Daoism: An Overview
DAOISM: AN OVERVIEW
The English word Daoism, with its nominalizing suffix, has no counterpart in the Chinese language. The term has been used in Western writings on China to refer to a wide range of phenomena. First, scholars employ the term Daoism to designate early philosophical texts classified as representing daojia (schools of the Dao) in early Chinese bibliographic works. Some of these, such as the Dao de jing (The classic of the way and its power), also known as the Laozi after its supposed author, propounded methods of governance based on mystical gnosis, inaction on the part of the ruler, and a metaphysics centered on the concept of the Dao. Others, such as the eponymous Zhuangzi, emphasized mystical union with the Dao and equanimity in the face of death and other natural processes.
Second, given the staunch antipathy toward Confucian methods of social organization common to texts classified daojia, the term Daoism has been employed in modern scholarship to mark a wide range of anti-Confucian, utopian, and escapist strains of thought. For instance, eremitic withdrawal from government service, a practice with deep roots in the Confucian tradition, was until recently routinely portrayed as "Daoism."
Third, and even more loosely, Daoism has been used in works on China to express a sort of free-flowing effortlessness informing individual endeavors, especially the arts of calligraphy, painting, music, and the like. Fourth, Daoism has been used to refer to any Chinese religious practice that is not identifiably Confucian or Buddhist. Fifth, and more strictly, the term Daoism is used by scholars to translate the Chinese term daojiao (literally, "teachings of the Dao"), the closest analogue for our term Daoism. The Chinese, like the Japanese, had no formal name for their native religion until the arrival of Buddhism. The term daojiao was thus fairly widely adopted to distinguish Daoist religious practice from fojiao, "the teachings of the Buddha," or Buddhism.
The present entry deals solely with these religious movements. Even with our narrower focus, problems of definition remain. Most Daoist organizations lacked or failed to emphasize elements deemed essential in other religions. With some exceptions, most Daoists throughout history would agree that their religion did not have a single founder, a closed canon of scriptures, a unified creed, exclusive criteria of lay membership, or a stable pantheon. Historically speaking, the most important structuring force was not internal, but external to the religion. In its efforts to impose order on the realm, the state from time to time sought to control Daoism through overseeing the initiation of clerics, the number of temples, the approved canon, and the like. While none of these attempts were ultimately successful, they did provide impetus for stricter organizational cohesion than would otherwise have been the case.
The high degree of doctrinal flexibility deployed by Daoist organizations often leads modern scholars to debate which specific ideas and practices might or might not be called Daoist. A more productive approach, one that emphasizes not what Daoism is, but how various traditions functioned within society, will notice how Daoism has remained an open system, accepting elements drawn from diverse sources and organizing them according to a constellation of key principles and practices. None of these constituents are exclusive to or original with the Daoist traditions. Yet the distinctiveness of the religion lies in the combination of such elements into a structure of beliefs and practices with distinct priorities. These priorities are explored in the following section.
Key Aspects of Daoism
The defining concept of the Daoist religion is the Dao itself, understood in a particular way. The term dao, originally denoting a "way" or "path," came to be used in pre-Han philosophical discourse to refer to the proper course of human conduct and, by extension, to the teachings of any philosophical school, especially insofar as these were based on the venerated ways of the sages of antiquity. In the Laozi, the Zhuangzi, and other early writings, the Dao came to be seen not as human order, but as the metaphysical basis of natural order itself, inchoate yet capable of being comprehended by the sage, primordial yet eternally present. This Dao of the early thinkers informs religious Daoist texts as well, but with an added dimension of great significance. For Daoists, the Dao underwent further transformations, analogous to those it underwent at the beginnings of time, to incarnate itself in human history. The Dao itself is seen as anthropomorphic, possessed of likes and dislikes, desires, sentiments, and motivations—the full range of human emotions. At the same time, the Dao might act in history through avatars, such as Laozi, who were fully human in appearance. Finally, a number of deities, including those resident in the human body, are regarded as divine hypostases of the Dao.
Qi has been variously translated as "breath," "pneuma," "vapor," or "energy." Seen as the basic building block of all things in the universe, qi is both energy and matter. In its primordial form, before division, the Dao is described as "nothingness," void and null. The first sign that it was about to divide, a process that would eventuate in the creation of the sensible world, was the appearance within this nothingness of qi, a term that originally seems to have meant "breath" or "steam." All physical objects in the universe are thus composed of relatively stable qi, while rarified qi is responsible for motion and energy and is the vital substance of life. In that the Dao is characterized by regular and cyclical change, the transformations of qi could be described in terms of recurring cycles, marked off in terms of yin, yang, the five phases, or the eight trigrams of the Yi jing. In such interlocking systems, qi was the intervening matrix by which things sharing the same coordinates in the cycle might resonate and influence one another.
Daoists, building both on such cosmological speculation and on various practices for extending life that featured the induction into the body of pure, cosmic qi, came to regard qi as the primary medium by which one might apprehend and eventually join with the Dao. Most meditation practices, in one way or another, involve swallowing qi and circulating it within the body. The primary difference between Daoist meditations and similar hygiene practices is that Daoists visualize the substance either in deified form or as the astral sustenance for qi -formed deities resident in the body. In fact, all of the gods are held to be concretions of qi from the earliest moments of the Dao's division. Qi, particularly that mysterious substance known as yuan qi (primal qi ) thus bridges the gulf between the sensible and the supramundane worlds.
While all existence is seen to be part of the Dao, movements away from its primordial condition of unity are held to be destructive, evil, and transgressive. The perfect human is thus imagined to be a flawless microcosm of the cosmic whole, with the bodily spirits perfectly attuned to their counterparts in the macrocosm. The most common depiction of the body in Daoist writings holds that it is divided into three realms, corresponding to the tripartite cosmic division into heaven, humanity, and earth. A spot in the brain, between and behind the eyebrows, controls the palaces of the head; the heart, organ of sentience and emotion, controls the center; and a spot above the pubis, center of reproduction, controls the life force. These are sometimes called the "three primes" or the "three cinnabar fields." From an initial unity before birth, the human body moves towards increased diversity and closer to death.
Daoist ritual is much concerned with identifying and combating the forces of aging, degeneration, and illness. The goal, at once temporal and spatial, is to bring the various aspects of the body back into unified harmony. Beings who existed in this state are called xian (Transcendents) or zhenren (Perfected). Generally, xian had once been human, while zhenren are pure manifestations of aspects of the Dao, though this distinction is not always strictly maintained.
In the correlative cosmology of Chinese science developed during the early Han dynasty, the earth was held to mirror the heavens, so that each portion of the realm corresponded precisely with a sector of the heavens. This correspondence was the basis for the determination of the celestial omens that were regularly reported to the throne. The pole star and surrounding constellations corresponded to the emperor and his court, so that "invasions" of meteors or comets in that portion of the sky were held to be particularly dire portents. In addition, four (and later five) mountains, or "marchmounts," were designated the corners and center of the square earth, symbolically encompassing the realm and corresponding to the five phases. These mountains, which support the sky dome, were thus points where communication with heaven was easiest. Most important in this regard was the eastern marchmount, Taishan, associated with the east, the rising of the sun, and new beginnings. Here a number of Chinese emperors ascended to perform a rite called the fengshan to seal with heaven their mandate to rule.
These concepts were further developed in Daoism. Daoist ritual often focuses on the northern dipper, whose movements mark the passage of time, and on the palaces of the apex of heaven, the higher gods of which are described in great detail. The other asterisms, the sun, and the moon also house gods responsible for the orderly revolutions of these celestial bodies who could be accessed through ritual. Eventually, all of the marchmounts boasted Daoist temples.
Imperial symbolism extends into almost every aspect of the Daoist religion. Aspects of the Dao are visualized as the lord of heaven with a dizzying number of spirit-officials. Just as the well-run kingdom depended on the labors of its bureaucracy, so the workings of the cosmos depend on this pantheon of spirits. The human body is held to house a corresponding pantheon of spirits. Daoist methods for communicating with the spirits of the body and the heavens involve both visualization meditations and the actual delivery of documents, swallowed for the internal spirits and buried, submerged, or burned for delivery to the cosmic pantheon. Illness, like disorders in the human realm, can be cured through such petitioning rites, the goal of which is to bring disharmony to the attention of the highest gods. When the priest presents such documents, he or she is acting as an official in this celestial pantheon. Because of this, Daoist priests are sometimes called "officials of the Dao."
The gods who fill various ranks in the pantheon, including the highest, are not fixed. Daoists hold that gods, as part of a changeable cosmos, are themselves subject to change and can be promoted or demoted. A number of rituals end with a procedure to "establish merit," whereby the gods invoked in the rite are recommended for promotion in gratitude for their prompt aid. Divinities from Buddhism and the gods worshiped by local cults could also be absorbed into the pantheon. New revelations almost always include information on new gods or rearrangements of the existing pantheon.
Meditations and ritual practices are designed to bring individuals and communities back to a state of integration with the Dao. Modeled on the dawn assemblies held by the human monarch to review his officials, the basic ritual program brings the Daoist priest in vision before the assembled bureaucracy of heaven where, through his merit, he can formally request the rectification of disease or other disorder. Ritual robes, headgear, and paraphernalia, all carefully described in Daoist manuals, are fashioned after the styles of the imperial court. Communication with the spirits of heaven takes place sometimes through recitation of petitions, sometimes through their presentation by burning. In addition, some documents—talismans and longer texts—are written in "celestial script," an imaginative form of writing loosely resembling ancient forms of Chinese graphs, but illegible to ordinary mortals.
One striking feature of Daoist ritual is the way it collapses space and time. The ritual space is constructed to symbolize the cosmos, overlaid with the vertical dimension of the center, which represents the highest courts of the heavens. Temporally, Daoist ritual seeks to bring its performers back to the moment of cosmogenesis, when the Dao was integrated and whole. In its fully developed form, Daoist ritual became a colorful pageant that had a marked influence on Chinese drama. The ascent of the priests to the courts of heaven is outwardly symbolized with banners, retinues of acolytes bearing incense and flowers, and ritual pacing accompanied by austere music.
