Reviews of books in Daoist Studies

A Companion to Angus C. Graham's Chuang Tzu


A COMPANION TO ANGUS C. GRAHAM’S CHUANG TZU. Edited by Harold D. Roth. Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, Monograph No. 20. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003. Pp. x + 241. Paper, $18.00, ISBN 0-8248-2643-4.


Edited by Harold D. Roth, the present volume is a collection of articles by Angus C. Graham (1919-1991), which were published in academic journals or in now out-of-print books. A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu consists of the following articles: (1) Textual Notes to Chuang Tzu: The Inner Chapters; (2) How Much of Chuang Tzu Did Chuang Tzu Write?; (3) Chuang Tzu’s Essay on Seeing Things as Equal; (4) Two Notes on the Translation of Taoist Classics; (5) Taoist Spontaneity and the Dichotomy of “Is” and “Ought.” The book concludes with a colophon by Roth, which attempts to analyze and appraise Graham’s scholarship, and a bibliography of Graham’s publications. 


Those who knew Angus C. Graham (“A.C. Graham”) developed a deep respect and affection for the man, as Graham is said by Henry Rosemont, Jr. (who wrote the preface for this book) to have had for the Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi). Like the editor of the volume under review, I met Graham when I studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), immediately feeling a strong sense of affinity with him. And, like Graham, I not only have a profound love of the Chuang Tzu, but I also translated this unique work which has had such an enormous influence on Chinese culture for the past two millennia and more. The first book I published was Experimental Essays on Chuang Tzu (University of Hawaii Press, 1983), and Graham was kind enough to contribute a brilliant paper entitled “Taoist Spontaneity and the Dichotomy of ‘Is’ and ‘Ought,’” which now forms chapter five of the present volume. Thus, Angus Graham and I shared a lot in common when it comes to the Chuang Tzu, but we also had a very different approach to the text.


Graham took the Chuang Tzu very seriously, treating it as a seminal work of Chinese philosophy. In contrast, I consider the Chuang Tzu to be fundamentally anti-philosophical in its overall posture. The sharp contrast between our interpretations of the Chuang Tzu is starkly revealed in the papers that we wrote for Experimental Essays (mine was entitled “Chuang-tzu and Erasmus: Kindred Wits”). Furthermore, whereas Graham took chapter two (“Qiwu lun” [On Seeing Things as Equal]), with its categorical distinction between shi (“yes; is; right; affirm”) and fei (“no; is not; wrong; deny”) as the lynchpin for comprehending the whole of the Chuang Tzu, I focus on chapter one (“Xiaoyao you” [Carefree Wandering]) as embracing the essential spirit of play (youxi) that pervades the text.


Graham wrote about half a dozen papers on the Chuang Tzu (they are conveniently collected in the volume under review), but his magnum opus was the annotated translation entitled Chuang-tzu, the Seven Inner Chapters: and other writings from the book ‘Chuang-tzu’ (Allen and Unwin, 1981; reprint, Hackett Publishing Company, 2001), which, despite the title, actually includes over three-quarters of the entire text. I still recall the intense frustration that I experienced when I first attempted to read through Graham’s translation. I knew that it was considered to be an important work, and I did locate many precious insights in it, but I found Graham’s Inner Chapters to be a terrible jumble. I would spend hours frantically flipping pages, trying to find out how everything fit together. Even today, I cannot figure out what well over half the numerical notes (especially those of the type “cf. p. XXX above”) are driving at. Then there are the longer and shorter introductions that precede some passages and the longer and shorter commentarial notes that follow some passages. The more I grappled with Graham’s Inner Chapters, the more I came to feel that—in all of his writing about the Chuang Tzu—he was struggling to impose some sort of rational order upon what by its very nature is an unruly collection of disparate voices.


To come to the aid of floundering souls like myself, Harold Roth has kindly assembled all of Graham’s major early writings on the Chuang Tzu, as well as his extensive, detailed textual notes that were omitted from the Inner Chapters. Roth also has provided a “complete overview” of Graham’s work on this text and puts it in the context of new research. One very important study that Roth overlooks is Christopher C. Rand’s “Chuang Tzu: Text and Substance” (Journal of Chinese Religions 11 [Fall, 1983]: 5-58), which provides another valuable tool for looking at the multifarious strands that constitute the Chuang Tzu. It is markedly different from the way Graham divided up the True Classic of the Southern Cultural Florescence or the way Roth explained the various components of the text, but all three of these scholars agree in their assessment of the text as immensely stimulating, demanding and multi-vocal in nature.


Taken as a whole, A Companion to Angus C. Graham’s Chuang Tzu will prove useful for anyone interested in the Chuang Tzu or in A.C. Graham’s views on the Chuang Tzu.


Victor H. Mair

University of Pennsylvania

September 21, 2004



Beyond Tantra: Healing Through Taoist Sacred Sex

Wik, Mieke, and Stephan Wik. 2005. Beyond Tantra: Healing through Taoist Sacred Sex. Forres, Scotland: Findhorn Press. Bibliography, glossary of main terms; 154 pages; ISBN 1-84409-063-9; $ 18.95

The authors of this book are a respectably married couple living in Ireland who began their quest for sexual healing when Mieke at age 44 began to have heavy, prolonged periods and found herself faced with the rather radical ways of Western medicine: drugs or operation or both. They looked online, they bought books by Margo Anand and Mantak Chia, they studied, discussed, and experimented, and after many setbacks, difficulties, and failures started to find a profound truth in the ancient Daoist path, which they discovered was easier to complete and more efficient than the more commonly known Tantric work. The book is the result of the exploration, and it makes Taoist sexual healing easily accessible to the layman without betraying the demands of the specialist.

It is written in distinct voices, allowing each partner to express his or her view and experiences, and shows clearly how similar and yet different the exploration of sexual wholeness is for the sexes. It is also very much partner oriented, that is oriented toward being with one committed partner, and as such quite different from the exercises of inner alchemy that are solo practices focusing on the transformation of internal energies and the so-called bedroom arts, which demand multiple partners. There is a very fortunate and highly effective balance in the book between personal narrative, technical background information, and practical advice. It is very well written and never boring—in fact, I read it right through from beginning to end, without putting it down once! It divides into two major parts.

The first section is called “Healing” and discusses the Wiks’ first discoveries of the sexual path and provides a general theoretical framework, contrasting Eastern and Western modes of viewing and treating sexual functions. The second part is called “Practice” and makes up more than three quarters of the book. It has eleven chapters (chs. 4-15) which each present one step of the path. Having learned from bad experiences the authors provide very gentle and easy access to the practice. As a Taoist scholar and teacher, I have read many of these books over the years and they were either highly technical and complicated or very quickly demanded actions that I felt in no way prepared for. This book, in contrast, seems entirely doable and the descriptions of the practices are so positive and unintimidating that one finds an eagerness to try them. The gentleness in approach stands in stark contrast to Stephan Wik’s admitted tendency to rush through the preliminaries in his own practice and to get quickly to the “juicy” parts of the books he studied. In fact, the first five steps are not at all sexual in the activities required. They begin with a general introduction to the practice, then present the necessity to understand and change some fundamental beliefs one has about sexuality, guiding readers through a “belief awareness exercise,” which examines ideas one has adopted from family, friends, and popular culture which may or may not still serve a good purpose. The next chapter is called “Building Trust.” It teaches how to learn to completely trust one’s partner and how to become a competent and non-judgmental listener. All too often we are not heard, or not heard properly, so that if we say “no” or “not like this,” the comment is all too often ignored. For a harmonious sex life, it is essential to really listen to one’s partner and to know that one will be heard at all times, that “no” means “no,” period. After this, practitioners are ready to engage in some basic touching—not sexual, not arousing, but with the goal of releasing tension and translating the trust that was established verbally into physical reality. The partners alternate in giving gentle massages of 15-20 minutes to each other, holding a giving attitude of mind and gaining relaxation and ease. Following this, in chapter 8, the book outlines the practice of internal energy circulation, the classic microcosmic orbit of inner alchemy. It is important that practitioners be familiar with this practice because once sexual energy is aroused, it has to be circulated along this path. This is solo meditation, but that too can be done in partnership and togetherness. Following this, the more specifically sexual practices begin, a massage of each partner’s sexual areas, advice for practices that can be done every morning and evening, ways to manage orgasms, and special sessions of sacred sex. Readers will have to obtain the book for details on these practices, but let it be said that the descriptions are clear, the instructions easy to follow, and the methodology entirely reasonable and simple. The last two chapters of the book introduce variations to the practice and comment on related Taoist arts, such as visualizations, Qigong, Tai Chi, herbal supplements, and the like. The book is a pleasure to read and as Michael Winn says, “the best introduction for the ‘next generation’ practice of Taoist sacred sex.” It is friendly in outlook, charming in tone, illustrated appropriately, and works very gently and patiently with areas that are often fraught with tension and “dirtiness” in our culture. The authors are to be congratulated on their courage to open their intimate lives to a large public audience and on the amazing skillfulness in which they manage to bring this esoteric art into a practical modern setting.

Livia Kohn Boston University November 10, 2005

Chinese Magical Medicine

CHINESE MAGICAL MEDICINE. By Michel Strickmann. Edited by Bernard Faure. Monographs in Asian Religions and Cultures. Edited by Carl Bielefeldt and Bernard Faure. Stanford: Stanford University, 2002. Pp. xii + 418; illustrations. Clothbound, $65.00, ISBN 0-8047-3449-6; paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-8047-3940-4.


This book is one of three posthumous publications written by the late Michel Strickmann (1942-1994), the other two being Mantras et mandarins (Gallimard, 1996; English translation, Princeton University Press, forthcoming) and Chinese Poetry and Prophecy (Stanford University Press, forthcoming). The present title was edited by Bernard Faure (Stanford University), with annotations for chapter one and two provided by Angelika Cedzich (DePaul University). 


Strickmann’s research will deeply impress the reader with its broad learning and originality in investigating a fascinating subject. It explores Daoist etiological interpretation (diagnosis of diseases), therapeutic methods for curing diseases, Chinese demonology, and the extensive influence of Tantric Buddhism on the ritual practices of East Asian religions. 


Chapter one, "Disease and Taoist Law," opens with Daoist therapeutic approaches in medieval China and analyzes rituals and the concept of disease in the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) scriptures. One of the most prominent features of this section is extensive citation and analysis of long passages from works in the Daoist Canon in order to arrive at concrete and systematic explanations. Strickmann points out that the Shangqing sect shows a sophisticated mixture of Chinese and Buddhist concepts of karma. 


Chapter two, "Demonology and Epidemiology," deals with Chinese demonology and demonstrates the conspicuous influence from the Buddhist tradition. According to Strickmann’s research, many demons from Buddhism were assimilated into the Chinese pantheon and the two traditions became virtually indistinguishable in this respect. 


In chapter three, "The Literature of Spells," Strickmann focuses on the fifth-century Dongyuan shenzhou jing (Spirit-Spells of the Abyss; DZ 335) in describing spells in the Daoist tradition. This chapter also investigates books of spells in proto-Tantra and Buddhist traditions and highlights the close relation of Dharani-scriptures, Buddhist apocryphal scriptures, and Daoist spell books. Strickmann emphasizes that the "cult of books" evidences an influence from Tantric Buddhism, though it is well-known that traditional Chinese culture has great respect for writing. For example, the Eastern Han (25-220 C.E.) Fengsu tongyi already records that the Liujia, Xiaojing, and Yijing were recited to expel demons. 


Chapter four, "Ensigillation: A Buddho-Taoist Technique of Exorcism," turns to techniques of exorcism, with special reference to ensigillation (the use of seals). Again, the author presents a comparative study of magical seals from both Buddhist and Daoist perspectives, thereby revealing the mutual influence of these two religions. Chapter five, "The Genealogy of Spirit Possession," discusses the use of spirit-possession as a means of exorcism. The earliest Avesa ritual of possession is also emphasized here. According to Strickmann, medium possession, still prevalent in Asia today, is ultimately derived from Tantric Buddhism rather than shamanism.


Finally, chapter six, "Tantricists, Foxes, and Shamans," discusses how madness and sexual possession by demons were treated. Strickmann focuses upon spirit possession, which is compared to the Daoist use of talismans, arguing that it can be viewed as a central idea of Tantric Buddhism. A monk can be a reincarnation of a god or a god can possess a medium for whatever purpose. He also criticizes the application of the term "shamanism" in East Asia because most of the current ritual practice in Japan originated from the Buddhist tradition and shamanism itself may have been influenced by Tantric Buddhism. 


