DU GUANGTING (850–933; adult style, Binsheng; epithet, Dongying zi; name in religion, Master Guangcheng) was born in the region of Chuzhou in Zhejiang. Around 870, after failing to obtain the civil service examination degree (mingjing ) in the Confucian classics, Du underwent Daoist training and initiation at Mount Tiantai in Zhejiang. His master Ying Yijie (810–894) belonged to the Tiantai branch of the Shangqing lineage that descended via Xue Jichang (d. 759), a disciple of Sima Chengzhen (647–735). Soon after the accession of Emperor Xizong (r. 873–888), Du was summoned to court. He performed various functions as a Daoist prelate and official redactor at the capital Chang'an up to the outbreak of the Huang Chao rebellion (880–885). After the sack of the capital by the rebels in early 881, Du followed the court into exile in Chengdu (Sichuan). As a textual and liturgical scholar, Du deplored the loss of Daoist sacred books in the wake of the destruction of Chang'an and eventually reconstituted parts of the canon from temple libraries in Sichuan. Du announced the divine restoration of the Tang dynasty under the auspices of Lord Lao in his memorial Lidai chongdao ji (Daozang 593), which he presented to the emperor on the eve of the court's return to the capital in 885. When Xizong was once again obliged to flee Chang'an the following year, Du Guangting obtained permission to return to Sichuan.
Many of Du's works were written during the period of transition from the Tang (618–907) to the Five Dynasties (907–960), while he was a priest in the temple Yuju guan in Chengdu and a frequent visitor to nearby Mount Qing-cheng. This phase in Du's career brought him into contact with the future emperor Wang Jian (847–918) and his local staff and allies, who were to proclaim the kingdom of Shu after the fall of the Tang in 907. Under the first two rulers of the independent Shu kingdom, Du resumed his earlier functions as court Daoist and official, reaching the rank of vice president of the board of finance (hubu shilang ) in 916. Around the time of the fall of the Former Shu in 925, Du seems to have retired to Mount Qingcheng, where he died in 933.
Du Guangting was a prolific author. His lifelong mission to preserve and transmit works from the Daoist canon led Du to patronize the burgeoning printing industry in tenth-century Sichuan. Under the Song (960–1279), Du was recognized as the foremost patriarch of the Daoist liturgical tradition, handed down by Lu Xiujing (406–477) and Zhang Wanfu (fl. 711–713). His voluminous writings, compendia, and editions in this domain (see, for example, the "Liturgical Manual for the Yellow Register Retreat,"Taishang huanglu zhai yi [Daozang 507]) are regarded as authoritative to this day. Du's contributions to philosophical and scriptural exegesis are epitomized in his massive annotation of the Tang imperial commentary on Laozi's "The Way and Its Power" (Dao de zhenjing guangsheng yi [Daozang 725]). Active in the religious and political arenas under three imperial governments, Du was a well-placed observer of a key period in Chinese history, which is now recognized as the transition from the medieval to the modern periods. Hundreds of his court and liturgical memorials document his activity at various social levels, from the emperor to the newly risen merchant class (see especially Lidai chongdao ji [Daozang 593] and the surviving seventeen- juan fragment of his collected works, the Guangcheng ji [Daozang 616]). His writings probe contemporary events from the perspective of an overarching, sacred history of Daoism that was intertwined with the destiny of imperial government. Du's narrative oeuvre, in particular, reveals a keen observation of the place of religion in a society undergoing the violent dislocations and upheavals of rebellion and civil war. Belonging ostensibly to the genre of Daoist hagiography—devoted to the lives of immortals and chronicles of sacred sites—his anecdotal histories are also akin to the imaginative literature known as "traditions of the supernatural" (chuanqi ) that was popular in Tang times. Du Guangting authored or transmitted hundreds of tales of this genre, which he collected into separate books. With some overlap, these collections are organized around recognizable themes. For example, the "Evidential Miracles in Support of Daoism" (Daojiao lingyan ji [Daozang 590]) focuses on the interaction of the Buddhist and Daoist communities in late medieval society; the "Record of Marvels" (Luyi ji [Daozang 591]) on the cultural distinctiveness and sacred destiny of the Sichuan region; the "Encounters with Immortals" (Shenxian ganyu zhuan [Daozang 592]) on the Daoist theme of the supernatural encounter as revelation; and the "Record of the Assembled Immortals of Yongcheng" (Yongcheng jixian lu [Daozang 783]) on the legends of female immortals in the entourage of the Queen Mother of the West (Xi wang mu). Du's classification of these rich materials offers significant insights into the order of a medieval Daoist's mental universe. His works, despite many losses, constitute one of the richest testimonies to have come down from medieval China.
Cahill, Suzanne. Transcendence and Divine Passion: The Queen Mother of the West in Medieval China. Stanford, Calif., 1993. Based on the biography of the goddess in Yongcheng jixian lu.
Chavannes, Edouard. "Le jet des dragons." Mémoires concernant l'Asie Orientale 3 (1919): 53–220. See pages 172–213 for a translation of one of Du's ritual protocols.
Imaeda Jirō. "To Kōtei shōkō." In Dōkyō kenkyū ronshū: Dōkyō no shisō to bunka, edited by Yoshioka Hakushi kanreki kinen ronshū kankōkai, pp. 523–532. Tokyo, 1977.
Qing Xitai. "Du Guangting dui daojiao lilun di zongjie he fazhan." In Zhongguo daojiao sixiang shigang, vol. 2, pp. 653–678. Chengdu, People's Republic of China, 1985.
Verellen, Franciscus. Du Guangting (850–933): Taoïste de cour à la fin de la Chine médiévale. Paris, 1989. See also the following studies of Du's works: "'Evidential Miracles in Support of Taoism': The Inversion of a Buddhist Apologetic Tradition in Late T'ang China," T'oung Pao 78 (1992): 217–263 (Daojiao lingyan ji ); "A Forgotten T'ang Restoration: The Taoist Dispensation after Huang Ch'ao," Asia Major 3d ser., 7, no. 1 (1994): 107–153 (Lidai chongdao ji ); "Shu as a Hallowed Land: Du Guangting's Record of Marvels ", Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie 10 (1998): 213–254 (Luyi ji ); and "Encounter as Revelation: A Taoist Hagiographic Theme in Medieval China," Bulletin de l'École Française d'Extrême-Orient 85 (1998): 363–384 (Shenxian ganyu zhuan ).
Zheng Suchun. "Du Guangting." In Zhongguo lidai sixiang jia, vol. 8, edited by Wang Shounan and Hong Anquan, et al., pp. 330–370. Taipei, 1999.
Franciscus Verellen (2005)