In its concern with time, Daoism adopted the notion of cyclical return common to ancient Chinese metaphysics. One component of the "Mandate of Heaven" concept was that empires rose and fell in a regular cycle, a cycle that was eventually associated with the cyclical progress of the five phases. Daoist contributions to this system of thought came to the fore particularly when the religion was employed by one or another aspirant to the throne to support his program. But, given that Daoism came into being as a religious entity during the final days of the Han empire, dire pronouncements concerning an imminent sweeping away of the unjust and the establishment of a new kingdom of Great Peace were always part of the religion, helping to support its program of moral reform. One early version promised that the righteous would be the "seed people" of the coming age, chosen to repopulate the new divinely sanctioned kingdom. Equally important were the contributions of Buddhist scripture, whose vast cosmological visions and descriptions of "kalpa cycles" came to inform eschatological writings.
The idea that humans, through indulging their desires and hoarding what should be shared, block the correct circulation of energies that should exist in the ideal Daoist kingdom has been present from the beginning. As noted above, illness was seen by early Daoists as a sign of such transgression. Followers were urged to repent of transgressions and to petition the deities to repair the imbalances caused thereby. The primary transgression mentioned in Daoist writings seems to be covetousness or desire. Even when providing explanations for the Laozi, however, early Daoists did not follow that text in its rejection of Confucian virtues such as humaneness and responsibility. Instead, they argued that such virtues were too often merely outward and advocated the practice of "secret virtue," good acts performed secretly so that only the gods would know and reward the agent. Eventually, Daoist texts and morality tracts regularly came to include lists of precepts to be followed by priests and by the laity.
Relations with other religions
The doctrinal flexibility of Daoist practice meant that the system was quite accommodating to Buddhism, and later to such foreign imports as Manichaeism. This ability to absorb the beliefs and practices of other religions could elicit a negative response from proponents of the targeted religion. One idea that resurfaced several times in Chinese history was that Buddhism was but a foreign version of Daoism, created by Laozi himself when he disappeared through the western gates of the Chinese kingdom. Insofar as this story was related to show that Daoism was fit for the Han peoples, while Buddhism had been specifically crafted for "foreign barbarians," it was rightly seen by Buddhists as an attempt to co-opt their religion. Books propounding this theory were imperially banned several times.
Most Daoist adaptations of Buddhist doctrine and practice were innocent of such motives. Since Buddhist sūtras were translated into Chinese, it was natural that Buddhist doctrine had to be explained in native terms. Daoism often informed or, through adapting Buddhist doctrine and practice to its own uses, reconfigured those native understandings. While appropriations went both ways, it is undeniable that many features of the Daoist religion are adaptations of ideas brought in with Buddhism. The distinctive Daoist ideas of rebirth, of the underworld purgatories, of monastic life—to name but a few—all grew from productive interactions with Buddhism. Generations of Chinese scholar-officials and Buddhist scholiasts sought to clarify the boundaries between the two religions, but the attempt proved less than successful. Indeed, as Erik Zürcher (1983) has remarked, China's three great religions—Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism—might be envisioned as a floating iceberg with three peaks. Above the waterline, the peaks are distinct, but below, where the religion of the common masses is situated, they merge into undifferentiation.
Such is not the case for Daoist interactions with the popular, or common, religion of the Chinese people, which is centered on cults to the powerful dead who are often consulted through mediums and propitiated with meat sacrifice. Originally, Daoist organizations forthrightly banned all such worship of "blood eaters," arguing that these unholy gods only drained the sustenance of those who worshipped them. Eventually, a few such figures were admitted to the Daoist pantheon and other associated practices, such as fortune-telling, were allowed. Nonetheless, most Daoist lineages strove first and foremost to distinguish their practice from that of common cult religion.
Daoism at the Beginning of the Imperial Era: First and Second Centuries ce
As mentioned above, the Daoist religion began with the founding of the Way of the Celestial Masters (Tianshi dao ) in the second century ce. Recent archeological finds and increased scholarly attention have begun to clarify the lively religious scene of the Han dynasty (206 bce–220 ce) that provided the backdrop to this event and contributed elements that were shaped into the Daoist synthesis.
From later Warring States times, shadowy fangshi or "masters of prescriptions" sought patronage with various rulers, promulgating esoteric techniques passed from master to disciple. These included knowledge of paradises beyond the seas, alchemical, magical, and medical techniques, and the ability to contact spirits. From such sources there grew a widespread popular belief in the existence of xian, "Transcendents" or "Immortals," winged beings who could bypass death, travel vast distances to inhabit remote paradises, or confer blessings on deserving mortals. One of the most powerful of these was the Queen Mother of the West, who was held to reside on the mythical cosmic mountain Kunlun. In the opening years of the common era, a panic spread through the Shandong peninsula when farmers left their fields and traveled west to greet what they said was the imminent arrival of this deity. The Queen Mother would eventually find a place in the Daoist pantheon. From around the same time we have records of others sacrificing to the deified Laozi, regarding him as a salvific, cosmic deity in the fashion of the archaic deity Taiyi.
Another aspect of Han belief that was adapted into Daoism was the idea that documents addressed to the bureaucracy of the otherworld should be interred with the dead to facilitate the transfer from one realm to the other and to ensure that the dead did not return to injure the living. Archeologically recovered documents, addressed to the Yellow, or Heavenly, Thearch and his officers attest to this belief.
Perhaps the most important ingredient, however, was the constellation of ideas surrounding Han imperial religion. These include the belief that heaven responds directly to human actions, rewarding good and evil, and that heaven forecasts its will through signs and portents. The Han court invested a good deal of administrative energy in collecting and analyzing such portents. This led to the composition of apocryphal addenda (chenwei ) to the imperially-sanctioned Confucian classics that detailed the systems underlying celestial omens and explained how to interpret them. According to these texts, heaven regularly intervened in human history by sending its envoys in human form. Normally, these divinely engendered beings were seen to be the founders of new dynasties. But cultural heroes, such as Confucius, were also born in this fashion.
In the chaotic years leading up to the fall of the Han dynasty, a number of aspirants to the throne, holding that celestial approbation had departed from the Liu house, employed religious persuasions of the sort that had supported the divine mandate of the dynasty to mobilize followers. Among the rebel groups mentioned by court historians was the organization to which later Daoists traced the beginnings of their dispensation, the Celestial Masters. Sometimes mentioned by historians in the same tone was a more infamous group, the Yellow Turbans.
Centered in the eastern reaches of the Han empire, the Yellow Turban rebellion, led by a man named Zhang Jue, was a well-planned insurrection organized around a millennial religious ideology. Zhang called his movement the "Way of Great Peace" and, under the slogan that the "Yellow Heaven is about to rise," sought to position himself and his followers as the vanguard of a new and perfect society. It is likely that this ideology was drawn from a revealed book, the Scripture of Great Peace, perhaps a version of a work that had been promulgated earlier in the Han dynasty by a court faction. The Scripture of Great Peace, which survives only in fifth- or sixth-century recensions, promotes an ideal social structure based on cosmic principles, particularly the idea that the moral action of each person determines not only individual wellbeing, but also the health of the body politic and the smooth functioning of the cosmos.
The Yellow Turbans converted people to their cause through healing practices, including incantation, doses of water infused with the ashes of talismans, and confession of sins. The Scripture of Great Peace relates confession to the idea that political and cosmic disease is caused by humans and must be cured on the individual level. Sin, in this text, is the failure to act in accord with one's social role, thereby blocking the circulation of the Dao's energies. Those who should labor with their bodies fail to do so, but live in idleness; those who possess wealth keep it for their own enjoyment rather than allowing it to circulate; and those who should teach virtue only "accumulate" it for their personal benefit. These and other blockages to the circulation of goods and life forces lead, by this account, to illness and death. This strict correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm was to be a prominent feature of later Daoist practice.
Zhang Jue organized his followers into thirty-six administrative regions. The new age of the Yellow Heaven was to dawn in the year 184, the beginning of a new sexagesimal cycle by the Chinese calendar. Despite well-laid plans, news of Zhang Jue's uprising reached the court and the Yellow Turbans were defeated within the year.
The ideologies and practices of the early Celestial Masters were superficially similar to those of the Yellow Turbans. Historians note that the early Celestial Masters knew of the Scripture of Great Peace, but there is no conclusive evidence of any direct connection between the two movements. The Celestial Masters revered as founder Zhang Ling (Zhang Daoling in Daoist texts), a man of Pei (in modern Jiangsu province) who traveled to the kingdom of Shu (the western part of modern Sichuan) to study the Dao on Mount Crane-call. Daoist texts record that there, in the year 142 ce, he was visited by the "Newly appeared Lord Lao," the deified Laozi. Laozi granted him the title "Heavenly [-appointed] Teacher" or Celestial Master. On Ling's death, the title of Celestial Master was passed on to his son Heng, and eventually to his grandson, Lu. The line of transmission, it is claimed, remains unbroken this day, but the first three Celestial Masters, and their wives, are the most important. Later Daoist ritual regularly includes the invocation of their names.
Some scholars have suggested, however, that the legends of the first two Celestial Masters were fabrications, since only Zhang Lu is mentioned in non-Daoist historical records. Nonetheless, a stele inscription found in the modern province of Sichuan, recording the initiation of a group of libationers, or priests, in 173 ce, attests to the fact that Celestial Master practice existed at that time and already had produced a corpus of scriptures.
The Celestial Masters divided their followers into twenty-four parishes or dioceses, each headed by a libationer. But this hierarchy was not organized along traditional lines. Women and non-Han peoples—two groups so devalued in traditional Chinese society that accounts of them, if they appeared at all, were placed at the end of standard histories—were welcomed as full members of the Celestial Masters' community. Both could serve as libationers, and men were encouraged to emulate virtues specifically associated with women.
Libationers instructed the people by means of the Dao de jing, which was to be recited chorally so that even the illiterate could be instructed. The Xiang'er commentary to the Dao de jing, attributed to Zhang Lu and surviving in part in a Tang dynasty manuscript recovered from Dunhuang, attests to the novel ways in which they interpreted the text.