This fascinating book, amassing a wealth of scholarship on Daoism and Tantric Buddhism, expands our vision and draws attention to numerous important topics in the study of East Asian religions. It also suggests subjects for further academic inquiry. These include but are not limited to the following: Daoist conceptions of the underworld, the Chinese concept of filial piety in relation to dead ancestors, Chinese demonology, and comparative studies on Daoism, Tantric Buddhism, and Japanese Buddhism. This work will prove rewarding for both specialists and general readers alike. 


SU Jui-Lung

National University of Singapore

July 16, 2003



Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy: A Comprehensive Clinical Text

CHINESE MEDICAL QIGONG THERAPY: A COMPREHENSIVE CLINICAL TEXT. By Jerry Alan Johnson. Pacific Grove: International Institute of Medical Qigong, 2000. Pp. 1085; glossary; bibliography; index; advertisements. Cloth, $135.00, ISBN 1-885246-08-0.

This massive compendium on Qigong therapy is a veritable encyclopedia on the subject. The author, a practitioner of Chinese medicine, martial arts, and Qigong for over thirty years, runs his own institute, serves many Qigong-related organizations, and is himself an institution in American Qigong therapy. He began his studies at an acupuncture school in California in the 1970s and also trained at the Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the 1990s. His martial arts expertise includes Shaolin Boxing, Bagua zhang, Taiji quan and many others. He teaches these practices and also competes in tournaments. His book, well recognized and greatly revered, is in many ways the professional standard. Unlike many TCM works, it also includes numerous sections on the mind and emotional states as well as on religious aspects of the practice, such as soul and spirit, the stars, magical diagrams, and the Yijing. An early attempt to have it translated into Chinese was accordingly foiled quietly and has not resurfaced to date.

The 1085 pages of the book, which include a glossary and index, divide into twelve sections—fifty-six chapters in the first eleven and three appendixes in the last one. The sections begin with “Theoretical Foundations” (chs. 1-9). This presents a basic overview of qi, yin-yang, Five Phases, twelve meridians, but also discusses comparative Western theories and practices, such as radiowaves, electric currents, EEG, MRI, gamma rays, ultraviolet light, magnetism and so on. Section two is on “Outer Forces: Heaven, Earth, and Man” (chs. 10-13) and presents a discussion of different forms of qi (prenatal and postnatal) plus the triple forces of Heaven (sun, moon, stars), Earth (earth, water, wind), and Man (jing, qi, shen). 

The third section is on “Daoyin Training” (chs. 14-17). After a brief introductory chapter, it contains a chapter each on movement practice, breathing exercises, and meditations. Although in all titles the author uses the term daoyin, he speaks of qigong in all the discussions. The difference is not made clear. The meditation part, moreover, leaves the Qigong world behind and also includes the ten oxherding pictures of Zen Buddhism, indicating the eclectic approach and tendency toward personal mixtures also found elsewhere in the volume.

Section four (chs. 18-19) is on “Qi Deviations in Qigong Training.” The basic concept here is that qi moves in patterns that are natural to the seasons and can deviate in various ways. All changes in the body that are not part of the natural cycle are then precursors to disease. After a general discussion of these issues, the author emphasizes that while it is good to build up qi, too much qi can be dangerous and unleashed currents may be more harmful than good. He focuses especially on the dangers to the mind, what he calls “soul and spirit deviations” or, in Western terms, neuroses and psychoses. He sees these deviations as turbid qi rising to the head but also in the form of ghosts, spirits, and other yin-yang beings that influence people’s lives. In all cases, treatments include not only physical Qigong but also meditative methods.

The fifth section (chs. 20-25) in on the “Differential Diagnosis of Energy Principles.” It outlines the etiology of disease according to the human life cycle, reformulating the old outline from the Neijing, then discusses the classical eight causes of disease and eight energetic principles. The section also presents theories regarding the Five Phases and their interaction in the causing of disease as well as a description of a Chinese medical examination and diagnosis.

Following this “Establishing the Medical Qigong Clinic” (sect. 6, chs. 26-28) contains a lot of practical advice on how to go about being a Qigong doctor in America. How to set up the clinic and treatment room, how to prepare, what intake forms to use, how to begin and end patient interaction, length of Qigong treatment, home assignments—issues like these dominate the presentation. The section also speaks of the necessity of self-care for practitioners, warning against losing too much qi in the patient and obtaining a patient’s diseases through qi-interaction. Meditations are recommended for personal stability.

“Treatment Principles” (sect. 7, chs. 29-32) is next. This presents the different methods of purging, tonifying, and regulating qi through Qigong therapy. It also discusses the basic energetic patterns and deviations in terms of the magic diagram Luoshu and of the Yijing. Numerology and geographical directions are integrated into the treatment, helping the patient’s stabilization not only within himself but also in relation to the greater universe.

Section eight (chs. 33-37) is on “Qi-Emitting Methods.” To emit qi, the practitioner is to visualize the qi-flow moving from his or her body through the palm and into the outside atmosphere. This externalized qi can then be used to guide the qi in the patient by merely passing one’s hands over the affected limbs. It can also be used by pointing to certain acupuncture points and thus turn into “invisible needles.” Or it can be used hands-on in a form of qi-massage, which stimulates specific points or guides qi along specific channels. Both physical and mental disorders can be affected in this manner.

“Qigong Exercises” are the topic of the next section (sect. 9, chs. 38-42). They include self-massages of the orbs, tapping and rubbing of meridians, breathing with the healing sounds, breathing into the abdomen and guiding the breath to the afflicted area, as well as internally guiding the qi to heal and strengthen where necessary. More intense than this are the “Internal Disease Treatments” which are the subject of the following part (sect. 10, chs. 43-48). Here the author discusses qi-emission and healing methods according to the five main orbs, in each case presenting a general description of the orb as well as the etiology, symptoms, and treatment of its diseases. Methods applied include the stimulation of acupuncture points, the purging of qi channels through guiding of qi, the emission of qi from vibrating palms to specific points, and the so-called extended fan-palm, which is used to add orthopathic qi to the meridians. The section also discusses modifications and home exercises to be given to patients.

The last section that contains discussion chapters is section eleven (chs. 49-56). It deals with “Specialized Therapy,” including pediatrics, geriatrics, gynecology, neurology, psychotherapy, oncology, and surgery. Each specialty is given one chapter, in each case describing the specific demands of the field and the best way of treatment with qi, allowing patients to stabilize their conditions and create a new level of alignment with nature to enhance their primordial qi. The chapters provide a good general survey but do not go into great depth, so that, for example, the chapter on gynecology makes no mention whatsoever of menopause.

The twelfth section contains three appendixes. One presents essays by different doctors and practitioners on the medical applications of Qigong, including its anti-aging qualities and ways of balancing qi. The second outlines major Western studies and scientific investigations on Qigong healing and presents findings that explain in western terms why certain Qigong methods work as they do. The third does the same for the psychological mechanisms activated in Qigong practice.

The book concludes with a glossary of technical terms, a bibliography, an index, and advertisements for healing videos published by the same agency. It is a valuable resource on Qigong therapy in theory and practice and contains information on numerous issues and problems. The scope is admirable, the execution with its many illustrations highly recommendable. The volume is a treasure trove and serves well as a reference work for students and practitioners.

Livia Kohn

Boston University

September 21, 2004



Cosmos and Community


COSMOS AND COMMUNITY: THE ETHICAL DIMENSION OF DAOISM. By Livia Kohn. Cambridge, Mass.: Three Pines Press, 2004. Pp. 291. Supplement in Electronic Publication. Paperback, $29.95, ISBN 1-932483-02-7


With the publication of Cosmos and Community, Livia Kohn has confirmed her status as the preeminent Western scholar of Daoism. Her work is noteworthy not only because of its analysis of Daoist texts and practices, but also because she is a careful and respected translator of texts from the Daozang. Accordingly, Cosmos and Community is a microcosm of her contribution to Daoist scholarship.


The common view of Daoism, often still held even by scholars of the tradition, is that Daoists practiced “nonaction” (wuwei) and emptied themselves of the distinctions made in morality. So, it is often assumed that Daoists did not form an ethical system at all. Kohn’s work should remove this misunderstanding once and for all, and confirm the need for revision of such teaching and interpretation.


Kohn focuses on the Daoist precepts (jie), and Cosmos and Community falls into two major sections. In the first section, Kohn identifies four types of Daoist rules: prohibitions (bude); admonitions using the term “should” (dang) or “should always” (chang dang); injunctions that deal with concrete daily behavior; and resolutions, often phrased in the first person and usually containing expressions such as “pray” (yuan), “ be mindful” (nian), or “bring forth [the good] intention” (faxin). After a survey of these different categories in chapter one, she deals with prohibitions in chapters two and three. The second chapter principally covers the five recurring prohibitions of Daoism from the fifth century onward: no killing, no stealing, no lying, no debauchery, or no intoxication. But the chapter also mentions sets of universal rules created by Daoist communities. In chapter three, Kohn reminds us that an important part of the Daoist enterprise was not merely to slow down the process of loss of vital essence (jing), but to stop and reverse it. Efforts to control jing-loss lie behind the rules on food, wine, and sex described in this chapter. Chapters four and five focus on admonitions that sometimes occur in connection with the five precepts. In chapter four, Kohn argues that the ten virtues (paramita) and ten bodhisattva stages (bhumi) of Mahayana had a major impact on Daoism, and texts in the Lingbao (Numinous Treasure) canon show the closest parallels to Buddhism (64). In chapter five, she considers other precept texts and their admonitions, including those originating in the Tianshi (Celestial Masters) community and dating from as early as the late second century C.E. Chapter six sets out monastic injunctions and their intended transformations of daily behavior. Finally, chapter seven identifies mental resolutions and other guidelines that were designed to create “a cosmic mind.” 


In the second part of the work, Kohn provides for the first time a complete list of the seventy-three texts in the Daoist Canon and its supplements having to do with moral instruction (123-135). In the print volume she translates eleven of these texts from the original sources, while in the electronic supplement (see she makes available translations of nineteen other texts. Cosmos and Community contains translations of all or part of the following texts: (1) Laojun yibai bashi jie (180 Precepts of Lord Lao; DZ 786, 4a-12b); (2) Taishang Laojun jiejing (Precepts of the Highest Lord Lao; DZ 784); (3) Chisongzi zhongjie jing (Essential Precepts of Master Redpine; DZ 185); (4) Shangpin dajie (Great Precepts of the Highest Ranks; DZ 177); (5) Shijie jing (Scripture of the Ten Precepts; DZ 459); (6) Sanyuan pinjie (Precepts of the Three Primes; DZ 452); (7) Taiqing wushiba yuanwen (Fifty-eight Precepts of Great Clarity; DZ 187); (8) Guanshen dajie (Great Precepts of Self-observation; DZ 1364); (9) Jinjie jing (Scripture of Prohibitions and Precepts; DH 35); (10) Shishi weiyi (Ten Items of Dignified Observances; DZ 792); (11) Chuzhen jie (Precepts of Initial Perfection; JY 278; JY 292; ZW 404). 


Kohn is a careful scholar who is particularly skillful in interpreting Daoist/Buddhist interaction and this turns out to be the major thrust of her work in this book. And yet, she is well aware of the texts and lineages which are not as directly influenced by Buddhism as those she studies. The one text she translates and includes in the print edition of the book that stands as a clear representative of indigenous Daoism free of Buddhist influence is the Chisongzi zhongjie jing (Essential Precepts of Master Redpine) (154). This tradition is often overlooked because of the ascendancy and the sheer force of the number of texts produced in the lineages which interacted and imitated Buddhism in their monastic ways. This more silent and subterranean tradition still requires a more robust history and interpretation. For the time being, Kohn’s work is very helpful for working with those Daoist sub-traditions that interacted with Buddhism.


In this work, Kohn’s most significant contribution is to make available those extant texts that aid us in working on Daoist morality. The book is highly recommended for scholars and students alike who are interested in Daoist ethical practice. It would make an excellent required text for courses in the Philosophies of China, Daoism, Comparative Philosophy, and even Global Ethics. Teacher-scholars who depend on texts in translation will find the work indispensable for advancing their own interpretations of Daoism. 


