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The Three Pure Ones

Turning to the gods of Taoism, we find that the triad or trinity, already noted as forming the head of that hierarchy, consists of three Supreme Gods, each in his own Heaven. These three Heavens, the San Ching, Three Pure Ones (this name being also applied to the sovereigns ruling in them), were formed from the three airs, which are subdivisions of the one primordial air.

The first Heaven is Y Ching. In it reigns the first member of the Taoist triad. He inhabits the Jade Mountain. The entrance to his palace is named the Golden Door. He is the source of all truth, as the sun is the source of all light.

Various authorities give his name differentlyYan-shih Tien-tsun, or Lo Ching Hsin, and call him Tien Pao, the Treasure of Heaven, Some state that the name of the ruler of this first Heaven is Y Huang, and in the popular mind he it is who occupies this supreme position. The Three Pure Ones are above him in rank, but to him, the Pearly Emperor, is entrusted the superintendence of the world. He has all the power of Heaven and earth in his hands. He is the correlative of Heaven, or rather Heaven itself.

The second Heaven, Shang Ching, is ruled by the second person of the triad, named Ling-pao Tien-tsun, or Tao Chn. No information is given as to his origin. He is the custodian of the sacred books. He has existed from the beginning of the world. He calculates time, dividing it into different epochs. He occupies the upper pole of the world, and determines the movements and interaction, or regulates the relations of the yin and the yang, the two great principles of nature.

In the third Heaven, Tai Ching, the Taoists place Lao Page 125Tzŭ, the promulgator of the true doctrine drawn up by Ling-pao Tien-tsun. He is alternatively called Shn Pao, the Treasure of the Spirits, and Tai-shang Lao-chn, the Most Eminent Aged Ruler. Under various assumed names he has appeared as the teacher of kings and emperors, the reformer of successive generations.

This three-storied Taoist Heaven, or three Heavens, is the result of the wish of the Taoists not to be out-rivalled by the Buddhists. For Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood they substitute the Tao, or Reason, the Classics, and the Priesthood.

As regards the organization of the Taoist Heavens, Y Huang has on his register the name of eight hundred Taoist divinities and a multitude of Immortals. These are all divided into three categories: Saints (Shng-jn), Heroes (Chn-jn), and Immortals (Hsien-jn), occupying the three Heavens respectively in that order.

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