As Terry Kleeman (1994) has shown, the central teaching of the Celestial Masters, called "the Correct and Orthodox Covenant with the Powers," held that "the gods do not eat or drink, the master does not accept money." This stricture, as clarified in the Xiang'er commentary, mandates the rejection of blood sacrifice, central to popular and imperial cult. In place of gods, and their priests, who could be swayed by offerings, the Celestial Masters revered deities who were pure emanations of the Dao and ate only qi. Agents of this unseen bureaucracy resided even in the human body and so could not be deceived. They would be moved only by good deeds or ritually presented petitions of contrition. In any event, they kept detailed records of each person's merits and demerits.
The Celestial Masters cured illness with confession and the ingestion of talisman water. The ill were to confess their transgressions in specially constructed "chambers of quietude" and to present the necessary written petitions to the offices of heaven, earth, and water. Three times a year—the seventh of the first month, the seventh of the seventh month, and the fifth of the tenth month by the lunar calendar—people were to assemble at their assigned parish. There, libationers would verify records of death and birth, and communal meals would be held. On this occasion, members of the community were to present a good-faith offering of five pecks of rice. This gave rise to an alternate name for the community, the "Way of the Five Pecks of Rice" or, in less favorable sources, "the rice bandits." Beyond these faith-offerings, the community was enjoined to perform acts of merit, such as the building of roads or the provision of free food for travelers.
As Kristofer Schipper (1982) shows in detail, libationers were also responsible for bestowing on the faithful registers recording the number of transcendent "generals," residents of their own bodies, that they were empowered to summon and control. Children of six years of age received a register with one general. By marriageable age, initiates could receive registers listing seventy-five generals, a number that they could double by performing the Celestial Master marriage ritual. This ritual, known as "merging qi " included instruction in a precise method of intercourse that could replenish the bodily forces of male and female participants, normally deficient in yin and yang qi respectively, without the exchange of bodily fluids that led to reproduction. As the Xiang'er commentary explains, the Dao wishes people to reproduce, but not to squander their vital energies. Later reformers were to criticize and rectify this practice, which was considered "lascivious" by outsiders.
By the end of the second century, Zhang's grandson, Zhang Lu, then head of the community, took sanctuary in the Hanzhong Valley, just north of the Sichuan basin and over 200 kilometers southwest of the Han capital of Chang'an (modern Xian). In 215 ce, Zhang Lu surrendered to Cao Cao, the Han general whose son was to inaugurate the Wei dynasty (220–265) of the Three Kingdoms period. As a result of this act of fealty, a large portion of the Celestial Master community was relocated from Hanzhong to areas farther north, while many of its leaders were enfeoffed or otherwise ennobled. While some followers doubtless remained from the early period in Sichuan, the spread of Daoism throughout China as a whole begins with this diaspora of the original Celestial Master community.
A fascinating document found in the Daoist canon, the "Commands and Admonitions for the Families of the Great Dao," dated to the first of the three yearly assemblies in 255, gives us some idea of how the community fared under the Wei kingdom. Delivered in the voice of Zhang Lu, who had doubtless died by that time, the document warns the community of the impending fall of the dynasty and excoriates them for lapses in practice. From this document, we learn that the system of parishes had fallen into disarray and that a number of new texts, including the important Scripture of the Yellow Court were in circulation. The "Admonitions" further states that Zhang Lu himself, or at least the medium who now spoke in the voice of Zhang, authored the Scripture of the Yellow Court, which presents detailed meditations on the gods of the body.
Daoism of the Six Dynasties: Fourth through Sixth Centuries
We hear no more of the Celestial Masters until the Jin dynasty's (265–420) hold on northern China began to weaken early in the fourth century. A group of ethnic Ba families, some two hundred thousand strong, returned to the region of Chengdu where Li Te inaugurated the short-lived theocracy known as the Cheng-Han (302–347). Other Celestial Master adherents came into the region around present-day Nanjing when the Jin dynasty relocated there in 317. The writings of Ge Hong (283–343), a member of an influential southern gentry family, provide detailed information on the vibrant religious scene that the Celestial Masters encountered.
At a young age, Ge Hong formally received from his tutor—a man who claimed that his lineage extended through Ge's great-uncle—"Grand Purity" alchemical scriptures and the Esoteric Writings of the Three Sovereigns. Throughout the remainder of his life, Ge collected as many such texts as he could. Though his poverty prevented him from ever concocting an elixir himself, Ge Hong became an ardent proponent of practices of transcendence that extended back to the fangshi of the Han. Two works bearing his name have survived. The inner chapters of the eponymous Baopu zi (Master who embraces simplicity), known by Ge Hong's style name, represent a spirited defense of the arts of transcendence and include transcriptions of some of the methods Ge studied. Ge ranks such practices, listing herbal recipes meant to prolong life as a distant second to the ingestion of the mineral and metallic products of the alchemist's furnace. The Traditions of Divine Transcendents, which survives only in later redactions, provides vivid hagiographies of important transcendent figures, including Laozi and Zhang Daoling, who is here portrayed as a practitioner of alchemy.
While Ge Hong shows only a limited awareness of Celestial Master religion, as Robert Campany (2002) has shown, his writings provide invaluable testimony to the ways religious practitioners operated in the society of the time, gaining reputations for their esoteric arts, seeking patronage, and initiating disciples. Further, Ge's written works attest to several scriptural traditions that were eventually to find their way into the Daoist canon. The most important of these are the two traditions into which Ge was initiated as a youth and the Five Talismans of Lingbao, a book of visualization practice and herbal recipes. Indeed, it was through Ge's own family, as well as families related to his by marriage, that Celestial Master Daoism was to be reshaped through an infusion of these southern traditions.
Between the years 363 and 370, the Daoist Yang Xi (330–c. 386) was employed as a spiritual advisor by a gentry family related to Ge's through marriage. Yang's patrons, who had employed before him a Celestial Master libationer, were Xu Mi (303–373), a minor official at the imperial court, and his son Hui (341–c. 370). From his meditation chamber, Yang brought to them enticing revelations from the unseen world. These concerned both the whereabouts in the underworld or heavens of the relatives and acquaintances of the Xus and their circle, as well as complete scriptures outlining new practices. Transmitted from person to person among this privileged group, Yang's Shangqing (Upper clarity or supreme purity) scriptures and revealed fragments of divine instruction eventually came to be collected in the first of the tripartite divisions of the Daoist canon. Thereafter, the Shangqing scriptures, augmented by later revelations and additions, became the center of one school of Daoist practice, with its own patriarchs, priests, temples, and liturgies.
Several features distinguished the Shangqing scriptures from the mass of scriptural material produced during this period. First of all, the texts emanated from the highest reaches of the heavens. The Transcendents (xian ) of earlier scripture occupy only lower positions in the celestial hierarchy. Above them are ranks of even more exalted and subtle beings, the Perfected (or "Authentic Ones," zhenren ), a term originating in the Zhuangzi but here made part of a bureaucratic pantheon of celestial deities. The Perfected, male and female, are clothed in resplendent garb, described in terms of mists and auroras. They are decked out with tinkling gems, symbols of their high office. Their bodies are formed of the purest qi and glow with a celestial radiance as they move about the heavens in chariots of light. The texts such beings brought were likewise exalted in that they described the practices the Perfected themselves employed to subtilize their bodies. In fact, one form the Shangqing scriptures take is that of a biography of one or another of the Perfected, replete with descriptions of the practices associated with that deity.
Secondly, the Shangqing scriptures clearly earned their eventual popularity in large part through the compelling way in which they are written. Yang Xi must be counted among the major innovators in the history of Chinese letters. The language of his texts—both poetry and prose—is abstruse, dense, and obscurely allusive. It seems to exemplify as much as express the mysterious qualities of the spirit world to which he had been granted privileged access as the result of his strivings. The macrocosm-microcosm identity familiar from other Daoist texts becomes for Yang license for a multivalence of signification whereby literally whole passages refer simultaneously to, for instance, the placement of palaces in the heavens and the arrangement of spirit-residences in the viscera. Yang frequently uses such devices as synesthetic metaphor to portray how apparent contradictions collapse in the Dao. In addition, because Yang's revelations described spirit marriages with young female Perfected awaiting both him and the Xus, one cannot discount the erotic component of Yang's productions. Yang's unique style was immediately and widely imitated, both by writers of Daoist scripture and by later secular writers.
Finally, the Shangqing texts were prized for their message. The Shangqing texts do not represent a radical break with the past. All of the meditations and rituals found in them have analogues in earlier religious literature. A number of scriptures contain improvements on earlier Celestial Master techniques, while one fragment proves to be a rewritten version of the Buddhist Sūtra in Forty-two Sections. What is really new is the way in which the constituent parts are modified to give preeminence to the guided meditations and visualizations of the practitioner. The meditation practice of the Shangqing scripture includes both visionary journeys into the heavens and more direct ways of working with the body.
Visionary journeys have an ancient pedigree in Chinese religion. In the Shangqing scriptures, the adept is instructed to perform purifications and then to visualize his or her body ascending to the sun, moon, stars, or up into the celestial timekeeper, the northern dipper. There, the adept imbibes astral sustenance, the food of the gods, pays homage to the gods, or exchanges documents with them. Practices aimed at perfecting the body also typically involve visualization. While there are quite a few references to drugs and elixirs in the Shangqing texts, the tradition tended to transform more physical practices into meditative experience. Generally, the spirits that inhabit the body are energized through the ingestion of pure qi, enjoined not to leave, and merged with their celestial counterparts. In some practices, the joining of bodily gods with those of the macrocosm functions as an interiorization of the Celestial Master sexual practice known as "merging qi." Other techniques teach ways of reenacting the process of gestation using the qi of the nine heavens to create an immortal body.