Ronnie Littlejohn

Belmont University

December 2, 2004



Daoism and Chinese Culture

Daoism and Chinese Culture. By Livia Kohn. Cambridge, Mass.: Three Pines Press, 2004 (2001). 2nd rev. ed. Pp. x + 228, illustrations, charts. Paper, $19.95, ISBN 1-931483-00-0.

Livia Kohn’s Daoism and Chinese Culture, now available in a second, revised edition (cleansed of the typographical errors that characterized the first edition), represents the first of three recent introductory textbooks on Daoism. Of the three, Kohn’s is the most historical (Russell Kirkland’s Taoism: The Enduring Tradition [Routledge, 2004] is more theoretical and James Miller’s Daoism: A Short Introduction [Oneworld, 2003] is thematic). Still, Kohn’s historical narrative of Daoism is discontinuous because, as Kohn explains in her acknowledgements, “the text is thematically divided into four parts: Ancient Thought, Religious Communities, Spiritual Practices, and Modernity” (vii). Daoism and Chinese Culture is designed to be used in combination with Kohn’s The Taoist Experience (State University of New York Press, 1993), with each chapter concluding with lists of relevant sections of the Daoist primary sources published in that anthology. As Kohn’s historical survey is meant primarily for classroom use, evaluating whether this structure works pedagogically is the main task of this review.

In the introduction, Kohn wisely if expectedly offers a capsule history of the study (and misinterpretation) of Daoism. Although nothing new to scholars of Daoism, such a preamble will help students counteract the pernicious effects of world religions textbooks or popular stereotypes, which characterize the whole of the Daoist tradition as a philosophy of holism invented by a sage named Laozi. In the introduction Kohn also argues that there are “three types of organization and practice: literati, communal, and self-cultivation” (5). This tripartite division works well in the classroom as long it is made clear to literal-minded undergraduates that these are not indigenous categories, but Kohn’s heuristic inventions.

Part one, “Ancient Thought,” consists of three chapters: (1) “Laozi and the Daode jing,” which also includes a useful survey of Confucian virtues; (2) “The Zhuangzi;” and (3) “Han Cosmology and Immortality,” which is arguably the chapter that best justifies the inclusion of “Chinese Culture” as part of the book’s title. The latter aptly summarizes the Five Agents (wuxing), the stem and branch system of the Chinese calendar, traditional burial practices, and other essential pieces of the traditional Chinese worldview, which would be as relevant for the first-time traveler to China as they are in the classroom.

Part two, “Religious Communities,” also includes three chapters: (4) “Communal Organizations,” which mainly focuses on the Tianshi (Celestial Masters) movement; (5) “Self-Cultivation Groups,” dealing primarily with the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) and Lingbao (Numinous Treasure) revelations; and (6) “Daoism and the State,” a short and somewhat miscellaneous chapter. Part three, “Spiritual Practices,” comprises chapters on “Ritual and Meditation,” “Spells, Talismans, and Inner Alchemy,” which also contains background information on Tantric Buddhism and the Yijing (Classic of Changes), and “Monasticism,” which primarily concerns Quanzhen (Complete Perfection) Daoism.


Part four, Modernity,” is the most strictly chronological section, and comprises two chapters: “Changes in the Ming and Qing” and “Daoism Today.” The very existence of this last chapter provides a great service to teachers who want to stress Daoism as a living religion. This chapter emphasizes both contemporary Daoism’s continuity and discontinuity with the past. The chapter’s final section describes various self-styled Daoist masters in North America, which Kohn sees as replicating the three types of organization which were outlined in the introduction. This last chapter is more tantalizing and less thorough than the others, and here especially a teacher should be armed with more background to be prepared in the classroom. Two appendices, a brief discussion of Daoism in other Asian countries and a chronological chart which matches Daoist dates with events in world and Chinese history, complete this textbook.

Daoism and Chinese Culture packs a powerful punch in two hundred pages. Some might complain that the chapter titles do not always convey the contents of the chapter—why does the chapter on “Daoism and the State” include the founding of Louguantai? Why does the “Ritual and Meditation” chapter treat the formation of the Daoist Canon? In fact, any attempt to treat Daoism both thematically and chronologically make such choices inevitable, and Kohn has insured that each chapter and section flows beautifully into the next. The book includes juicy nuggets of Daoist primary texts and, at the end of each chapter, a well-chosen list of primary and secondary sources. Clear, concise, and comprehensive, Daoism and the Chinese Culture is a reliable, perhaps essential, option for any college-level course on Daoism, Chinese religions, or religions of East Asia. Students need a trusted expert like Livia Kohn to guide them through the rich and mysterious forest of Daoism.

Elijah Siegler

College of Charleston

January 24, 2005 



Daoism and Ecology : ways within a cosmic landscape

DAOISM AND ECOLOGY: WAYS WITHIN A COSMIC LANDSCAPE. Edited by N. J. Girardot, James Miller, and Liu Xiaogan. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001. Pp. lxxiii + 478; foreword; epilogue; bibliography; glossary. Cloth, $36.95, ISBN 0-945454-29-5; paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-945454-30-9.

This anthology joins other fine works in the Religions of the World and Ecology series published by the Center for the Study of World Religions of the Harvard Divinity School and coordinated by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim. The guiding principle of the series is its fundamental belief that in our search for a more comprehensive ecological worldview it is inevitable that we will draw from the symbolic and conceptual resources of the rich religious traditions of the world. The editors of this extraordinary collection of Daoist materials wisely chose to operate with a broad and inclusive understanding of Daoism, one that honors the philosophical, sociological, and religious distinctiveness of the various Daoist sectarian traditions. While some may feel that this approach begs the definitional problem of "Daoism," the overwhelming advantage of this decision is to avoid the common reductionism of Daoism to the Lao-Zhuang tradition narrowly defined. 

The first grouping of papers takes up a series of questions related to the theoretical and historical underpinnings of a Daoist approach to the environment. Included are the following essays: "'Daoism' and 'Deep Ecology': Fantasy and Potentiality" (3-21) by Jordan Paper; "Ecological Questions for Daoist Thought: Contemporary Issues and Ancient Texts" (23-44) by Joanne Birdwhistell; "'Nature' as Part of Human Culture in Daoism" (45-60) by Michael LaFargue; and "Daoism and the Quest for Order" (61-69) by Terry Kleeman. James Miller concludes the section with a discussion paper entitled "What Can Daoism Contribute to Ecology?" (71-75). The second section is devoted to the analysis of Daoist religious scriptures. Discussions in this section are Kristofer Schipper's commentary on the ecological teachings of the Yibai bashi jie (180 Precepts) (79-93); Chi-tim Lai's essay on the Taiping jing (Scripture of Great Peace) (95-111); Zhang Jiyu and Li Yuanguo on the Yinfu jing (Scripture of Unconscious Unification) (113-24); and Robert Campany on Ge Hong's writings (125-47). This section concludes with a reflective discussion, this time by Miller, Richard Wang and Edward Davis (149-53). The papers in section three are concerned with cultural and folk practices that have Daoist affinities: E.N. Anderson provides a meditation on the relationship between Daoist practice and agricultural life (157-83); Stephen Field writes on Fengshui (Chinese geomancy; 185-200); Thomas Hahn discusses Daoist notions of wilderness (201-18); and Jeffrey Meyer's essay examines Chinese gardening as a metaphor for the Daoist approach to ecology (219-36). In their reflective paper, Miller and John Patterson consider the following question: "How Successfully Can We Apply the Concepts of Ecology to Daoist Cultural Contexts?" (237-41). Several authors attempt to construct a Daoist environmental philosophy in section four of the book. David Hall's "From Reference to Deference: Daoism and the Natural World" (245-63) and Roger Ames' "The Local and the Focal in Realizing a Daoist World" (265-82) are reinterpretations of the Daode jing and Zhuangzi. Two papers are particularly concerned with the question whether wuwei (non-action) can be a concept with contemporary moral relevance: Russell Kirkland's "'Responsible Non-Action' in a Natural World: Perspectives from the Neiye, Zhuangzi, and Daode jing" (283-304), and Lisa Raphal's "Metic Intelligence or Responsible Non-Action? Further Reflections on the Zhuangzi, Daode jing, and Neiye" (305-14). A more activist interpretation of a Daoist environmental ethic is defended by Liu Xiaogan in "Non-Action and the Environment Today: A Conceptual and Applied Study of Laozi's Philosophy" (315-39). Here Miller and Russell Goodman also provide a retrospective discussion for the sectional essays (341-47). The work concludes with several efforts to apply various aspects of Daoist tradition to the contemporary ecological situation. James Miller articulates the implications of a Daoist visionary experience in his "Respecting the Environment, or Visualizing Highest Clarity" (351-59). Next, there is Zhang Jiyu's "Declaration of the Chinese Daoist Association on Global Ecology" (361-72) and "Change Starts Small: Daoist Practice and the Ecology of Individual Lives" (373-90), an account of a roundtable by Daoist practitioners, which was compiled by Livia Kohn. In this section, Jonathan Herman also argues for the significance of Ursula Le Guin's redaction of Daoism (391-406). Finally, James Miller provides another sectional discussion (407-10). 

This work makes numerous contributions to our understanding of Daoist environmental philosophy, but there is also much offered to the reader in terms of methodology for studying and applying Daoism in general. The text makes a very important contribution to both the practitioner and academician. Strongly recommended for scholars of Daoism, individuals interested in religion and ecology, and general readers. All libraries should have this book.

Ronnie Littlejohn

Belmont University

March 15, 2003



Daoism: A Short Introduction

DAOISM: A SHORT INTRODUCTION. By James Miller. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2003. Pp. xviii + 174. Paper, £11.99 / $17.95, ISBN 1-85168-315-1.

After a generation of rapid advances in Daoist Studies, and the publication in 2000 of the monumental Daoism Handbook edited by Livia Kohn, there was clearly a need for new introductory texts that would provide an up-to-date survey of the entire tradition. Miller’s contribution joins Kohn’s Daoism and Chinese Culture (2001, 2nd ed. 2004) and my own Taoism: The Enduring Tradition (2004). 

As the preface explains, the book is intended largely for college students, and Miller’s presentation is clearly shaped by the author’s classroom experience regarding questions and concerns raised by students encountering Daoism for the first time. For example, Miller observes that “Daoists construct their ways of being religious in quite different ways than we might expect” (x). The work is filled with useful heuristic generalizations regarding such differences, such as the following: “the human experience of change or transformation in our bodies and in the world around us lies at the heart of the Daoist experience in much the same way that faith in an eternal, unchanging deity lies at the heart of the Jewish-Christian-Islamic religious system” (ix). Teachers and students of comparative religion will thus find here an excellent starting point for looking at Daoism as today’s scholars now understand it. 

The organization of the book’s contents (outlined at “does not follow a strict linear scheme,” so the reader is “invited to leap backwards and forwards…to pursue whichever themes or lines of thought are interesting” (xii). The book’s chapters are in fact organized according to “eight keywords or fundamental themes that I believe lie at the heart of Daoism in its various cultural and historical forms. In each chapter I focus on one of these themes using it as a lens or a spotlight to illuminate a key aspect of the Daoist tradition” (xii). Preceding those chapters is a “Historical Introduction,” where Miller provides a brief sketch of “proto-Daoism” (i.e., the Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Neiye or Inward Training); “classical Daoism” (i.e., early Tianshi, Shangqing, Lingbao, and Tang Daoism); “modern Daoism” (Quanzhen or “Complete Perfection”); and “contemporary Daoism” (19th century to today). Though terse, this historical sketch is sound, clear, and very up-to-date, especially concerning the long-neglected late-imperial and contemporary eras.

Chapter one, “Identity,” proposes three different ways of conceptualizing “Daoism” as a whole—as “Chinese Religion,” as “Lineages of Transmission,” and as “Universal Path.” It includes a thoughtful and enlightening explanation of interpretative problems caused by earlier generations of colonialistic Sinology, and discusses differences between Daoist religious perspectives and “popular Chinese religion,” while noting how the two partially coalesced from Song times on. Chapter two, “Way,” examines the concept of Dao itself, while chapter three, “Body,” provides a very important and helpful explanation of “Qi: The Breath of Life,” noting how Daoist models of biospiritual cultivation rest upon assumptions different from those underlying Western thought. The remaining chapters (Power, Light, Alchemy, Text, and Nature) similarly explicate Daoist ideas and practices on Daoist terms for a Western audience. Appended is a nice glossary of major Daoist terms (in Pinyin, Wade-Giles, and Chinese characters, with a succinct English definition); a bibliography of major studies in English; and a thorough index. Each chapter concludes with a few suggested readings. A section of the preface (xii-xiii) touches on basic issues of romanization, and explains that Miller uses the spelling “Daoism” “in order to distinguish [the subject] from what ‘Taoism’ represented in the twentieth-century Western imagination.”

