|From 1168 through 1170, Wang Chongyang and the seven students traveled in Shandong and Ninghai (present day Zhejiang), teaching and founding temples.
Following the death of Wang Chongyang in 1170, the seven traveled for a time but then went their separate ways. Qiu Chuji went to Panxi 磻溪 Pánxī to retreat from the world. He dug himself a cave to live in. It is said that he ate once a day and each day crossed the river bridge wearing a straw raincoat. He became known as the 蓑衣先生 (suōyī xiānsheng) Straw Coat Man.
In 1880 Qiu Chuji visited and then stayed at Longmen Mountain. Dragon Gate Grotto 龙门洞 (Lóngmén Dòng) is located near present-day Longxian, Shaanxi. He was delighted to find natural caves and fresh water streams. Having read classics such as the "Interior Huang Ting Jing" 《黄庭内景经》("huángtíngnèijǐngjīng"), a work on medicine and herbs in many volumes, he decided that sleep was an impediment and set out to conquer it in order to reach Complete Perfection. This he did, and the hallucinations which followed must have seemed wonderful. Sleep deprivation is a common form of religious practice to induce euphoria and visions. Basically, the individual begins to dream while awake. Eventually, the practice leads to paranoia and schizophrenic-like symptoms.
Qiu Chuji lived in his cave for many years growing in popularity. In those days your reputation would depend upon how long you had lived the ascetic life as well as on your skill as a teacher. Students and potential followers would come to you. In 1187 or 1188, it is possible that he was summoned by the Jurchen Jin Emperor Shizong (世宗 Shìzōng) to come to the Zhongdu capital of Yanjing. It may have been that only Wang Chuyi was summoned, but it makes a good story, so let's go on to the next section. Emperor Shizong was very impressed with Quanzhen Daoism and required that they stay for over half a year to both discuss things and give advice. Emperor Shizong died in 1190 and not only was his successor, Emperor Zhangzong 章宗 (Zhāngzōng), not interested in Quanzhen Daoism, but actively suppressed it.
In 1191 Zhangzong 章宗 (Zhāngzōng) issued a series of decrees to return strength to the Jurchen culture and way of life. From clothes to language, the Jurchen customs were to be followed. Quanzhen Daoism, in particular, was seen as having too many foreign and incompatible ideas. Qiu Chuyi returned to Shandong during this period. It was far away from the capital and the eyes of the emperor.
By 1214, Genghis Khan had invaded the Jin territories and the Jin emperor had moved to his southern capital, Kaifeng. There was chaos in Shandong due to the wars and Qiu Chuji worked to bring aid to the poor and the people fleeing war zones. When the rich would make donations to the temple, he would use the money to feed and clothe the poor. His fame grew. During this time he received repeated invitations from both the Jurchen Jin emperor and the Song emperor to come to their courts. He refused all of the offers.
It wasn't until he received a letter from Genghis Khan 成吉思汗 (Chéngjí Sīhàn) in 1219 that he agreed to leave Shandong. The letter is on the next page.
Last update: October 2009
© Marilyn Shea, 2009