After the death of Yang and the Xus, the fragments of personal revelation and the scriptures Yang had received from the Perfected were scattered. The preservation of such a significant portion of Yang's writings is due to the efforts of Tao Hongjing (456–536), perhaps the foremost scholar of early Daoism. Tao collected the more personal revelations that Yang Xi wrote for the Xus in his Zheng'ao (Declarations of the Perfected), an extremely diverse work that includes records of the Perfected mates promised to Yang Xi and Xu Mi, injunctions to Xu Mi and Xu Hui concerning the details of their practice, letters between them, accounts of the underworld topography of Mount Mao, and even records of dreams. As this work cites a number of scriptures, it has proven invaluable to scholars' attempts to reconstruct Daoist history. In addition, Tao Hongjing edited a number of the scriptures that he was able to acquire and preserved annotated passages from them in his Dengzhen yinjue (Secret instructions on the ascent to perfection), which survives only in part.
At the very beginning of the fifth century, another southern corpus of scriptures began to emerge, attesting to yet another attempt to reform Daoist practice. These scriptures, collectively known as Lingbao (Numinous gem), represent at once a return to the communal practices of the Celestial Masters and a renewed attempt to make Daoism the common religion. The Lingbao scriptures drew upon the religious traditions of the day (fangshi practice, Han-period apocrypha, southern practices known to Ge Hong such as those found in the Lingbao wufu jing itself, Celestial Master Daoism, Shangqing Daoism, and Buddhism), sometimes copying entire sections of text and presenting them so as to accord with its central doctrines in order to fashion a new, universal religion for a unified China. While Lingbao proponents failed in this attempt—the emperor upon whom they based their hopes, Song Wudi (r. 420–422) failed to reunify the kingdom, and monks expert in the texts they plagiarized, Buddhist and Daoist alike, denounced their productions as forgeries—the Lingbao texts they produced did lead to a new Daoist unity.
While Lingbao descriptions of the spiritual cosmography of the human body differ little from those of the Shangqing scriptures, their soteriology are very different. The Lingbao texts describe an elaborate cosmic bureaucracy that has survived the destruction of the cosmos through countless kalpas, or "world-ages," a concept adapted from Buddhism. At the apex of the pantheon is the Celestial Worthy of Primordial Commencement, a deity who plays somewhat the same role in the Lingbao scriptures as the cosmic Buddha in Buddhist scriptures. By joining with the enduring Dao through keeping its precepts and conducting rituals for the salvation of others, adherents hope to ensure for themselves either a favorable rebirth "as a prince or marquis" or immediate promotion into the celestial bureaucracy. The hymns and liturgies of the scriptures reenact and prepare practitioners for this latter, final destination. This was the first instance in which a version of the Buddhist concept of rebirth was fully integrated into Daoist doctrine. Significantly, Daoists, holding that their religion valued life while Buddhism valued death, did not forward nirvāṇa (cessation) as a religious goal. Because later Daoist ritual practice was based on these early Lingbao texts, this explanation of rebirth was to become an enduring feature of the religion.
The moral component of the Lingbao scriptures—a mixture of traditional Chinese morality and Buddhist salvational ethics—is much more prominent than that found in earlier texts. There is also a pronounced proselytizing emphasis. The texts argue that contemporary Daoist and Buddhist practices are but variant paths that lead to the same goal and that the rewritten versions of some practices found in their pages are the original, authentic pronouncements of the Celestial Worthy from prior kalpas. As a result, the Lingbao scriptures give what amounts to the earliest attempt to grade religious practices, an emphasis that led Lu Xiujing (406–477), the Daoist who first catalogued the Lingbao scriptures, to also make a listing of all Daoist texts, entitled the Catalog of the Three Caverns. Lu's catalog originally comprised 1,228 juan (scrolls) of texts, of which 138 had not yet been revealed on earth. The texts were divided into three "caverns" or "comprehensive collections": Dongzhen (comprehending perfection, containing Shangqing texts), Dongxuan (comprehending the mysterious, containing Lingbao texts), and Dongshen (comprehending the spirits, containing early southern scriptures). All subsequent Daoist canons were organized into these "three caverns." Three deities, each regarded as a transformation of the former, were designated the ultimate sources of these three collections of texts. These were: (1) for Dongzhen, the Lord of Celestial Treasure, residing in the Heaven of Jade Clarity; (2) for Dongxuan, the Lord of Numinous Treasure, residing in the Heaven of Upper Clarity; and (3) for Dongshen, the Lord of Spiritual Treasure, residing in the Heaven of Grand Clarity. With some modifications, this trinity, also known as the "three pure ones," continued to be central to later Daoist ritual traditions.
In the north of China, reform of the Celestial Masters' practice took a different turn. In 415 and again in 423, Kou Qianzhi (365–448), a Celestial Masters' priest, received from the deified Laozi revelations containing codes explicitly meant to reform aberrant practice and lead to a more tightly organized ecclesia. With the help of a high official, he pre-sented these to the throne of the Toba (a Turkish people) Wei dynasty (386–534). Because the foreign rulers in the north of China were interested in controlling religions that might disguise rebellion, the Toba emperor agreed to make Kou's new dispensation the official religion of the kingdom. The demand for orthodoxy increased to the extent that the emperor was eventually urged to proscribe Buddhism. The Daoist theocracy barely outlived Kou.
Subsequent northern emperors continued to harbor suspicions of unregulated religious practice, however, leading to a series of court debates between Buddhists and Daoists and concomitant attempts to abolish one religion or the other. The best documented of these occurred during the reign of Yuwen Yong, Emperor Wu of the Zhou dynasty (r. 560–578). Harboring the ambition to reunify China, Emperor Wu, who had himself received initiation into Daoist scriptures, held several debates between Buddhists and Daoists to determine which of their doctrines would best complement the Confucian state orthodoxy. Daoist apologists argued, apparently with some success, that their practice extended back into the prehistorical golden age of the Central Kingdom, while the Buddhist religion was a recent foreign import. But the debates were still inconclusive and the emperor charged one of his officials, Zhen Luan, to compose a treatise comparing the two religions. When Zhen produced the "Treatise Deriding the Dao," which debunked the claim of antiquity of Daoist scriptures and undermined the hope for a unifying ideology, the emperor ordered it burned and commissioned the scholarly monk Dao'an to write a new treatise, "Treatise on the Two Teachings." Both works survive in the Buddhist canon, providing scholars with opposition views regarding the Daoist practice of the day. Daoist apologists, on the other hand, preserved no similarly detailed documentation of the debates.
As would happen again and again throughout Chinese history, Emperor Wu's attempts at central control of religion were neither effective nor long lasting. In 574, he ordered that Buddhist and Daoist monks return to lay life and confiscated temple holdings. Later in the same year, he established a central Daoist temple, the Tongdao guan (Observatory for Comprehending the Dao) and commissioned the composition of an encyclopedic collection of Daoist writings, the Wushang biyao (Secret essentials of the most high). While the proscriptions did not endure beyond Emperor Wu's death in 578, the controversies continued as subsequent emperors attempted to co-opt the prestige of Buddhism and Daoism to bolster their dynastic designs. Within Daoism, the Wushang biyao did have the effect of providing its contents with the stamp of orthodoxy, though at some point the more egregious passages claiming that Buddhist doctrine and practice originated with Daoism were expunged from the collection.
Daoism under the Tang (618–907)
The rulers of the short-lived Sui dynasty (581–618), which did manage to unify China, favored Buddhism to lend cosmological authority to their state orthodoxy. But millennial expectations, drawn from both Buddhism and Daoism, arose in force again to contribute to the downfall of the dynasty. Foremost among these expectations was the idea, derived from early Daoism and given prominence in the Shangqing scriptures, that the "Perfect Lord" Li Hong would soon descend to sweep away the unjust and establish a rule of great peace. Among those who took on the mantle of the Perfect Lord was Li Yuan, founder of the Tang dynasty. Further, he claimed descent from Laozi, whose given name was said to have been Li Er. Given this, Tang emperors tended thereafter to favor the Daoist religion.
As a result, the Tang period marked a time of consolidation and expansion for the Daoist tradition. Even Wu Zhao (r. 684–705), who proclaimed herself "emperor" and renamed the dynasty Zhou, while giving secondary status to the religion that had lent support to those she sought to replace, took recourse to Daoist symbolism, ritual, and prestige to establish her rule. The most fervent imperial supporter of Daoism was Li Longji (the Xuanzong Emperor, r. 712–756). The emperor's personal involvement with the cult of the dynastic ancestor built up slowly over the course of his long reign. At first he sponsored rituals for the welfare of the state, employing prominent priests such as Sima Chengzhen (647–735) to help revise state ritual and music. He also introduced Laozi's text, the Dao de jing, into the state exam system, even composing an imperial commentary to the text. The favor he bestowed on the religion was matched by imperial oversight. He instituted the office of commissioner for Daoist ritual to control at the national level the ordination and registration of the priesthood. Similar oversight was accorded Buddhist institutions.
It was during the second half of Xuanzong's reign that his enthusiasm for the religion came most fully to the fore. The watershed events were the appearance of the divine ancestor to the emperor in dreams and the discovery of a talisman, the whereabouts of which was also revealed by Laozi. As a result of this latter discovery, the emperor changed the reign-name to "Celestial Treasure." He distributed images of Laozi, fashioned after his dream vision, throughout the empire, granted grand titles to the sage, and established official institutes for Daoist study in each prefecture of the realm. As Timothy Barrett (1996) shows, graduates of these institutes could take part in the newly inaugurated Daoist examination in the capital and enter the civil service, the first time religious examinations had ever been used for this purpose. Meanwhile officials reported apparitions of Laozi and other signs of divine approbation with great frequency. Even Xuanzong's flight from the capital as a result of the An Lushan rebellion and his removal from power are not without legends of Laozi's continued support of the emperor.
Due in part to this imperial favor, the Tang dynasty marked a rapid expansion of Daoist belief and practice into the gentry class, with a concomitant growth in Daoist scholarship. A number of encyclopedias, annotations, and local histories survive from the period. In response to the subtleties of Buddhist philosophy, Daoist scholars evolved a number of philosophical approaches to Daoism, from meditations on the self and nurturing life to analyses of the processes by which one might join with the Dao. Distinctive styles of music, art, and dance were also developed. With the regularization of Daoist monasticism, we learn more about women who entered Daoist orders, some clearly attracted by the prospect of gaining more control over their lives. A few gained kingdom-wide reputations for their piety. Once such was Huang Lingwei (c. 640–721), who after a long period of training restored and occupied the shrine of the Shang-qing goddess Wei Huacun. Her reconstruction of the site was aided at each step by divine visions and dreams. The number of poems presented to her by famous figures and the laudatory biography written after her death by the official and calligrapher Yan Zhenqing (709–784) attest to her fame.