Miller’s book says relatively little about the socio-political dimensions of Daoism within the evolving society of China, or about the many contributions of women Daoists. And scholars may take issue with a few of his interpretive positions. But as a comprehensive “short introduction,” this nuanced and well-informed book succeeds extremely well. 


Russell Kirkland

University of Georgia

December 2, 2004



Daoist Identity: History, Lineage, and Ritual

Daoist Identity: History, Lineage, and Ritual. Edited by Livia Kohn and Harold Roth. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002. Pp. x + 392; illustrations; photographs; glossary. Cloth, $56.00, ISBN 0-8248-2429-6; paper, $28.00, 0-8248-2504-7. 


Studies on Daoism have often seen themselves confronted with the need to stake out their territory—a need to define “things Daoist.” A relative newcomer in the humanities, the study of Daoism found itself in an arena where most issues of philosophy and religion had long been claimed by scholars of Confucianism and Buddhism. Matters were additionally complicated by the absence in Daoism of a clear point of origin: “Daoism” does not refer to a founding figure. Moreover, those who considered themselves Daoists seem to have attributed only minimal importance to “scriptural truths,” with phrases like “The Master said…” being virtually irrelevant to Daoist dialectics. Thus, a canonical point of reference from which an identity can be derived does not naturally impose itself.


No wonder, then, that the publication of Daoist Identity: History, Lineage, and Ritual, edited by Professors Livia Kohn and Harold Roth, could potentially be a landmark in the field. Indeed, among the striking features of this book is its broad range of topics, including an unusually strong presence of Japanese scholarship, which comprises more than half of the chapters (though the conspicuous lack of Chinese contributions is curious). All in all, the thirteen chapters form a rich ensemble of perspectives and approaches, subdivided into four categories: Part I, Early Formations; Part II, Texts and Symbols; Part III, Lineages and Local Culture; andPart IV, Ritual Boundaries.


In the introduction, Kohn and Roth state their intention to “do away with the futile endeavor to find permanence and solidity in the tradition and begin by looking at identity as process” (8). Although one wonders what exactly is meant by “tradition” if stripped of permanent and solid characteristics (a question reinforced by the statement in the next paragraph that “there are certain general or typical patterns in Daoist identity formation,” in which “key ideas or concepts” play a role), the focus on “process” is certainly an interesting one—and, as the articles in this volume attest to, a fruitful one. However, it is unfortunate that none of the chapters have been devoted to the formation of Daoist identity as an object of scholarly study, thereby allowing scholars to dwell on a self-created blind spot.


In the first chapter of Part I, “Early Formations,” Terry Kleeman surprises readers with the hitherto largely ignored fact that even in the case of the “founding fathers” of Daoism, the Celestial Masters, “non-Chinese ethnic groups have played a significant role in Daoism from the beginning” (24). In chapter two, Tsuchiya Masaaki notices a great degree of “self-reflection and critical self-evaluation” (55) in the confession of sins as practiced under the Way of Great Peace. Peter Nickerson argues in Chapter three that, contrary to common assumptions, with the advent of the Way of the Celestial Masters, “Daoist soteriology involved no revolution, no fundamental paradigmatic shift, from the religious treatments of death that had preceded it” (62).


Part II, “Texts and Symbols,” opens with a chapter by Mark Csikszentmihàlyi. The author explores “traditional taxonomies” current among the communities of Confucius and Mozi, as well as during the Warring States, the Han dynasty, and finally taxonomies concerning the revealed text. Csikszentmihàlyi argues that Han dynasty foundational movements “must not be studied in isolation from their antecedents but […] that the Laozi is not the right place to start” (82). Chapter five, by Suzanne Cahill, describes one of the most emotional ways in which Daoist identity has been expressed. Focusing on the poetry of Yu Xuanji (844-868), Cahill shows how adherence to the Dao can be revealed through poetic images of material culture, such as textiles, boats, and zithers, all spoken “in a powerful individual voice” (124). In chapter six, Mabuchi Masaya finds a Daoist strand of thinking adopted by the Ming dynasty scholar-official Wang Dao, who advocated a return “to the deepest roots of morality in the Dao” as expressed in the “highest language” of the Laozi (132; 130).


Part III opens with a chapter by Edward Davis on the patronage of the cult to the Xu brothers in Fujian. Davis argues that, contrary to Arthur Wolfe’s paradigm, “the cult to gods and the cult to ancestors were often conflated” and “more in tune with the popular tradition of Fujian” (160). Chapter eight, by Mori Yuria, surveys the transmission and adaptation of the Taiyi jinhua zongzhi in sectarian contexts. In chapter nine, Shiga Ichiko traces the development of daotan, “religious organization[s] centered on spirit-writing and the worship of Daoist deities” in Guangdong and Hong Kong (186).


The first chapter of Part IV is by Charles Orzech, a scholar of Chinese Buddhism. His interesting comparative study of Buddhist fang yankou and Daoist pudu rituals shows how the former has become “translated” into the latter, taking on a distinctive Daoist form. Also surveying interactions between Buddhism and Daoism, Mitamura Keiko maps out Buddhist influence upon Daoist hand signs, and vice versa. Chapter twelve, by Maruyama Hiroshi, comprises a study of documents used in Taiwanese Daoist rituals. According to Maruyama, the written document “is essential in defining Daoist ritual as Daoist” (256), and he succeeds in finding textual precedents that help define a ritual continuity from the Song dynasty to the present. Chapter thirteen shows how the use of meat in Taiwanese Daoist rituals (historically a taboo) is no reason to doubt their Daoist nature. Asano Haruji argues that these offerings are a concession to popular demand, but “included on the periphery, placed carefully away from the holiest altars” (291).


As this collection of articles revolves around the question of Daoist identity, with each chapter soliciting a unique definition of Daoism based on individual positions in the process of identity formation, certainly the notion of a single, authoritative (authoritarian) Daoist identity is challenged. Although questions as to what Daoist identity entails may not be answered in this volume, nonetheless, in the process of reviewing the question, new advances have been made and new inspirations aroused. The discussion stimulated in this book deserves to be continued.


Mark Meulenbeld

Princeton University/Academia Sinica


January 24, 2005 



Defining Chu


DEFINING CHU: IMAGE AND REALITY IN ANCIENT CHINA. Edited by Constance A. Cook and John S. Major. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999. Pp. ix + 254; maps; plates; illustrations; appendix; index. Cloth, $59.00, ISBN 0-8248-1885-7.


This edited volume is the first Western language book-length study to focus on a single ancient Chinese state. Tracing the evolution of Chu from a vassal state in the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 B.C.E.), through its rise and fall as a leading political power in the Warring States (475-221 B.C.E.), to its subsequent resurgence in the early Han (206 B.C.E.-8 C.E.), Defining Chu addresses the historical geography, archaeological history, artistic achievements, and socio-political characteristics of Chu. 


In the process, the book's contributors focus on two related theoretical issues in particular: (1) the complexity and distinctiveness of "Chu culture," and (2) the competing "images" of Chu in the history and study of China. "Eventually, over the course of the book, we see the emergence of the constructed Chu image from historical reality-a reality argued according to each author's interpretation of archaeological or historical materials that they accept as defining Chu" (viii; emphasis in original; also 5, 167-69). Throughout the various articles, contributors argue for the need to revise the received view of Chu, which centers on the "Northern Bias" (1-2, 51-52) of traditional Chinese historiography and Western Sinology's indebtedness to that construction. The authors in turn attempt to separate the mythologized Chu, revolving principally around the image of Chu as an alternative, slightly barbarous (shamanic) culture, from a "historically real" Chu especially evident in recent archaeological discoveries. 


In addition to a preface, introduction and conclusion, the book contains nine chapters in three parts. Part I: Perspectives in Defining Chu Culture has three chapters: (1) "The Geography of Chu" (9-20) by Barry B. Blakeley, (2) "Chu Culture: An Archaeological Overview" (21-32) by Xu Shaohua, and (3) "Chu Art: Link between the Old and New" (33-47) by Jenny F. So. Part II: State and Society consists of four chapters: (4) "Chu Society and State: Image versus Reality" (51-66) by Barry B. Blakeley, (5) "The Ideology of the Chu Ruling Class: Ritual Rhetoric and Bronze Inscriptions" (67-76) by Constance A. Cook, (6) "Chu Law in Action: Legal Documents from Tomb 2 at Baoshan" (77-97) by Susan Weld, and (7) "Towns and Trade: Cultural Diversity and Chu Daily Life" (99-117) by Heather A. Peters. The final section, Part III: The Spirit of Chu, contains (8) "Characteristics of Late Chu Religion" (121-43) by John S. Major and (9) "Monkeys, Shamans, Emperors, and Poets: The Chuci and Images of Chu during the Han Dynasty" (145-65) by Gopal Sukhu. The book concludes with an appendix, which is Li Ling and Constance A. Cook's translation of the so-called "Chu Silk Manuscript," an astronomical and calendrical treatise from Zidanku (Hunan) datable to circa 300 B.C.E. 


These various articles attempt to "define Chu"-to delineate a picture of Chu history and culture that mirrors the long and complex history of the state of Chu itself (for a summary see 167-69). Those researching Chinese religion will find John S. Major's article on later Chu religion especially worthy of attention. Here Major discusses issues of regionalism, spatial orientation and religious cosmography, monsters and gods, snakes and animal motifs, hunting motifs, shamanism and spirit-possession, "farflight" or spirit journeys, Huang-Lao Daoism and Chu influence on Han culture, and four specific cases of Chu cultural influence (cosmographs, calendars, mirrors, and the mother goddess). With so much academic conjecture centering on the connection between the state of Chu (China's "shamanic substratum") and Warring States "Daoism," specifically the possible Chu origins of classical Daoism, one would have appreciated greater attention to this issue, either in some of the volume's contributions or as a separate article. The book also lacks a glossary of Chinese characters. Defining Chu is for scholars of early China, especially those focusing on the Warring States period, as well as for anyone thinking through issues of mythologization (essentialist definitions of culture based on a constructed past). Recommended for research libraries and historians of early China. 


Louis Komjathy

Boston University

March 1, 2003



Die Welt als Wendung


DIE WELT ALS WENDUNG. ZU EINER LITERARISCHEN LEKTÜRE DES WAHREN BUCHES VOM SÜDLICHEN BLÜTENLAND. By Hans Peter Hoffmann. Opera Sinologica 13. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2001. Pp. 410. Cloth, €64.00, ISBN 0940-7927.


This is a monumental study of the Zhuangzi as a literary work. Hoffmann's study divides into three parts. The first part discusses the various problems related to reading the Zhuangzi as a literary rather than a philosophical work. Here Hoffmann also discusses the challenges of using the methodology of literary analysis to examine and understand the text, a methodology which stands in contrast to a more philosophical and conventional interpretation. The author carefully presents the different modes, citing previous studies extensively and making a convincing argument for the applicability of literary methods. Part two is entitled "The World as Transformation," thus echoing the main title of the book and bringing out its key thesis.


According to Hoffmann, the Zhuangzi, with its various stories, fables, parables, and metaphors, is itself the verbalized expression of the fundamental idea of transformation. Seen both cosmologically and literally, transformation forms the backbone and the essential topic of the work and is played out in a variety of different formats. A key way that the theme of transformation is worked with is in the so-called "spillover sayings," literally "jug words," that have one level of meaning literally but, like water flowing from a jug, spill over into wider and more complex meanings. The great gourd, the story of the swimmer, and many more are such spillover sayings-indicating the depth of transformation both textually and in terms of meaning. Part three looks at "Transformation in the World" and examines more complex stories that relate events from different perspectives and thus open mind and language to a deeper level of being. Here the story of the joy of fish and the flight of the great Peng bird are emphasized and discussed; in each case Hoffmann examines what philosophical readings have identified as a form of relativism in a literary and language-based manner. The book represents solid scholarship and makes much use of previous studies. It has Chinese characters in the text, making identification of Chinese terms very easy. It also contains an ample bibliography and detailed index. Recommended for scholars of the Zhuangzi and those conducting research on classical Daoist texts and Chinese literature. Research libraries should also acquire Hoffmann's study.



