operate many of Taiwan's vegetarian restaurants. One of its high profile member is Zhang Rongfa the president & founder of the Evergreen Marine Corporation or Evergreen Group who is also the chief leader of a Xingyi sub-division. The company provides great support for I Kuan Tao.


I-Kuan Tao says they are a moralistic society, with objective to save all human from the last calamity. The members are obliged to follow morality practices such as:

1.The "five ethics" and "eight virtues" (from Confucianism)

2. Vegetarianism, and abstinence from alcohol and cigarette (as in Chinese Buddhism)

3.Conversion or Initiation of new member into "Tao" (analogous to Buddha Nature in Chan)

4.Daily prayer (2 times)

5. Attending religious classes, ceremony or Moralistic Lecture, which also include Ceremony of Offerings, Prayers, etc.

6.Chanting scriptures (as in all Chinese religious movements)

Followers of I Kuan Tao are encouraged to convert and initiate new members, practice vegetarianism and open Temples at their homes.

The Three Treasures

To become a follower, one has to go through the Initiation ceremony. A new follower is initiated by a spiritual master (Dian Chuan Shi) which is believed to hold the Mandate of Heaven to salvage one's soul. A new initiate is then given the "Three Treasures" (San Bao) which has to be kept as secret and cannot be told to others. The Three Treasures are:

1. The Mysterious Gate or Heavenly Portal (Xian Guan Qiao), a point somewhere in the face, known as Yin Tang or Third Eye in Meridian (Chinese medicine) Points, which is believed to be where the soul lives in the body. It is believed that the Master opens this Gate allowing one's soul to transcend to Heaven when he dies.

2. The Secret Mantra (Kou Jue), a five word mantra which is believed to be able to call upon the deities in times of trouble.

3. The Contract Mudra or Symbolic Seal (He Tong), a hand gesture (Mudra) derived from Taoist practice, symbolizing the follower becomes the Children of God.

As a follower, the promise is that with the three treasures he/she is able to directly ascend to heaven. The proof being:

For all those who received Tien-Tao through the Enlightened teacher, provided they cultivated themselves i.e. to bring out the compassion in them, they all go with a smile on their face. The corpses do not stiffen in winter or decay with foul smell in summer, for the souls left the body through the Right portal.

This "proof" usually convinced many followers, most followers will testify from their observations that the body of the dead who has been initiated stays soft. The scientific explanation can be found in an anatomy and physiology of death. Read: What happens to human after death. When a person takes the last breath, the muscle will contract and body become stiffen, called rigor mortis. However, the corpse does not remain stiff forever, as the decomposition process starts the tissues will be destroyed due to autolysis of cells caused by the release of acids and digestive enzymes from lysosomes. So sooner or later the corpse will soften by itself. The above this the scientific explanation of the decay process. In Tien-Tao, however, the body never get stiffen nor cold and it will remain so till burial or cremation.


Unlike other faiths, I-Kuan Tao does not have a single organization. This is because, after the death of Zhang Tian Ran and the escape from communism in China, many of the followers found their own way to Hong Kong and Taiwan. They established their own groups, mainly following their ancestral temples' names from China, spreading the teachings of I-Kuan Tao. There is a consensus from the followers of Zhang Tian Ran and Sun to form the I Kuan Tao headquarters, recognizing the so called "eighteen groups".

Apart from these eighteen, there is an independent group started by the first wife of Zhang Tian Ran, Madame Liu, which does not have many followers. A large splinter group, also recognized by the government of Taiwan, is that founded by Wang Hao De, former aide to Sun, who established his own sect called the Great Tao of Maitreya.


There are many western studies on this movement the first comprehensive study is by David K. Jordan and described in his book "The Flying Phoenix". Recent studies include Philip Clart. And a thesis by Jo Swinnen (in Dutch) from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. A book by Meir Shahar on Ji Gong titled "Crazy Ji" also has a section on I-Kuan Tao.

I Kuan Tao borrowed teachings and texts from different sources: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism

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