The practice of alchemy also came into prominence during the Tang. As in other areas of Daoist scholasticism, ancient texts were collected and compared. One representative work is the Essential Instructions from the Scriptures on the Elixirs of Great Clarity (Sivin, 1968) by the physician and pharmacologist Sun Simiao (581–682). While the exact extent of elixir ingestion is unknown, a number of literati mention the practice in their writings. In addition, Tang emperors patronized masters of alchemy and several of the later emperors may have died as a result of such experimentation. Meanwhile, the use of alchemical experimentation as a means to observe the workings of the cosmos led to the gradual creation of "inner alchemy," a term that refers to various methods for merging "cinnabar" and "lead" within the body to create the immortal embryo without actual ingestion of mineral or metallic substances. As Fabrizio Pregadio (2000) has shown, this trend began during the late Six Dynasties period (220–589 ce) with the Zhouyi cantong qi (Token of the concordance of the three, based on the Book of Changes ), a work that shows operative alchemy to be a replication of cosmic processes as defined by the symbol systems of the ancient fortune-telling manual, the Book of Changes. Widely studied during the Tang, this work, together with the dangers of elixir ingestion, led to the eclipse of operative alchemy.
Later Daoists were to look back on the Tang as a golden age, and often traced their own lineages to real or mythological Tang figures. A more balanced picture of the religion appears in the works of Du Guangting (850–933), the foremost Daoist priest of the Shu kingdom (in present-day Sichuan). Writing as the Tang dynasty lay in ruins, Du's collections of hagiographies, miracle tales, inscriptions, and ritual summaries attest to aspects of the religion that are given short shrift or lacking in earlier sources (Verellen, 1989). Here we learn of the importance of Daoist practice at the local level, the veneration of holy women, and the importance of lay benefactors for the maintenance of temples and images.
Daoism under the Song (960–1279) and Yuan (1206–1368)
In gauging the development of Daoism during the Song and Yuan dynasties, we must avoid the "documentary fallacy." More than half of the texts found in our primary source for the study of the religion, the Ming canon printed in 1445, were compiled after the mid-twelfth century. This dramatic increase in documentation, in part the result of the invention of printing and consequent spread of literacy, provides evidence, unavailable from earlier times, on how the religion operated at all strata of society. This has sometimes led scholars to underestimate the penetration of Daoism into lower levels of society in earlier periods and to overstate the spread of the religion during the Song and Yuan. Even accounting for this distorting factor, however, it does appear that social changes—especially the rise in mercantilism, increased literacy, and the relaxation of governmental control—led to new forms of organization, an increase in the number of literate priests, heightened religious competition, and a consequent burgeoning of pantheons and practices. Increasingly, localities, regional associations of various kinds, and minority communities came to adopt Daoist deities and practices. At the same time, scholarly Daoists composed vast ritual compendia, consolidating and formalizing practice. And, again under foreign rule in the north of China, another counter-trend emerged. This was Quanzhen Daoism, a well-organized and highly centralized monastic movement.
These disparate features of the religion endure to the present day. In many ways, then, scholars tend to see the Song period as the beginning of modern Daoism. The most thoroughly studied example of a local therapeutic and exorcistic tradition that rose to national prominence, and eventually received court recognition, is the Rectifying Rites of Tianxin (the center of heaven, that is, the northern dipper). While serving the fourth ruler of the state of Min (present-day Fuzhou) during the years 935 to 939, a Daoist priest by the name of Tan Zixiao was asked to interpret a set of talismans that had come to light. These, he pronounced, were part of a secret patrimony, the Rectifying Rites of Tianxin, passed down from Zhang Daoling. The talismans, as they developed in the tradition, were held to embody the power of the celestial emperor of the north, of the Department of Exorcisms, and his agents, the fearsome generals Tianpeng, Heisha, and Zhenwu, among others. Daoist priests visualized Tianpeng in Tantric form and the latter two with disheveled hair, bulging eyes, brandished weapons, and martial dress. And thus they are depicted in Daoist statuary and painting. The rites of Tianxin were passed from master to master, finally coming to the Daoist Deng Yougong, who between 1075 and 1100 wrote ritual manuals that were eventually included in the imperially sponsored Song Daoist canon of 1120, the first ever to be printed.
Another ritual tradition was founded by Lu Shizhong (fl. 1100–1158), a native of Chenzhou (modern Henan) who received visits from the deified Zhao Sheng, who had been a disciple of the first Celestial Master. Lu's manuals, known as the Rites of the Jade Hall, blend the Rites of Tian-xin with Lingbao funeral rites and show an increased emphasis on meditation practice. Characteristic of these and other therapeutic rituals of the early Song was the practice of kaozhao, "summoning for investigation." In kaozhao ritual, the master transforms himself into a martial deity, identifies the demon causing problems, seizes it, and causes it to descend into the troubled person or a surrogate where it might be interrogated and the problem resolved (Davis, 2001). Such practices could only arise once illness was no longer linked to morality, as it had been in earlier Daoist traditions.
Early Song rulers, who like the Tang rulers before them traced their ancestry to a Daoist deity, here the Yellow Emperor, had recourse to the protection offered by demon-quelling ritual. Threatened by peoples to their north, they found special protection from the celestial general Heisha, whom they ennobled with the title "the Perfected Lord who Supports the Sage [ruler] and Protects [his] Virtue." They also ordered the construction in the capital Kaifeng of a massive temple complex dedicated to Zhenwu, the Perfected Warrior. In addition, rulers patronized ritual specialists, built temples throughout the realm and sponsored the collection and printing of Daoist texts. The Yunji qiqian (Seven slips from the book bags of the clouds), a 120-chapter collection of Daoist texts extracted from the canon of 1120, survives from this period.
The imperial support of Daoism culminated in the brief theocratic reign of Huizong (r. 1101–1125), who called to court Daoists from the major ordination centers. In addition to confirming the prestige of old Daoist lineages—Shangqing was represented by its putative twenty-fifth patriarch and the Celestial Masters, now centered at Mount Longhu (in modern Jiangxi), by their thirtieth—several new lineages were also created in response. Lin Lingsu (1076–1120) arrived in the capital with revelations he had received from Shenxiao (Divine empyrean), the highest reaches of heaven. Lin revealed the divine identity of Huizong as the deity "Great Thearch of Long Life" and promulgated a set of rituals based on earlier Shangqing and Lingbao texts. Yang Xizhen (1101–1124) claimed to have emerged from the caverns hidden in Mount Mao, the ancient center of Shangqing practice, with a set of therapeutic rituals that had been bestowed upon him in this underworld study center. These were called the "Rites of Youthful Incipience." Huizong's enthusiasm for these Daoist traditions went to such extremes that he commanded that all Buddhists of the realm be demoted to Daoists of the second rank. This and other excesses incited further disputes between Buddhists and Daoists. But Huizong's reign was short and in 1127 the court moved south to evade the Jurchen Jin dynasty (1115–1234).
During the southern Song, the most noteworthy developments involved the codification of innovations begun in the north. Lin Lingsu had presented his Shenxiao tradition as an extension of the ancient Lingbao canon and the culmination of Shangqing revelation. In line with these claims, he had presented to the throne a sixty-one-chapter version of the originally one-chapter Lingbao Scripture of Salvation. This important text formed the basis for another ritual tradition, the Lingbao dafa (Great Rites of Lingbao). While there were regional variations, the centerpiece of this tradition was the rite of liandu (roughly, "salvation by fiery smelting"). Through an extremely elaborate external ritual—involving chants, pacing, and the use of talismans—and an equally complex internal ritual through which the bodily spirits of the master descended into the hells, the rite aimed to purify and rescue the dead.
Under the Jin in northern China, several new traditions appeared. The most important and enduring of these was the Quanzhen ("Perfect Realization" or "Completion of Authenticity"). The movement was inaugurated by the ascetic and visionary Wang Zhe (1113–1170), also known as Wang Chongyang. After achieving enlightenment in 1167, Wang wandered the Shandong peninsula, converting followers and founding associations for the promulgation of his doctrine. Wang gathered around him a coterie of favored disciples, all highly literate men among whom Ma Danyang (1123–1184) was his designated heir. The later tradition settled on a list of qi zhen (Seven Perfected or "Authentic Ones") as the foremost disciples. This list included Sun Bu'er (1119–1183), Ma's wife, thus signaling the vital role female clerics had come to play in the movement.
Wang's most famous disciple, Qiu Changchun (1148–1227), was summoned to the Jin court in the 1180s and, in 1220, to the itinerant court of Chinggis Khan (r. 1206–1227), who hoped to obtain the drug of immortality from him. Although Qiu allowed that he knew only hygienic techniques for prolonging life, he made a favorable impression on the khan, who bestowed special privileges on the Quan-zhen order, including authority over the religious in his realm. Quanzhen Daoism grew explosively during the Yuan dynasty, despite prescriptions of the order ordered by Kublai Khan (r. 1260–1294) in retribution when his armada sent against Japan was destroyed by a typhoon in 1281. According to the estimates of Vincent Goossaert (2001), by 1300 there were some four thousand Quanzhen temples in northern China, housing an estimated twenty thousand clerics, around one-third of whom were women.
As an order, Quanzhen was devoted to both communal discipline and self-cultivation. Priests and nuns took vows of celibacy and left the home to live communally in one of the many temples. There, submitting to monastic discipline, they would work to cultivate lack of attachment, purity of mind, and immortality through the practice of inner alchemy. As they often took up residence in the temples of local cults or other orders, the rituals conducted by Quanzhen clerics derived from all the major traditions of Daoism. Sometimes their eclecticism led them into difficulties, as when Quanzhen clerics championed a later version of the Huahu jing, the scripture that held that Laozi was the Buddha, before the Yuan emperors in a series of debates with Buddhists. In a final debate before Kublai Khan in 1281, the enraged emperor ruled against them and, as we have seen, eventually suppressed the order. In mature form, Quanzhen doctrine was less doctrinaire, drawing from the quietist aspects of Confucianism and Ch'an (Jpn., Zen) Buddhism and revering both the Buddhist Heart Sūtra and the Confucian Classic of Filial Piety.