Livia Kohn

Boston University

March 1, 2003



Great Perfection

GREAT PERFECTION: RELIGION AND ETHNICITY IN A CHINESE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM. By Terry F. Kleeman. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998. Pp. vii + 251; bibliography; index. Cloth, $39.00, ISBN 0-8248-1800-8. 


This work is an exploration of the state of Cheng-Han and its significance for the study of Chinese history and culture. The target period is the first half of the fourth century C.E. Although the book has value for scholars of Chinese history in general, it is of interest especially to those who work in Daoist studies. The Celestial Masters movement is the womb from which the Li family, founders of the Cheng state emerged. A substantial portion of the work is devoted to the translation of documents of historical, religious, and philosophical interest. No Chinese text is provided. The translations integrate several sources, relying on the Record of the Land of Huayang as not only the most reliable, but also as the framework for the use of the other supplemental materials. The author uses italics and his footnote system to aid the reader in identifying how he has integrated the various texts. The translated materials are grouped around the various members of the Li family (Li Te, Li Liu, Li Xiang, Li Xiong, Li Ban, Li Qi, Li Shou, Li Shi) and the role they played in the formation and development of the state. 


The texts, although taking up the second half of the book, are the source for the topical narrative the author uses in the first half. The topics are ethnicity and identity; religion; history; and sources of Cheng history. This topical structure is at one and the same time the book's strength and its weakness. I found that I had to constantly move between the sections to get a full picture of an event or person's role. For example, the relationship of the Lis is not explained in the topical sections of the first half of the book and historical details necessary to understand a point on ethnicity or religion are not explained in those sections (compare what is said of Li Xiang's militia on p. 58, 81, 93). Sometimes this does create a question of factual accuracy. The author speaks of the murder of Li Xiang (82) in the religion section and yet elsewhere (the history and translation sections) he describes Li Xiang's execution (93, 150). And when the author says Zhao Xin died at the refugees' hands (82), that hardly gives the full story (93). Some material turns up in one topical section that is omitted in another [Li Xiong's reward of Fan Changsheng described in the religion section (83) is omitted in the history section]. Perhaps a coherently flowing single narrative hung on an historical frame would have been preferable to the topical chapters. This is not to say that the author's research is inadequate in any way. Quite to the contrary, the work provides excellent newly translated material, and very clear analysis and suggestive interpretations. 


In the section on ethnicity and identity the author provides an overview of four pitfalls involved in studying the subject of ethnicity in premodern China and these are well developed and carefully explained. He then provides an overview of Sichuan during this period, and of the Ba people specifically. He offers an interpretive model of three divergent patterns of interaction between Chinese and non-Chinese which may have application with respect to other ethnographic studies of China. Particularly worth noting is the section on religion. The author's strengths are most evident here. This section provides an introduction to the Celestial Master movement, with information not easily found elsewhere in one place. The ties between this movement and Mt. Tai in Shangdong, how the movement came to exert substantial influence in the Dunhuang and Chang'an area, the administrative and moral code of the Celestial Master state, and its strong milleniarian beliefs are all explained with great clarity and conciseness. The author explains how the Li family was aligned with the Celestial Master Daoist belief and practice tradition, and claims that "The Daoist faith was an important factor in the fate of the Lis and their state." The section on history contextualizes the Cheng-Han state in fourth-century Chinese society and political developments. A sub-text of this historical material is the diffusion of Celestial Master religion throughout north China. The author concludes that inhabitants of Sichuan fared better under the Lis than persons in most other parts of China at the time, because of the talents of the Li family, the wisdom of their advisors, and the tenets of their religious faith. The translations in this work and the author's interpretations certainly commend this work to all scholars interested in Daoist studies. 


Ronnie Littlejohn 

Belmont University 

Date Posted: May 21, 2003



Hiding the World in the World

HIDING THE WORLD IN THE WORLD: UNEVEN DISCOURSES ON THE ZHUANGZI. Edited by Scott Cook. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003. Pp. x + 317. Paper, $25.95, ISBN 0-7914-5866-0.


This edited volume contains ten articles on the Zhuangzi (Book of Master Zhuang). The articles are as follows: “Bimodal Mystical Experience in the ‘Qiwulun’ Chapter of the Zhuangzi” by Harold D. Roth; “How Many Are the Ten Thousand Things and I? Relativism, Mysticism, and the Privileging of Oneness in the ‘Inner Chapters’” by Brook Ziporyn; “Harmony and Cacophony in the Panpipes of Heaven” by Scott Cook; “From ‘Merging the Body with the Mind’ to ‘Wandering in Unitary Qi’: A Discussion of Zhuangzi’s Realm of the True Man and Its Corporal Basis” by Rur-bin Yang; “Guru or Skeptic? Relativistic Skepticism in the Zhuangzi” by Chad Hansen; “Aporetic Ethics in the Zhuangzi” by Dan Lusthaus; “Reflex and Reflectivity: Wuwei in the Zhuangzi” by Alan Fox; “A Mind-Body Problem in the Zhuangzi?” by Paul Rakita Goldin; “Nothing Can Overcome Heaven: The Notion of Spirit in the Zhuangzi” by Michael J. Puett; and “Transforming the Dao: A Critique of A. C. Graham’s Translation of the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi” by Shuen-Fu Lin.


Most of the essays in this volume continue the ongoing debate in American sinology over the question if Zhuangzi is a total skeptic and relativist, or if he has a normative, ethical point of view and perhaps even some mystical intuition. Chad Hansen defends his view of Zhuangzi as a “relativist skeptic” against those who show “chronic nostalgia for the lost ‘guru’” (129), that is to say, those who challenge Hansen’s view of Zhuangzi. Brook Ziporyn says that his whole argument is “just elaborating on Hansen’s immortal early insight that Zhuangzi’s central insight is simply that uncompromising skepticism and absolute mysticism are one and the same thing” (55). Dan Lusthaus argues that the skeptical moments in Zhuangzi are superceded by “prescriptive exhortations” that are “invariably ethical” (163). Scott Cook says that “Zhuangzi’s philosophy offers us the chance to learn how to live our lives aesthetically, to appreciate that all we encounter are simply themes and variations upon the ever-changing melody of the Great Transformation” (76). Alan Fox concludes that Zhuangzi’s ideal of wuwei is the “perfectly well-adjusted person” who is able “to blend or ‘fit’ (shi) into any given situation” and “‘respond’ (ying) effortlessly and spontaneously” (220-222).


These essays clearly show that this kind of “philosophical” treatment of Zhuangzi has exhausted itself. Instead of expanding our understanding of Zhuangzi, the “philosophical” interpreters regurgitate the same well-known arguments in almost obsessive detail. Ritual repetition of a limited number of themes (skepticism, relativism, rationality, etc.) is indeed characteristic of modern professional philosophy, but this very narrow notion of philosophy cannot do justice to the depth and scope of Zhuangzi’s thought. 


In contrast to these “philosophical” essays that are reluctant to enter into a substantial discussion of mysticism in Zhuangzi, Rur-bin Yang braves the deep waters of comparative mysticism. His discussion of how the body of the perfected person in the Zhuangzi is transformed and merges with a universal, unitary “energy” (qi) is enlightening. Similarly, Harold D. Roth describes Zhuangzi’s “bimodal mystical experience,” that is to say, an experience of unity that in turn leads to a transformed view of the multiplicity of the world. This mystical experience is a result of the “inner cultivation practice” that Roth has made the focal point in his reading of Zhuangzi. Roth has argued that the mystical praxis of Zhuangzi is similar to that found in contemporary manuals of inner training. Michael Puett, however, shows that “Zhuangzi’s vision of spiritual power” as it is implicit in his notion of “spirit” (shen) is “radically different” from the notion of self-cultivation found in the Neiye chapter of the Guanzi. What strikes one in reading these discussions of Zhuangzi’s “mystical” thought is that they are much more clear, textually grounded, and informative than the “philosophical” discussions mentioned above.


In fact, it is the “philosophers” that now seem to be the most prejudiced readers of Zhuangzi. Paul Rakita Goldin points out that in the study of early Chinese thought “the very suggestion of a mind-body dichotomy has attained the status of a taboo” (232). Goldin’s point is exemplified by Chad Hansen’s remark earlier in the volume: “Notoriously, Chinese metaphysics lacks much evidence of the Indo-European mind-body dualism” (139). Goldin provides evidence that Zhuangzi and other early Chinese thinkers do in fact have a notion of mind and body as “metaphysically distinct entities.” Finally, Shuen-fu Lin takes a critical look at A. C. Graham’s translation of the Zhuangzi. Lin acknowledges Graham’s great achievement but argues that the Inner Chapters are not just, as Graham thought, a series of “disjointed pieces” but contain an “inner logic” in their unfolding, similar to a piece of music. Lin also argues that several of Graham’s attempts to “restore” the text of the Zhuangzi by moving passages around within the text are not well founded.


Four of the essays in this collection have been published elsewhere. As mentioned in the “Acknowledgments”, Roth’s essay was first published in Journal of Chinese Religions (2000), Shuen-fu Lin’s essay in Translation Quarterly (1999), and Alan Fox’s essay in Asian Philosophy (1996). In addition, Puett’s article is a slightly revised version of pages 122-133 of his book To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China (2002).


The volume is, as its subtitle says, “uneven.” Apart from one or two essays, this third collection of essays on Zhuangzi from State University of New York Press brings us little new and even less exciting scholarship on the Zhuangzi. Nonetheless, comparative philosophers and scholars of Chinese intellectual history may find some aspects of the book relevant. 


Eske Møllgaard

St. Lawrence University

May 17, 2004



Historical Dictionary of Taoism


HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF TAOISM. By Julian F. Pas, with Man Kam Leung. Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements, no. 18. Lanham (MD): The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1998. Pp. xlii + 414; tables; illustrations; appendix. Cloth, $64.00, ISBN 0-8108-3369-7.


This work is the final scholarly publication of the late Julian Pas (1929-2000), Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and historian of Chinese religions at the University of Saskatchewan. The book is intended for non-specialists and general audience readers: "this volume is written especially for non-specialist, educated readers to use as a reference work" (xii). It must therefore be evaluated with this intention in mind.


The book consists of five principal sections: (1) Chronology of Taoist History; (2) Introduction; (3) The Dictionary; (4) Bibliography; and (5) Appendix: Centers of Taoist Study and Practice Today. I will discuss each section in turn. The first part, "Chronology of Taoist History" (xxiv-xliii), is a historical table of major personages, texts, and movements of Daoism. Covering every major period of Chinese history, from the Warring States (480-222 B.C.E.) to the Republication (1912-1949), this chart is an easily-accessible and helpful overview of the entire breadth of the Daoist tradition. It also includes relevant information on Buddhism and "other schools" in China. 


Next, we find the introduction where Pas discusses the "nature of Daoism" (repeatedly), historical antecedents and parallel developments, Daoism in modern times, Daoism and Chinese culture, and unity versus multiplicity (1-50). This section is the most problematic, as it can easily disorient and mislead the non-specialist reader. Here Pas makes the (historically inaccurate and philosophically unconvincing) argument that Daoism is best understood in terms of a "Daoist philosophy" ("philosophical Daoism"; read "Protestant Daoism") and "Daoist religion" ("religious Daoism"; read "Catholic Daoism") dichotomy. Pas makes many contortions in his attempt to justify such an outdated interpretative framework, claiming (1) "The distinction between two Taoisms is not just a Western device; it is found in the Chinese tradition itself….The first term is Tao-chia/Daojia ('School of the Way')….The other term is Tao-chiao/Daojiao ('Doctrine of the Way')" (1-2), and (2) "[T]he various branches of Taoism have two distinct orientations, distinct intentionalities, and are based on two basically different worldviews: One may call them Taoist naturalism and Taoist theism" (46). 


With regards to the former, the Western construction of "philosophical Daoism" has no correlation to the Chinese term daojia, a taxonomic category used by Han historiographers as a way of classifying texts and as a veiled reference to the Huang-Lao tradition. With regards to the latter, Pas' distinction presupposes a dichotomy that contradicts a classical Daoist worldview, rooted in the "emanationist cosmogony/cosmology" of the classical texts of the Warring States period. That is, if the Dao is both immanent and transcendent, neither immanent nor transcendent, then there is no necessary distinction between "nature" and "gods." Deities are simply differently differentiated aspects of the Dao, and worshipping deities is not, in and of itself, different than having reverence for the unnamable mystery which is the Dao. 