The remarkable spread of Quanzhen during the Yuan period can be attributed to several factors. First, clerics tended to travel widely, spreading the doctrine. Second, Quan-zhen adepts, more than those of other contemporary religious groups, tended to use literary works—dialogic treatises, poetic accounts of practice, public inscriptions, organizational histories, and the like—as proselytizing tools. Third, Quanzhen adepts easily assimilated themselves to existing religious establishments, reinterpreting the texts of their rivals and even occupying their temples.
Daoism in the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911)
Scholars have only recently begun to turn their attention to post-Yuan developments in the Daoist traditions traced above. One difficulty derives from the often-strained relationship between Daoist practitioners and the throne. Increasingly stringent controls placed on Daoist institutions and practitioners during the Ming and Qing attest to the continued vitality of the religion. At the same time, tight imperial oversight tended to erase from the public record much that we would like to know.
The first Ming ruler, Taizu (r. 1368–1399), attempted to manage Daoism by establishing various agencies governing the religion, regulating the number of monks and nuns who could be ordained, and mandating the maximum age at which they could do so. Taizu favored the Zhengyi order, but tolerated the Quanzhen movement. Clerics of many ritual traditions thus began to take refuge in these two orders, a situation that continues. It is clear, however, that Taizu's restrictions, though continued by subsequent emperors, only superficially limited the numbers or activities of Daoists.
Chengzu (r. 1402–1425), also known by his reign-title as the Yongle Emperor, provided more protection for Daoism. He ordered the compilation of a new canon (completed after his death) and designated Zhenwu, the Perfect Warrior, the dynastic protector. Claiming that Zhenwu had aided him in unifying the realm, the emperor set up a sanctuary for this deity in Beijing's forbidden city when he took residence there in 1421. He also provided support for the god's cult center on Mount Wudang in Hubei. For similar reasons, Chengzu supported other deities, including the popular "god of war," Guandi, one of a list of popular deities who were adopted into the Daoist pantheon.
Subsequent Ming emperors continued the dual policy of support and control begun by the first rulers of the dynasty. Despite official patronage for some, there seem to have been few doctrinal developments during this period. The main trend seems to have been one of amalgamation of diverse practices into a single way, something that pleased rulers as evidence of unity. One important tradition that provided a foundation for this search for unity was the tradition of inner alchemy. Zhao Yizhen (d. 1382), a master trained in Quanzhen and Qingwei ritual, proposed a strict course of self-examination through the use of "ledgers of merit and demerit," a widespread practice at the time. Such self-criticism, he held, could bring human emotions into harmony with reason, dispel illusion—whether that of demons, spirits, or bodhisattvas —and prepare the way for proper absorption of cosmic essences through meditation. Zhang Yuchu (1361–1410), the forty-third Celestial Master of the Zhengyi tradition, carried on Zhao's understandings of inner alchemical practice, explicitly incorporating into his system the insights of Chan Buddhism on inner nature.
An even more syncretic teaching was propounded by Lin Zhao'en (1517–1598), scion of an official family from Fujian who studied with various Daoist masters and eventually styled himself "Master of the Three Teachings." His group became the "Three in One Teaching," merging insights from Confucianism as the principle doctrine, with Daoism and Buddhism. Lin taught a method of inner cultivation in nine stages, culminating in "breaking through the void," a final step of inner alchemical practice for forming the internal embryo. To this stage of ultimate attainment, Lin assimilated the "perfect sincerity" of neo-Confucian understanding of the Doctrine of the Mean and the Buddhist concept of moving beyond illusion into the ground between being and nonbeing. The group spread throughout southeastern China and endured for about 150 years after Lin's death.
Another result of Ming attempts at religious control was the strengthening of lay associations, both trade guilds and those local groups organized for the purpose of sponsoring a temple or religious site. One prominent example is the famous Yongle Gong (Palace of Eternal Joy), a temple dedicated to Lü Dongbin first occupied by Quanzhen adepts in the 1240s that had, by the mid-Ming, fallen into disrepair. Beginning in 1614, local leaders organized subscription campaigns for the repair and ritual use of the temple. To the efforts of such associations we owe the remarkable preservation of fourteenth-century murals depicting scenes from the life of Lü Dongbin, perhaps drawn from popular Yuan plans, and depictions of Daoist divinities used in ritual (Katz, 1999). The support of temple associations is also responsible for the incorporation into Daoism of popular deities such as Ma Zu, goddess of merchants and fishermen.
Another sign of popularization was the printing and distribution of Daoist tales. Among these, one of the most completely studied concerns the mysterious figure Zhang Sanfeng. Pierre-Henry de Bruyn (2000) relates the origins of this figure: When Chengzu (r. 1402–1424) usurped the throne by having his nephew murdered, he still entertained doubts that the burnt corpse presented to him was in fact his nephew. He consequently sent secret police throughout the realm on the pretext of seeking the immortal "Zhang Sanfeng," but actually to seek for his nephew. As a result of this apparent imperial interest, all sorts of legends began to circulate concerning this figure. These were duly published and circulated by the faithful, and a cult arose.
The same trends—strict imperial control, standardization of Daoist traditions under the aegis of Zhengyi and Quanzhen, and growing lay involvement—intensified during the Qing dynasty. The Manchu rulers of the Qing venerated Tibetan Buddhism and promoted neo-Confucian doctrine as state orthodoxy, even to the extent of promulgating its tenets among the populace through imperial "sacred edicts." The Confucian elite, feeling that excessive emphasis on personal cultivation had led to the collapse of the Ming, tended to support the state orthodoxy. As a result, officially sanctioned "three teachings" movements during the Qing tended to exist for the purpose of spreading Confucian morality. An unintended consequence of this imperial initiative was an upsurge in lay associations and sectarian movements organized under the pretext of spreading morality. Shanshu (Morality books) promoting Confucian ethics based on Buddhist notions of karma and Daoist concepts of longevity and of the bureaucratic organization of the unseen worlds had circulated since the Song dynasty but now were produced in even greater numbers.
Beginning in the Ming, sectarian movements published similar works, known as baojuan (precious volumes) of a more striking religious character. A number of these were produced by "spirit writing," a type of revelation whereby spirits of gods, Transcendents, or even cultural heroes were believed to compose texts by taking control of a writing implement. The most common means, still in use today, involved two mediums wielding a double-handled planchette that would inscribe the deity's words, graph by graph, in a shallow box filled with sand. This message would then be "transcribed" by several observers. Texts produced in this way began to appear as early as the Song dynasty (Kleeman 1994), but the popularity of such works seems to have increased radically during the Ming.
One of the most widespread of the sectarian movements, named by Susan Naquin (1985) "White Lotus Sectarianism," centered on the Maitreya-like goddess, the Eternal Venerable Mother, who, it was believed, would reappear to eradicate evil and create a new heaven and earth. These movements, only loosely organized, were a threat both to the Buddhist and Daoist establishments and to the government. Imperial attempts at suppression only succeeded in spurring millenarian movements.
While Qing rulers gave precedence to the Zhengyi order in state ritual, they also appreciated the organizational strengths of Quanzhen, with its strict rules for clerics. Over the course of the dynasty, the Longmen branch of Quanzhen rose to domination. The Longmen branch traces its founding back to Qiu Chuji of the Song, but, as Monica Esposito (2000) has shown, it actually originated during the Ming among southern Daoist movements. The importance of the Longmen branch can with assurance be traced to Wang Changyue (d. 1680), who from 1656 until his death served as abbot of the Baiyun guan (White Cloud Abbey) in Beijing. Wang reorganized Quanzhen precepts to include neo-Confucian rules for living that were favored by Qing rulers. He divided the precepts into three ascending stages: (1) initial precepts of perfection; (2) intermediate precepts; and (3) precepts of celestial transcendence. He also held that anyone could gain immortality through their careful cultivation. Under Wang's direction, Baiyun guan became a central training center for all Daoist traditions, formally granting the precepts to male and female clerics from all over the kingdom as part of their official investiture. This, in itself, was crucial to the spread of Longmen branch teachings.
As Wang Changyue's example shows, while Quanzhen and other Daoist organizations continued to discourse on and practice the inner alchemy of earlier days, there was an increased emphasis on universalism. Simplified descriptions of the discipline were promulgated not only by Daoists, but by sectarian groups and lay organizations, and even in popular plays and novels. Schools of martial arts and physical cultivation adopted some inner alchemical learning to their own purposes, leading to the widespread practice of qigong (roughly, "breath achievement") in modern times. While many qigong schools have their own origin myths, a more scholarly account of their origins is that, while some of their practices are quite ancient, they in fact grew from the intellectual and social conditions of Ming and Qing times.
Daoism in Japan
There is no clear evidence of the transmission of organized Daoism to Japan. No records of Daoist investiture or even the presence of Daoist priests have yet been detected. A number of scholars have cited references to immortality seeking, alchemy, and other practices and words associated with Daoism in texts from the seventh century ce forward. For example, the Nihonshoki (Chronicle of Japan), under entries for the years 456 to 479, mentions several mountaintop establishments it styles dōkan (Daoist temples), but it is uncertain what sort of establishment might have been meant. Most Japanese scholars, then, agree with the 1933 findings of Tsukami Jikiryō that "Daoist ideas transmitted to Japan in ancient and Heian (794–1185) times came first under the umbrella of esoteric Buddhism and yin-yang divination, and then spread to the wider populace" (cited in Masuo, 2000, p. 824). A number of the practices scholars point to in support of this assertion, however, are best considered part of Chinese common religion, rather than specifically Daoist.
One example is the practices associated with the geng-shen (Jpn., kōshin) day, the fifty-seventh day of the sexagesimal cycle of days according to the Chinese calendar. According to texts as early as the Baopuzi, the human body played host to three worms or "corpses" that sought the death of their host and would, on the night of this day, ascend to heaven to report on his or her transgressions. Since these evil-minded residents might depart the body only during sleep, one method to frustrate them included an all-night vigil. While Daoist texts taught that abstention from meat, sexual abstention, and purification procedures were also necessary, the vigil in Japan (as sometimes in China) became the occasion for an all-night party.
Introduced in the mid-ninth century, kōshin practice was modified in the eleventh century by Tendai monks, who added further Daoist and Buddhist elements from a variety of scriptural sources. During the Edo period (1603–1687), esoteric monks and yamabushi began delivering morality lectures on the practice throughout the country and a number of kōshin halls were established to accommodate those holding vigils. Thriving kōshin halls still exist in Osaka and Nara. Although specific practices for ridding the body of the three worms found a place in Daoism, the belief in the three worms was not confined to Daoism, as its presence in Buddhist texts composed in China attests.
Other practices associated with Daoism—methods of appeasing the celestial bureaucracy, the use of apotropaic talismans and spells, even the ritual "pace of Yu" (a magical gait held to avert evil originating in ancient Chinese occult traditions and adapted into Daoism)—can be found in similar form, mixed with Chinese common religion and Buddhism. One group that seems to have been particularly receptive to Daoist practice was the yamabushi practitioners of Shugendō (roughly "way of practice for inciting auspicious response"). According to legend, Shugendō began in the seventh century, but was certainly widespread by the end of the Heian period. The practice of yamabushi, who undergo austerities in the mountains to gain spiritual powers, includes healing, the dispelling of misfortune, a version of the pace of Yu, and the use of spells and talismans. While some of these can be traced to Daoist works, the precise vectors of transmission are unknown. In addition, the twelfth-century Shintō schools of Ise and Yoshida developed a view of spirits (Jpn., kami ) divided according to function and sometimes associated with the northern dipper and other asterisms that made specific use of Daoist works.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a number of Daoist practices, including those associated with Quan-zhen Daoism, arrived in Japan as a result of the popularity of neo-Confucianism. Morality books were another source of knowledge of Daoist deities, such as the martial god Guandi, and of practices meant to satisfy the moral oversight of the celestial bureaucracy. In line with the flexible nature of Daoist belief, such foreign elements were easily modified to conform with Japanese society.
Daoism in Korea
Unlike the case of Japan, there are records of the formal transmission of Daoism into the Korean peninsula. In the early seventh century, Tang emperors, who traced their lineage to Laozi, sent priests on at least two occasions to teach Daoist ritual in the court of the king of Koguryŏ (37 bce–668 ce). During the late Tang, monks of the unified Silla (668–935) are recorded as having visited the Chinese capital to study Daoism. Not much is known, though, about how well established the religion became as a result of such exchanges.
During the Koryŏ dynasty (918–1392), however, Daoist ritual became part of imperial practice. King Taejo (r. 918–943) set up some fifteen Daoist sites, ordered rites for the welfare of the state, and gave Daoism a ranking equal to that of Buddhism. Subsequent emperors followed suit. Under King Sŏnjong (r. 1083–1094), Daoist rituals were no longer confined to the capital and, in 1115, Song Huizong provided clerics to assist in imperial Daoist rites. Jung Jae-seo (2000) has found that there were a total of 191 recorded jiao rituals performed during the Koryŏ. During this period, Korean intellectuals also became interested in Daoist practice, sometimes modeling their associations on the hagiographies of Chinese Transcendents.
The Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910) promoted neo-Confucianism as the state doctrine and closed many of the temples built during the Koryŏ, but still allowed some Daoist rituals for the welfare of the royal family. A version of Chinese methods of control was instituted early in the dynasty whereby candidates for the priesthood were examined in the Lingbao scriptures, a Zhenwu scripture, and other important texts. Eventually only one temple, the Sogyŏk sŏ, with one hall dedicated to Grand Unity and another to the Three Pure Ones and patronized by officials, was allowed to conduct formal Daoist rituals. These were entirely Chinese-style Daoist rites. The temple was finally abolished as a consequence of the Japanese invasion. Nonetheless, private study of inner alchemy continued in the form of private danhak pai (schools of alchemical studies), which developed in distinctive ways and began to claim transmissions from shadowy ancient figures of Korean history.
The "new religions" that developed in Korea in the nineteenth century drew extensively on Daoist scriptures and practices. The Donghak (Eastern Doctrine), established in 1860 by Choi Jaewu (1824–1864) and others, includes sacrifices to Daoist gods, the use of talismans, and the practice of visionary journeys to the celestial realms.
The official body governing Daoist practice in modern China is the Chinese Daoist Association, formed in 1956 and officially approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs on May 20, 1957. Operating from the White Cloud Temple in Beijing, the organization coordinates Daoist practice and controls the initiation of priests and nuns. At first, the association, following Qing precedent, recognized only Zhengyi (Celestial Master) and Quanzhen traditions. During the government-sponsored mass movements of the 1960s and 1970s, all Daoist holdings were returned to state control. Following the Cultural Revolution, and particularly from 1979 forward, governmental control of religious practice has relaxed considerably and researchers report a resurgence of Daoist practice throughout the country. This has been matched by an exuberant growth of scholarship on all aspects of the religion.
In Taiwan, free exercise of religion existed since the founding of the Nationalist government in 1949. All forms of religious practice flourished and the crafts necessary to ritual—the painting of religious images, construction of ritual garb and implements, and so on—thrived. Many early Western researchers into the Daoism, beginning with Kristofer Schipper, began their studies with fieldwork on the island. In 1951, Zhang Enpu, the putative sixty-third generation Celestial Master founded the Taiwan Daoist Society to provide coordination for Daoist activities. This quasi-governmental organization represents only one facet of the vibrant Daoist practice seen in Taiwan; Daoist practitioners and scholars have also entered into fruitful communication with their counterparts in mainland China.
Outside of China, Daoist practice exists wherever there is a substantial Chinese community. In premodern times, one of the vectors of transmission seems to have been non-Han peoples who had been converted to Daoism as part of strategies of Sinification. For instance, the Yao people, resident in northwest Thailand, practice a form of the Rectifying Rites of the Center of Heaven, dating to the Song. Michel Strickmann (1982) has provided evidence that the Yao acquired their traditions from officially sponsored missionaries, perhaps as early as the Song. Comparable evidence for the Daoism of other parts of Southeast Asia has not so far been discovered.
More common was the spread of Daoism with Chinese mercantile communities, something that we know to have occurred from early times. Today Singapore and Malaysia host the most widespread practice of the religion. Active associations for the coordination of Daoist practice were founded there in 1979 and 1995, respectively. These umbrella organizations frequently coordinate with the Daoist Associations of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Dao and De; Fangshi; Huangdi; Shugendō; Taiji; Xi Wang Mu; Yinyang Wuxing; Yuhuang.
Bokenkamp, Stephen R. Early Daoist Scriptures. Berkeley, Calif., 1997. A translation and study of the Xiang'er commentary to the Laozi and other Celestial Master, Shangqing, and Lingbao Daoist scriptural works from the third to the fifth centuries ce.
Boltz, Judith M. A Survey of Taoist Literature: Tenth to Seventeenth Centuries. Berkeley, Calif., 1987. A comprehensive survey of genres of writing found in the Daoist canon and the traditions that produced them.
Campany, Robert Ford. "On the Very Idea of Religions (In the Modern West and Early Medieval China)." History of Religions 42, no. 4 (2003): 287–319. This article contains important insights on the ways "religion" was referred to in medieval China.
Ch'en Kuo-fu. Daozang yuanliu kao. 2d ed. Beijing, 1963. An important early Chinese study of Daoist history.
Dean, Kenneth. Taoist Ritual and Popular Cults of Southeast China. Princeton, N.J., 1993. A study based on fieldwork that attests to the vivacity of modern Daoist practice.
Granet, Marcel. La pensée chinoise (1934). Reprint, Paris, 1968. A classic on the systems of Chinese thought with their symbols and categories. A brilliant pioneering study, it contains interesting chapters on the Daoist schools and the techniques of longevity.
Maspero, Henri. Mélanges posthumes sur les religions et l'histoire de la Chine, edited by Paul Demiéville; Vol. 2: Le taoïsme. Paris, 1950. Reprinted in Le taoïsme et les religions chinoises (Paris, 1971) and translated by Frank A. Kierman Jr. as Taoism and Chinese Religion (Amherst, Mass., 1981). Written by one of the founders of modern French Sinology, this posthumous work contains important essays on religious Daoism.
Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilisation in China. 5 vols. Cambridge, U.K., 1954–1983. This work is an ambitious and successful undertaking on Chinese scientific thought, with chapters on Daoism (vol. 2) and a presentation of alchemy and the techniques of longevity (vol. 5).
Ren Jiyu, ed. Zhongguo daojiao shi. Shanghai, 1990. The best general account of Daoist history produced in China to date.
Robinet, Isabelle. Les commentaries du Tao Tu King jusqu'au septième siècle. 2d ed. Paris, 1981. A study of the main commentaries of the Laozi.
Robinet, Isabelle. Histoire du taoïsme des origines au XIV siècle. Paris, 1992. Translated by Phyllis Brooks as Taoism: Growth of a Religion. Stanford, Calif., 1997. One of the foremost scholars of Daoist texts here traces the early development of the religion.
Schafer, Edward H. The Divine Woman: Dragon Ladies and Rain Maidens in T'ang Literature. Berkeley, Calif., 1973. A survey of Chinese mythology on water goddesses, some of whom were adapted into Daoism.
Schipper, Kristofer. Le corps taoïste. Paris, 1982. Translated by Karen C. Duval as The Taoist Body. Berkeley, Calif., 1993. Schipper offers an overall analysis of the Daoist religion with an excellent chapter on ritual.
Sivin, Nathan. "On the Word 'Taoist' as a Source of Perplexity." History of Religions 17 (1978): 303–330.