Pas' confusion in turn stems from his own prejudices. He has a personal investment in the superiority of "philosophical Daoism": "What attracts me most to Taoism is its philosophy. Taoism as a religion…is an illusion" (xi). He is, moreover, indebted to a Christian theological understanding (he received theological degrees from the University of Louvain, Belgium): "In general…the Christian model is very similar to the Taoist situation" (50).


The dictionary proper (51-375) contains approximately 275 entries arranged alphabetically according to Wade-Giles romanization with secondary pinyin listings (for Pas' justification see xv). The entries are generally concise, accurate, and helpful. However, there are also a number of romanization mistakes in the related pinyin listings: Chang San-feng/Zhang Sanfong > Zhang Sanfeng, Cheng-yi/ Zhengi > Zhengyi, Chung-li Ch'uan/Zhongli Chuan > Zhongli Quan, Ch'uan-chen/Chuanzhen > Quanzhen, etc. Scholars will also find the absence of Chinese characters a major deficiency. Next, the bibliography (377-412) is a topically-arranged catalogue which parallels Pas' A Select Bibliography of Taoism (China Pavilion, 1997). This bibliography is a helpful guide to further reading that may deepen the interested reader's understanding of Daoism. Finally, the appendix, "Centers of Taoist Study and Practice Today" (413-14), is extremely brief and fails to document the very real presence of Daoist teachers and organizations in the West. These reservations aside, this dictionary is a good reference tool for non-specialists wishing to gain a better understanding of the Daoist tradition. All libraries should acquire a copy. (See also Journal of Chinese Religions 27 [1999]: 166-69.) 


Louis Komjathy

Boston University

Date Posted: May 9, 2003



History of Chinese Daoism

HISTORY OF CHINESE DAOISM Volume I. Translated by David C. Yu. Lanham (MD): University Press of America, 2000. Pp. xxii + 611; glossary, appendixes, bibliography. Cloth, $62.00, ISBN 0-7618-1868-5.

This book is an English translation of volume one of the Zhongguo daojiao shi (History of Chinese Daoism), a monumental work in four volumes, compiled by Qing Xitai et al. This first volume traces the history of Daoism from its archaic beginnings in the pre-imperial period to the end of the Sui dynasty (618 C.E.). The book consists of four chapters with a variety of sections. Chapter one, "Historical Conditions and Ancient Ideas which Gave Rise to Daoism," discusses the historical conditions and religious beliefs prior to the formation of religious Daoism. This chapter takes an in-depth look at different kinds of worship of ghosts, spirits and ancestors and the role of shamans as intermediaries between the seen and the unseen. Other important topics of this chapter include the search for physical immortality during the reign of the First Emperor (Qin Shi huangdi, r. 246-210 B.C.E) and by Emperor Wu (r. 141-87 B.C.E) of the Han dynasty, alchemical practices of the magician-technicians (fangshi), the divinisation of Laozi, and the Huang-Lao cult in honour of Laozi and the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi). Chapter two, "Early Daoist Texts and the Rise of Popular Daoist Sects," examines the development of religious Daoism. Here Qing Xitai and his collaborators provide helpful information on the dissemination of early Daoist texts such as the Taiping jing (Scripture of Great Peace) and the Zhouyi cantong qi (Commentary on the Concordance of the Three in the Book of Changes of the Zhou Dynasty). Next, there follows a discussion of the spread of the Tianshi (Celestial Masters) movement, also known as the Five-Bushels of Rice sect (wudou mi dao), and the rise of the Great Peace (taiping) sect which culminated in the so-called Yellow Turban rebellion. Chapter three, "The Dissension and Expansion of Daoism in the Wei (220-265) and Jin Dynasty (265-420)," focuses on the social upheaval and changes occurring during these periods of Chinese history. The spread of the Celestial Masters in the north and the Li Lineage (Lijia) sect in the south and the origin of numerous important rebellions are discussed herein. The rise in esteem of Daoism in political and aristocratic circles is one of the hallmarks of this period. There were also several new developments in alchemy and self-cultivation techniques, as seen in Ge Hong's (283-343) Baopuzi (Master Who Embraces Simplicity) and two scriptures linked to the Shangqing (Highest Purity) movement: the Dadong zhenjing (Great Grotto Scripture) and the Huangting jing (Yellow Court Scripture). A whole new corpus of texts belonging to the Lingbao (Numinous Treasure) tradition also appeared at this time. Finally, in chapter four, "Reform and Strengthening of Daoism in the Period of Political Disunion (386-581)," covers Daoist reforms during the period of Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-581). The most important movement was Kou Qianzhi's reform of the Daoist church at the Northern Wei (386-534) court and anti-Buddhist polemics. A reorganisation of Daoist books, a precursor of the Daoist Canon as we know it today, also occurred: a catalogue of the Numinous Treasure scriptures was compiled by Lu Xiujing (406-477) and the scriptures of the Highest Purity movement were collected and annotated by Tao Hongjing (456-536). The construction of Daoist hermitages, temples, and sanctuaries was also undertaken, which included a corresponding codification of rules, restrictions and interdictions regulating the adept's life therein. The History of Daoism covers a wide range of subjects of differing complexity, and David C. Yu's translation is a laudable attempt to put this information at the disposal of students and Western readers. However, there are also a number of deficiencies that weaken the overall contribution of Yu's translation. In view of a possible reedition and the translation of the remaining three volumes, some errors should be avoided. Spelling and grammatical mistakes show the absence of proper proof-reading (surely affordable for the University Press of America). How else can one explain sentences such as the following: "When man and woman penetrate with each other in cooperation, they will beget a child. When these three persons penetrate with one another in cooperation, they found a home. When the king, ministers, and subjects penetrate with one another, they found a country" (83)? Similarly, there is a lack of consistency in the employment of pinyin romanisation; examples include T'aip'ing, T'ian, K'ou, yilupa, C'ao and Liehzi instead of Taiping, Tian, Kou, yiliuba, Cao, and Liezi. There are also too many mistakes in the pronunciation of Chinese names: Zhao Yuanlong for Zhao Xuanlang (xvi), Wei Baiyang for Wei Boyang (105), Zhang Baiduan for Zhang Boduan (xvii), hou-hu for huohou (115), etc. Finally, for the bibliography, index and glossary, the translator should have followed the original. For non-specialist readers, the book will aid in increasing their understanding of the Daoist tradition with regards to its historical complexity and development as well as its place in Chinese culture. Research libraries with East Asian collections may also want to acquire this book. However, because of the above-mentioned problems, readers with proficiency in Chinese language are well-advised to consult the Chinese text whenever possible.

Farzeen Baldrian (Baldrian-Hussein) Independent Scholar Korntal, Germany May 21, 2003

Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen: Nature, Knowledge and Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text

HUANG DI NEI JING SU WEN: NATURE, KNOWLEDGE, IMAGERY IN AN ANCIENT CHINESE MEDICAL TEXT. By Paul U. Unschuld. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Pp. xii + 519; illustrations; appendix; index. Cloth, $75.00, ISBN 0-520-23322-0.

Continuing his detailed and sustained research into the history of Chinese medicine, here Paul Unschuld (Institute for the History of Medicine; Munich University) provides a systematic discussion of the history and contents of the Huangdi neijing suwen (Yellow Thearch’s Inner Classic: Basic Questions; abbr. Suwen), the most well-known and influential classic of Chinese medicine. The present book is the first installment of a proposed seven-volume series on the Suwen, which is planned to include three volumes on the historical and structural layers of the Suwen and a three-volume English translation, all of which are being prepared in collaboration with Hermann Tessenow (Institute for the History of Medicine) (x). One also hopes that the “Suwen Project,” of which Unschuld is the senior director, will result in the publication of a concordance to the Suwen.

The Suwen is part of a group of classical Chinese medical works entitled Huangdi neijing (Yellow Thearch’s Inner Classics), which also include the Huangdi neijing lingshu (Yellow Thearch’s Inner Classic: Numinous Pivot) and Huangdi neijing taisu (Yellow Thearch’s Inner Classic: Great Foundations). The Huangdi neijing texts are the earliest medical classics employing and advocating “correlative” and “naturalistic” medicine (yin-yang and Five Phase correspondences and climatic influences [wind, cold, heat, etc.] as the cause of disease); this therapeutic approach became standardized during the Han dynasty (Early: 202 B.C.E.-9 C.E.; Later: 25-221 C.E.) and elevated to the status of “medical orthodoxy” from that historical period to the present-day (see Unschuld’s Medicine in China: A History of Ideas [University of California Press, 1985]). In Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text, Unschuld traces the history of early editions and commentaries through the eventual establishment of the “textus receptus” of the extant Suwen, for which Wang Bing (fl. 760) bears primary responsibility. In terms of the various historical and textual layers, the Suwen is a compilation of fragmentary texts written, collected, and edited by an unknown number of individuals in a period lasting from about the second century B.C.E. to the second century C.E. The received text also contains philosophical strata, such as the yin-yang and Five Phase doctrine of systematic correspondence, whose beginnings are at least as early as the fourth and third centuries B.C.E. In addition, as the text has been edited throughout Chinese history, it also contains material from probably as late as the eighth century C.E. (see 22-75). With regard to the latter, it seems that Wang Bing is responsible for the addition of the seven “comprehensive discourses” (dalun), namely, chapters 66 through 74 (excluding the two apocryphal chapters 72 and 73) (46-48; 393).

Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text consists of six chapters and an appendix. The first chapter covers the bibliographic history of the Suwen.Chapter two discusses the meaning of the text’s title, with Unschuld commenting on Huangdi (Yellow Thearch), nei (inner/esoteric), jing (classic/scripture), and suwen (basic/fundamental questions) in turn. Here Unschuld, citing the work of Hermann Tessenow, provides the following insight: “Most of the dialogues…were the work of compilers who constructed them as a device to link originally separate texts. The questions and answers put in the mouths of Huang Di and his partners allowed them [the compilers] to provide introductions and transitions from one theme to another. Only in a few instances, as for example in the first part of Su wen 19, should the dialogue be considered a structural characteristic of the primary text” (8-9). Chapter three, “Early Su Wen Texts and Commentaries before the Eleventh Century,” and chapter four, “Origin and Tradition of the Textus Receptus of the Su Wen,” are highly detailed and technical discussions of the textual history and commentarial traditions of the received Suwen. In chapter five, Unschuld provides a comprehensive survey of the contents of the Suwen. Here he discusses the literary setting, yin-yang doctrine, five-agents doctrine, the human body and its organs, blood and qi, the vessels, pathogenic agents, diseases, examination, invasive therapies, substance therapies, and heat therapies. Chapter six is an epilogue entitled “Toward a Comparative Historical Anthropology of Medical Thought,” in which Unschuld engages in more speculative, philosophical, and comparative analysis. For Unschuld, the Suwen marks a deliberate break with an older medical tradition (documented in texts such as the Mawangdui manuscripts) and the genesis of an “innovative style of thought” that proved to be the seed for a long-lasting new tradition. The new medical tradition that developed from the Suwen refused to recognize numinous agents, ancestors, and “bugs” as causes of disease. “It focused on environmental conditions, climatic agents, and behavior as causal in the emergence of disease; on the importance of laws, structures, and morale in the explanation of illness; and, in addition to dietetics, on a new technique, acupuncture, in the prevention and treatment of ailments” (319). Perhaps most importantly, the texts collected in the Suwen and other Han-dynasty compilations mark the “beginning of medicine in China” (ibid.). The events that led up to the emergence of such a radically new perspective leads to a conclusion directly related to the title of Unschuld’s book: “The emergence of the new perspective outlined in the Su wen…was a production of knowledge and values by humans acting in what could be hypothesized as an inescapable response to far-reaching changes in their environment” (320; see 325-37; 348-49). The book concludes with a highly technical appendix, complete with various diagrams, on the climatological theories of the “five periods and six climatic influences” (wuyun liuqi).