Barrett, Timothy H. Taoism Under the T'ang. London, 1996. A survey of relations between the state and the Daoist religion drawn largely from the official histories.
Davis, Edward L. Society and the Supernatural in Song China. Honolulu, Hawaii, 2001. A study of spirit-possession and its relationship to Daoist and Buddhist practice.
de Bruyn, Pierre-Henry. "Daoism in the Ming (1368–1644)." In Daoism Handbook, edited by Livia Kohn, pp. 594–622. Leiden, Netherlands, 2000.
Esposito, Monica. "Daoism in the Qing (1644–1911)." In Daoism Handbook, edited by Livia Kohn, pp. 623–658. Leiden, Netherlands, 2000.
Goossaert, Vincent. "The Invention of an Order: Collective Identity in Thirteenth-Century Quanzhen Taoism." Journal of Chinese Religions 29 (2001): 111–138. The centerpiece of a special section devoted to studies of Quanzhen.
Jao Tsung-i. Laozi xiang-er zhu jiaojian. Hong Kong, 1956. A study of the Xiang'er commentary to the Laozi.
Jung Jae-seo. "Daoism in Korea." In Daoism Handbook, edited by Livia Kohn, pp. 792–820. Leiden, 2000.
Katz, Paul R. Images of the Immortal: The Cult of Lü Dongbin at the Palace of Eternal Joy. Honolulu, 1999. A detailed study of an important temple and its artwork.
Kleeman, Terry F. Great Perfection: Religion and Ethnicity in a Chinese Millennial Kingdom. Honolulu, 1998. A study of the Ba converts to Daoism and the kingdom they founded in Sichuan in the fourth century ce.
Kohn, Livia, trans. and ed. Laughing at the Tao: Debates Among Taoists and Buddhists in Medieval China. Princeton, N.J., 1995. A translation and study of the Xiaodao lun of Zhen Luan.
Masuo Shin'ichirō. "Daoism in Japan." In Daoism Handbook, edited by Livia Kohn, pp. 821–842. Leiden, 2000.
Naquin, Susan. "The Transmission of White Lotus Sectarianism in Late Imperial China." In Popular Culture in Late Imperial China, edited by David Johnson, Andrew J. Nathan, and Evelyn S. Rawski, pp. 255–291. Berkeley, Calif., 1985.
Seidel, Anna K. La divinisation de Lao tseu dans les taoïsme des Han. Paris, 1969. An excellent study of the divinization of Laozi.
Seidel, Anna K. "Imperial Treasures and Taoist Sacraments: Taoist Roots in the Apocrypha." In Tantric and Taoist Studies II, edited by Michel Strickmann, pp. 291–371. Brussels, 1983. The seminal article on the relations between early Daoism and Han imperial religion.
Stein, Rolf A. "Remarques sur les mouvements du taoïsme politico-religieux au IIe siècle ap. J.-C." T'oung pao 50 (1963): 1–78. A study of sectarian revolts that brought about the downfall of the Han dynasty.
Strickmann, Michel. Le taoïsme du Mao-Chan: Chronique d'une révélation. Paris, 1981. A historical survey of an important sect of the Chinese middle ages.
Strickmann, Michel. "The Tao Among the Yao: Taoism and the Sinification of South China." In Rekishi ni okeru minshū to bunka, edited by Sakai Tadao, pp. 23–30. Tokyo, 1982.
Verellen, Franciscus. Du Guangting (850-933): Taoïste de cour à la fin de la Chine médiévale. Paris, 1989. One of the few book-length studies of the life and works of an important Daoist figure, this works provides valuable information on the development of Daoist practice during the Tang dynasty.
Campany, Robert Ford. To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth: Ge Hong's Traditions of Divine Transcendents. Berkeley, Calif., 2002. A translation and study of the Shenxian zhuan, this work contains important insights into transcendent cults of the fourth century ce and their relations with Daoism.
Kaltenmark, Max. Le Lie sien tchouan: Biographies légendaires de immortels taoïstes de l'antiquité. Beijing, 1953. A fully annotated translation of the earliest collection of transcendent biographies.
Kleeman, Terry F. A God's Own Tale: The Book of Transformations of Wenchang, the Divine Lord of Zitong. Albany, N.Y., 1994. A translation and study of a work produced by planchette in 1181.
Ngo Van Xuyet. Divination, magie, et politique dans la Chine ancienne. Paris, 1976. A thorough study of the occult sciences and fangshi in China during the Han dynasty and the Three Kingdoms period.
Schipper, Kristofer. L'Empereur Wou des Han dans la légende taoïste. Paris, 1965. A translation of an ancient Daoist novel, important for the study of the legends and practices of the Mao-shan school.
Daoism and Fine Arts
Chang Chung-yüan. Creativity and Taoism: A Study of Chinese Philosophy, Art, and Poetry. New York, 1963. Examines the influence of Daoist thought on the arts and poetry.
Little, Stephen, ed. Taoism and the Arts of China. Chicago, 2000. The illustrated catalog of the first Western exhibit of Daoist-related art, this book includes essays by scholars on a variety of subjects.
Hou Ching-Lang. Monnaies d'offrande et la Notion de Trésorerie dans la religion chinoise. Paris, 1975. An interesting work that helps to understand some aspects of Daoist ritual.
Kaltenmark, Max. "Quelques remarques sur le T'ai-chang Ling-pao wou-fou siu." Zinbun 18 (1982): 1–10. Includes a description of an ancient ritual.
Kleeman, Terry F., "Licentious Cults and Bloody Victuals: Sacrifice, Reciprocity, and Violence in Traditional China." Asia Major (3d series) 7, no. 1 (1994): 185–211. The primary study of the sacrificial religion against which Daoism developed its "Pure Covenant" with the gods.
Lagerwey, John. Wu-shang pi-yao: Somme taoïste du sixieme siècle. Paris, 1981. A study of the first Daoist anthology.
Lagerwey, John. Taoist Ritual in Chinese Society and History. New York, 1987. An account of the cosmology of Daoist ritual.
Schipper, Kristofer. "The Written Memorial in Taoist Ceremonies." In Religion and Ritual in Chinese Society, edited by Arthur P. Wolf, pp. 309–324. Stanford, Calif., 1974.
Schipper, Kristofer. Le Fen-Teng: Rituel taoïste. Paris, 1975.
Schipper, Kristofer. "Taoist Ritual and the Local Cults of the T'ang Dynasty." Taipei, 1979. This work, as well as the preceding two, written by one of the best specialists of Daoism, examines various aspects of ritual.
Longevity Techniques and Meditation
Anderson, Poul, trans. The Method of Holding the Three Ones: A Taoist Manual of Meditation of the Fourth Century A.D. Copenhagen and Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1980. A good translation of a meditation text of the Mao-shan school.
Baldrian-Hussein, Farzeen. Procédés secrets du Joyau magique: Traité d'alchimie taoïste de l'onzième siècle. Paris, 1984. An introduction to a Song dynasty system of internal alchemy, with translation.
Despeux, Catherine, trans. Traité d'alchimie et de physiologie taoïste. Paris, 1979. A translation of Zhao Bichen's important work of modern internal alchemy.
Despeux, Catherine. Taiji Quan: Technique de longue vie et de combat. Paris, 1981. An interesting study of Chinese boxing, with good translations.
Gulik, Robert H. van. Sexual Life in Ancient China: A Preliminary Survey of Chinese Sex and Society from ca. 1500 B.C. till 1644 A.D. (1961). Reprint, New York, 2003. A pioneering work on an important subject, with an interesting chapter on the various interpretations of alchemical language.
Maspero, Henri. "Les procédés de 'nourrir le principe vital' dans la religion taoïste ancienne." Journal asiatique 229 (1937): 177–252, 353–430. Reprinted in Le taoïsme et les religions chinoises (Paris, 1971). Fundamental work on physiological practices.
Robinet, Isabelle. Méditation taoïste. Paris, 1979. Translated by Norman Girardot and Julian Pas as Taoist Meditation (Albany, N.Y., 1993). A study of Shangqing visualization techniques by the foremost scholar of Shangqing literature.
Schafer, Edward H. Pacing the Void: T'ang Approaches to the Stars. Berkeley, Calif., 1977. Tang dynasty astronomical lore, including the foundations of Daoist dipper practice.
Alchemy and Medicine
Pregadio, Fabrizio. "Elixirs and Alchemy." In Daoism Handbook, edited by Livia Kohn, pp. 165–195. Leiden, Netherlands, 2000.
Sivin, Nathan. Chinese Alchemy: Preliminary Studies. Cambridge, Mass., 1968. A first-rate study of an alchemical treatise written by Sun Simiao of the Tang dynasty.
Ware, James R., trans. Alchemy, Medicine, Religion in the China of A.D. 320: The Nei-P'ien of Ko Hung (1967). Reprint, New York, 1981. Complete translation of the Daoist section of the Baopuzi. Unfortunately it is not always reliable.
Diverse Collections and Articles
History of Religions 9 (November 1969 and February 1970). Proceedings of the First International Conference of Taoist Studies.
Welch, Holmes, and Anna K. Seidel, eds. Facets of Taoism: Essays in Chinese Religion. New Haven, Conn., 1979. Proceedings of the Second International Conference of Daoist Studies.
Zürcher, Erik. "Buddhist Influence on Early Taoism." T'oung pao 66 (1980): 84–147.
Loon, Piet van der. Taoist Books in the Libraries of the Sung Period: A Critical Study and Index. Ithaca, N.Y., 1984. A work intended for specialists; however, the introduction on Daoist literature in Song times is of general interest.
Seidel, Anna. "Chronicle of Taoist Studies in the West, 1950–1990." Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie 5 (1989–1990): 223–348. This journal continues to publish important articles on Daoism.
Soymié, Michel. "Bibliographie du taoïsme: Études dans les langues occidentales." Études taoïstes 3–4 (1968–1971): 247–313 and 225–287.
Tōhō shūkyō (Journal of eastern religions). Sponsored by the Japan Society of Daoistic Research, this journal publishes important articles and each year a bibliography of scholarship on Daoism in Japanese and Western languages from the preceding year.
Stephen R. Bokenkamp (2005)