For those interested in the connection between Daoism and Chinese medical traditions, the present work provides few specific comments. On the most general level, Unschuld identifies the Suwen as expressing a type of “Confucianized medicine” (emphasizing regulation, harmony, and so forth) that has little connection with the Daoist tradition. “[The] authors who contributed to the corpus leaned more to Confucian or late Zhou, early Han Huang-Lao notions than to anything else….Daoist concepts are absent almost entirely from the Su wen” (339-40; also 329, 345). By “Daoist concepts,” it appears that Unschuld at least partially means “demonological” conceptions of and “exoricistic” responses to illness (see, for example, 41). This type of categorization deserves further research and debate in two respects. First, is it an accurate depiction of “classical Daoism” and of the Suwen? Second, is Unschuld’s repeated emphasis on “new modes of thought” and “new styles of thinking” the most accurate and applicable interpretative framework? It seems, instead, that the Suwen in particular and Chinese medical traditions in general are more focused on existential and pragmatic concerns (practice and embodied understanding) than epistemological ones (much to the chagrin of Western researchers). On a different note, one wonders about the appearance of “Tianshi” (Celestial Master) in the first chapter of the received Suwen. We also know that Wang Bing’s commentary exhibits a certain degree of Daoistic orientation (41, 46, 48-51). Although a distinction must also be made concerning the “original context of composition” and subsequent influence of the Suwen, from the perspective of Daoist Studies the view of classical Chinese medicine as expressed in the Suwen eventually came to occupy an important place in the Daoist tradition. As scholars of Daoism such as Livia Kohn (Boston University), Fabrizio Pregadio (Stanford University), and the late Isabelle Robinet (1932-2000) have shown, views of the body-self and the understanding of disease and wellness expressed in texts such as the Suwen played a prominent role in later Daoism, especially in self-cultivation and internal alchemy (neidan) lineages. This connection deserves further research. As a final minor point, one would have preferred a different title, as the present book is not the Huangdi neijing suwen; the Suwen is, in fact, the title of a classical Chinese medical text.

These comments, of course, point more to the present reviewer’s concerns than those of Unschuld. Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text is a major scholarly achievement. Unschuld’s meticulous study will be of particular interest to historians of medicine and scholars of Chinese medicine. Unschuld’s text-critical method may also be applied to dating Daoist texts. In addition, as the author has a certain awareness of the question concerning the relationship between classical Chinese medicine and contemporary Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) (323), dedicated and self-critical practitioners of Chinese medicine may benefit from careful reading of Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Text. Researchers and research libraries, especially those with collections on the history of medicine, will want to acquire this book.

Louis Komjathy
Boston University
September 21, 2004

Images of the Immortal

IMAGES OF THE IMMORTAL: THE CULT OF LÜ DONGBIN AT THE PALACE OF ETERNAL JOY. By Paul R. Katz. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999. Pp. xvi + 309; maps; illustrations; appendixes; glossary; index. Cloth, $49.00, ISBN 0-8248-2170-X.


This impressively researched book examines the history of Yongle gong (Palace of Eternal Joy; Shanxi), one of the oldest and most important sacred sites dedicated to Lü Dongbin (b. 798? C.E.). Originally founded in the 10th century as a popular shrine, during the Jurchen Jin dynasty (1115-1234) the Palace of Eternal Joy was converted into a Quanzhen (Complete Perfection) monastery and, according to Katz, played a central role in the spread of the cult of Lü Dongbin. Katz's study has two stated goals: to explore the cultural diversity of Chinese sacred sites (4), and to trace the diverse interpretations of Lü Dongbin at the Palace of Eternal Joy (5). In addition, "[there is] a perception, however invidious, that area studies tends to focus more on reading texts or describing events than on interpreting them in the context of a broad theoretical framework. This book, which concerns the practice of religion in late imperial China, attempts to counter such misconceptions" (ix). That is, in combination with historical description and cultural documentation, Katz concerns himself with larger theoretical and methodological issues, specifically issues deriving from critical historiography, literary criticism, and social scientific perspectives. 


The book consists of an introduction, conclusion and five chapters: (1) The Site:— the Palace of Eternal Joy; (2) The Cult—the Immortal Lü Dongbin; (3) Text 1—Temple Inscriptions; (4) Text 2—the Murals; and (5) Reception and Reinterpretation. In addition to an extensive bibliography, the book also contains two appendixes, the first being a list of stele inscriptions at the Palace of Eternal Joy and the second listing hagiographic murals in the Chunyang dian (Hall of Purified Yang). 


Katz's work is noteworthy for a variety of reasons, particularly the diversity of its theoretical and methodological approaches as well as source materials considered. Katz utilizes literary critical methods and insights gleaned from "microhistory" to reveal the competing concerns and motivations of the Palace of Eternal Joy's inhabitants, patrons, and worshippers. Moreover, the translation and interpretation of texts (Daoist, officialist, popular, etc.), stele inscriptions, and murals leads to a more extensive and balanced account of this Daoist sacred site. For those engaged in Daoist Studies, Images of the Immortal provides one of the few readily available accounts of a Daoist sacred site (passim). It also contains important information on the early Quanzhen tradition (ch. 2) and the veneration of Lü Dongbin, a central figure in the development of internal alchemy (neidan) (also ch. 2). With regards to the latter, Katz clearly and convincingly demonstrates the competing interpretations of Ancestor Lü occurring simultaneously at the Palace of Eternal Joy: from Daoist immortal to popular healer and wonder-worker, from patron god of prostitutes to Quanzhen patriarch. These competing images and interpretations varied according to historical context and socio-economic position. Thus, it is a mistake to refer to Lü Dongbin simply as a "Daoist immortal" or a "patriarch of internal alchemy" without historical qualification. Highly recommended for specialists in the fields of Daoist Studies, Chinese history and religions, and individuals interested in deepening their knowledge of the Daoist tradition. A welcome addition to any research library or personal archive. 


(See also Journal of Chinese Religions 29 [2001]: 308-10; Religious Studies Review 27.2 [2001]: 199).


Louis Komjathy

Boston University

Jan 1, 2003



Lao-Tzu and the Tao-Te-Ching


LAO-TZU AND THE TAO-TE-CHING. Edited by Livia Kohn and Michael LaFargue. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998. Pp. xii + 330; illustrations; appendix; glossary. Paper, $25.95, ISBN 0-7914-3600-4.


This deservedly award-winning book is a collection of articles dedicated to the study of the Daode jing. It consists of four parts: (1) Ancient Myths (23-88); (2) Chinese Interpretations (89-164); (3) Modern Readings (165-230); and (4) Critical Methods (166-301). The book also includes an appendix (Index to Citations from Tao-te-ching Chapters) and an index. Thus, the composition of the book is arranged to represent various approaches to the Daode jing: readers can in good succession make their acquaintance with the most important aspects of the history and teaching of the Daode jing as well as with traditional and modern interpretations of this seminal Taoist text.


The first part consists of three articles. A.C. Graham's article, a reprint from his Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature (SUNY, 1990), examines the origins of the legend of Laozi as the author of the Daode jing. He argues that from the third century B.C.E. onward the author of the text became identified with the ancient Lao Dan, recognized teacher of Confucius. Laozi as author of the text was also identified with another Lao Dan, grand historiographer of Zhou who prophesized about the victory of the state of Qin as unifier of All-under-Heaven about 375 B.C.E. In "The Lao-tzu Myth," Livia Kohn gives a thorough examination of this myth in terms of the divinization of Lao-tzu. Next, Yoshiko Kamitsuka's article analyzes the sculptural images of Lao-tzu from the period of the Six Dynasties (3rd-6th centuries C.E.). It contains two interesting photos of Taoist images from that time and a useful table of Daoist bas-relief steles and images of the fifth and sixth centuries (68-69). 


The second part also includes three articles. The first of the articles is written by Alan K.L. Chan. Here Chan compares two well-known commentaries on the Daode jing: those of Wang Bi and Hehang gong. In her article on commentary literature (translated from French), the late Isabelle Robinet examines the textual polysemy and syncretistic interpretations of the later commentaries on the Daode jing (mostly from the Tang dynasty [618-907 C.E.]). Robinet analyzes different types of readings of the Daode jing: philological, ideological, and even inner alchemical (such as that of Bo Yuchan [1194-ca. 1227]). In this context, the texts of the Chonngxuan (Twofold Mystery) school are of primary importance for the author, but she also examines Buddhist and Neo-Confucian readings of the Daode jing. Robinet's article also contains a very useful table of Daode jing commentaries in chronological order (120-121). The next article by Livia Kohn is dedicated to the utilization of the Daode jing in ritual. Kohn discusses the ritual usages of the text from early Han times (reciting) up to the period of Southern and Northern Dynasties (meditation, meditative reciting, and even ordination and the taking of precepts). Kohn's article clearly demonstrates that the Daode jing has never been a purely philosophical or theoretical text; from the earliest period of its interpretative history it was closely associated with Taoist rites and longevity practice. 


The third part of the book consists of three articles written by Julia M. Hardy, Benjamin Schwarz, and Liu Xiaogan. Hardy gives a very detailed analytical review of Western interpretations of the Daode jing, from the nineteenth century (J.P. Abel-Rémusat, Stanislas Julien, and James Legge) up to the works of contemporary scholars. In the next article, a reprint from his The World of Thought in Ancient China (Harvard University Press, 1985), the late Benjamin Schwartz discusses the ideas of the Daode jing within the framework of Chinese intellectual history. Next, Liu Xiaogan examines one of the central concepts of early Taoist thought, i.e., "naturalness" (tzu-jan), emphasizing the importance of this Taoist notion for contemporary humankind. The fourth and last part of the book also contains three articles. In the first, William H. Baxter gives a very useful and precise philological analysis of the language of the Daode jing in relation to the probable date of the text. The results of his research? The text was written around 350 B.C.E., a timeframe in keeping with the date established based on analysis of the earliest known Kuo-tien manuscript. Next, Michael LaFargue gives a brief outline of his methodology of historical hermeneutics for producing an adequate interpretation of the Daode jing. This involves examining the text within the historical context of China in the middle of the first millennium B.C.E. In the final article, LaFargue and the late Julian Pas analyze the problems of translating of the Daode jing through the examples of two textual passages, namely, 4:1 and 13:1. This article is very useful for anyone interested in translating of the text. Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching is highly recommended for scholars in the fields of Taoist Studies, Chinese philosophy, Chinese history, Chinese literature, Chinese religion, and comparative philosophy and religion. Individuals interested in deepening their understanding of Chinese thought in general and the Daode jing in particular will also benefit from this book. All libraries should also acquire this book.


Evgeny Torchinov

St. Petersburg State University, Russia

May 21, 2003



Patterns of Disengagement

PATTERNS OF DISENGAGEMENT: THE PRACTICE AND PORTRAYAL OF RECLUSION IN EARLY MEDIEVAL CHINA. By Alan J. Berkowitz. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000. Pp. xii+296. Cloth, $60, ISBN 0-8047-3603-0. 

Patterns of Disengagement is a fascinating, meticulously-crafted account of the development of the ideal of reclusion into China's early medieval period. Berkowitz convincingly demonstrates that reclusion, far from being a unitary phenomenon, was instead a complex and contextualized balancing of practices, choices, representations, and social relationships. Diachronically, the author charts a course from emergent paradigms of reclusion in early China, to the portrayal of exemplary individuals in the Han, to the Six Dynasties portrayal of individuals occupying a “consciously differentiated yet fully integrated sector of society as a whole” (14). While earlier works such as Aat Vervoorn’s Men of the Cliffs and Caves (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1990) focused on the formation of the theme of withdrawal from early China up through the end of the Han, Berkowitz argues that it is not until the Six Dynasties that reclusion develops into a fully formed cultural complex. Synchronically, the book reflects on the dynamics surrounding the fundamental choice of whether to hold office or refuse office. Either choice had manifold implications, and could be understood as a potent actualization of moral ideals. Berkowitz articulates a critical distinction between “nominal” and “substantive" reclusion, a distinction no less challenging for modern scholars as for the ancients to determine. The former ranged from genteel expressions of the abstract notion of reclusion to career-minded posturing, while the latter was actualized by individuals who steadfastly refused office, maintained a life of retreat, and were hailed as exemplars of moral mettle. 

Chapter One traces the development in pre-Han sources of archetypical figures such as the Moral Hero, the Paragon of Extraordinary Conduct, and the Perfect Man, among an array of categories, some translated while others heuristic, that Berkowitz deploys throughout. 

Chapter Two shows an emerging concern in the Han with portraying exemplars of reclusion as historically situated individuals. A highlight here is the tracing, through textual and epigraphic sources, of representations of the Four Hoaryheads (Sihao), renowned for their timely imperial remonstrance. In footnotes throughout the book, the reader is also occasionally treated to accounts of the author’s own visits to temples, shrines, and sites associated with recluses of yore.            

Chapter Three examines the dynamics and dilemmas of reclusion in the later Han, when an increase in charlatans and posers led to criteria for differentiating authentic from inauthentic reclusion, strategic retirement from steadfast, principled withdrawal. Also of note in this chapter is a section on women’s roles and experiences. Chapter Four, discussing the implications of the collapse of the Han dynasty, identifies literary developments such as the rise of biographical compilations of recluses, “separate accounts” (biezhuan), and local genealogies, all evincing a growing interest in reclusion as integrated into the “accepted repertoire of discretionary conduct of the scholar-official class” (129). 

Chapters Five and Six explore early medieval representations of reclusion. The former focuses on Later Han and Jin sources such as Ji Kang’s Shenxian gaoshi zhuan zan and Huangfu Mi’s Gaoshi zhuan, biographies of “High-minded Gentlemen” that foreground such sources as Fan Ye’s "Traditions of Disengaged Persons" ("Yimin zhuan") in the Hou Hanshu. Berkowitz demonstrates the porousness of categories and criteria concerning reclusion. The latter chapter draws primarily from dynastic histories through the seventh century, sources that exhibit a diversity of stances in which the merits of reclusion versus office-holding are weighed; underlying causes for reclusion are attributed to the nature of the times, karma, or a person’s innate disposition. A telling indication of the cultural power of withdrawal since Han times is seen in imperial appropriations of reclusion, whether in calling reclusive worthies to court or in sponsoring them as they steadfastly refusal to serve. 

Chapter Seven focuses on the reverberant cultural influences of the Daoist “polymath” Tao Hongjing (456-536) and the poet-recluse Tao Qian (365-427). The former’s relationship with Emperor Wu of the Liang is a reminder that to live in reclusion was by no means to quit engagement in social and political networks. The latter, through literary accounts of retreat, created an indelible persona and ethos of reclusion in the Chinese imagination. Berkowitz’s conclusion recapitulates representative patterns of Six Dynasties reclusion and common traits such as the shunning of a life of service to the state; refusal to compromise on moral principles; and engagement in worthy conduct. Here, Berkowitz tends to let the sources speak for themselves in lengthier translated passages. The book’s approach at least implicitly suggests that by drawing out family resemblances rather than seek definitive essences one might better be able to grasp “reclusion” – in its many dimensions and historically contextualized representations – through encounters with narratives of the actual individuals who comprised its practice and portrayal. 

Patterns of Disengagement succeeds in advancing understanding of reclusion in a number of ways. Berkowitz situates practices of reclusion along a negotiated continuum of engagement and disengagement; illuminates the motivations and strategies of reclusion’s practitioners within the particular social nexus that rendered such practice intelligible and meaningful; and provides a history of ongoing critical discourse in China concerning the nature of substantive reclusion through the early medieval period. The book does not so much focus on "religious reclusion," for example what it terms "Daoist-imbued" or "Buddhist-imbued" withdrawal (12-13, 208-209), as it does on shared representations of reclusion among the lettered elite more broadly. However, scholars working in the history of early medieval Daoism, where biographical and hagiographical genres present significant challenges as well as opportunities, will likely resonate with and benefit from Berkowitz’s careful concern with issues of textual genre, socio-historical context, and the dynamic space between rhetorical portrayal and actual practice, and be able to draw on this rich treatment to chart out further insights and connections. More broadly, this book should be of interest to all readers seeking a historical understanding of a powerful, persistent and distinctive motif in Chinese cultural life. Elegantly and eruditely, the author has demonstrated that those who participated in the construction of reclusion created lasting patterns of moral engagement through disengagement, cultural presence through absence. 

Julius N. Tsai

Texas Christian University


July 6, 2005 


Religious and Philosophical Aspects of the Laozi


RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHICAL ASPECTS OF THE LAOZI. Edited by Mark Csikszentmihalyi and Philip J. Ivanhoe. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999. Pp. xi + 276; table and indices. Cloth, $72.50, ISBN 0-7914-4111-3; paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-7914-4112-1.


This is a valuable anthology of recent Chinese, Japanese, and Western scholarship on the text variously known as the Laozi (after its alleged author), the Daode jing (after the traditional arrangement of the text), and the Dedao jing (after the arrangement of the text in some recently discovered manuscripts). Csikszentmihalyi and Ivanhoe provide three reasons for compiling such work into one volume: the diffuse, multilingual, and often obscure venues for monographs on the text, the scarcity of "serious studies concerning the religious and philosophical thought of the text" (1), and the almost complete lack of scholarship that incorporates recent archaeological discoveries and/or emerging approaches to the study of early Chinese culture. Accordingly, they have gathered together the work of a diverse group of scholars, ranging from old hands to young faces in the field of early Chinese philosophy and religion, and representing a wide variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches to the text. 


The book consists of nine essays: (1) Mark Csikszentmihalyi's "Mysticism and Apophatic Discourse in the Laozi," (2) Harold D. Roth's "The Laozi in the Context of Early Daoist Mystical Praxis," (3) Zhang Longxi's "Qian Zhongshu on Philosophical and Mystical Paradoxes," (4) the late Isabelle Robinet's "The Diverse Interpretations of the Laozi," (5) Robert G. Henrick's "Re-exploring the Analogy of the Dao and the Field," (6) Tateno Masami's "A Philosophical Analysis of the Laozi from an Ontological Perspective," (7) Bryan W. Van Norden's "Method in the Madness of the Laozi," (8) Liu Xiaogan's "An Inquiry into the Core Value of Laozi's Philosophy," and (9) Philip J. Ivanhoe's "The Concept of de ('Virtue') in the Laozi." These essays can be arranged by their guiding assumptions and agendas. Csikszentmihalyi, Roth, and Robinet adopt what might be termed "religious studies" approaches to the text, focusing on historical and textual dimensions of its supposed "mystical" character and applying sophisticated theoretical perspectives from the comparative study of mysticism and hermeneutics to the problem of understanding the Laozi as an historical and social artifact. Zhang and Tateno bring the analytical tools typical of "philosophy" to bear upon the text, while Van Norden, Liu, and Ivanhoe apply a combination of methods-somewhere between "philosophy" and "religious studies" as discrete disciplines-to the Laozi, focusing on the elucidation and interrelationship of key concepts. Henricks' highly personal essay, which he presents as a kind of précis of his classroom lecture on the meaning of Dao in the Laozi, stands alone as the closest thing to Daoist apologetics or preaching in the volume. 


In spite of the many incisive arguments and insightful observations offered throughout these essays, a few shortcomings stand out. Neither the editors nor the authors ever make clear what is meant by the terms "religious" or "philosophical," either in relation to the Laozi or as general terms of art. Nor-apart from a brief comment by Van Norden-is there any discussion of whether and how different disciplinary approaches to the text influence its interpretation. Finally, with the exceptions of Roth, Van Norden, and Ivanhoe, none of the contributors takes into account archaeological and philological evidence that suggests both a relatively late date (c. 3rd-2nd c. B.C.E.) and a composite nature for the text. The reader is left to wonder whether silence on these issues signifies the assumption (with the majority of traditional Asian and Western commentators on the text) of an earlier date and an holistic integrity for the text. Nonetheless, this anthology is an excellent overview of recent international work on a perennially engaging and important text, and as such, is highly recommended for scholars in history, literature, philosophy, and religious studies who work on the Laozi, as well as for readers willing to deepen their understanding of the text.


Jeffrey L. Richey

Berea College

March 24, 2003



Society and the Supernatural in Song China


SOCIETY AND THE SUPERNATURAL IN SONG CHINA. By Edward L. Davis. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001. Pp. xi + 355; appendix; glossary; index. Cloth, $60.00, ISBN 0-8248-2310-9; Paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-8248-2398-2.


Based on the author's Ph.D. dissertation (University of California at Berkeley, 1994), this well-researched study focuses on the relation of Chinese society with the supernatural and on experiences of the supernatural as an aspect of social relations. In particular, this work examines "spirit-possession"— the descent of gods, ghosts, or ancestors, and their habitation within a human body (1)—during the Song dynasty (Northern: 960-1126; Southern: 1127-1279). In some sense, then, Society and the Supernatural in Song China is a social history of spirit-possession and exorcism in twelfth-century China. According to Davis, spirit-possession is a social experience: "Spirit-possession was both a role assumed in public and a shared and universally recognized idiom that allowed an individual person to convert emotion into culture, and symptoms into symbols" (1). Davis in turn draws attention to the relations among various religious specialists during the Song, specifically among Daoist priests (daoshi), so-called Ritual Masters (fashi; a newly-emerging group during the Song) and Tantric exorcists, as well as spirit-mediums. "[M]y aim is to examine the religious interactions and social functions of the Daoist priest, Buddhist monk, Ritual Master, and spirit-medium in local society during the twelfth century, and to present a description of Song religious life richer than any available to date" (4). (For a partial justification of Davis' categorization of Song fashi traditions as "Daoist" see 4-13.) 


The book consists of nine chapters: (1) Introduction; (2) Therapeutic Movements in the Song: Texts; (3) New Therapeutic Movements in the Song: Practitioners; (4) The Cult of the Black Killer; (5) The Daoist Ritual Master and Child-Mediums; (6) Tantric Exorcists and Child-Mediums; (7) Daoist Priests, Confucian Literati, and Child-Mediums; (8) Spirit-Possession and the Grateful Dead: Daoist and Buddhist Mortuary Ritual in the Song; and (9) The Syncretic Field of Chinese Religion. There is also an appendix that discusses the Yellow Register Retreat (huanglu zhai), a Daoist ritual for the dead, in comparison to the Purificatory Fast of Water and Land (shuilu zhai), a Buddhist rite for universal salvation (pudu). 


This book is especially helpful for gaining a more nuanced appreciation of the religious landscape during the Song period, specifically the complex interaction occurring among practitioners and communities usually assumed to participate in distinct traditions (passim). Davis provides important insights concerning the "profound shift" and "sea change" in Daoist history occurring in the Song; this was the emergence and flourishing of "popularized" forms of Daoism associated with the above-mentioned Ritual Masters (especially chs. 2, 3, and 5). According to Davis, the overwhelming concern of these lineages was therapeutic and exorcistic (21). In addition, Society and the Supernatural in Song China covers poorly understood Song traditions of Daoism such as Tianxin (Celestial Heart) and thunder magic (leifa) (especially ch. 2). Although some may find the concluding chapter to be overly theoretical and, at times, an "insider" discussion of critical historiography, it deserves careful reflection by anyone employing a historical approach to the study of Chinese religion. A book this important to the fields of Chinese history, Chinese religion, and Daoist Studies also would have benefited from a more comprehensive and detailed index. Nonetheless, Davis' study is strongly recommended for those researching Song and post-Song religious traditions, for those seeking a fuller understanding of Chinese history, and for anyone engaged in Daoist Studies. In addition, this book clarifies the historical developments that led to some of the defining characteristics of modern Chinese religion, both in mainland China and Taiwan. Research libraries and scholars in Chinese area studies should have this book.


Louis Komjathy

Boston University

Jan 1, 2003



Taoism and the Arts of China


TAOISM AND THE ARTS OF CHINA. By Stephen Little, with Shawn Eichman. Chicago/Berkeley: The Art Institute of Chicago/University of California Press, 2000. Pp. 415; maps; plates; illustrations; glossary; index. Cloth, $65.00, ISBN 0-520-22784-0; Paper, $39.95, ISBN 0-520-22785-9.


Taoism and the Arts of China is a beautifully and profusely illustrated art catalogue that is supplemented with historical essays of high erudition. This book was published in conjunction with the exhibition "Taoism and the Arts of China," which was organized by The Art Institute of Chicago under the direction Stephen Little (then Pritzker Curator of Asian Art at the institute). The exhibition itself was presented in the museum's Regenstein Hall from November 4, 2000, to January 7, 2001; it was then transferred to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, where it ran from February 21 to May 12, 2001 (though with a slightly different collection). Gathering together over 150 works from museums and personal collections throughout China, Europe, Japan, and North America (see 407 for a list of lenders to the exhibition), "Taoism and the Arts of China" was the first major exhibition on the theme of Daoism and its influence on Chinese art (6). One cannot but be grateful to Stephen Little (as well as his assistants and supporters) for the exhibition and its related catalogue, Taoism and the Arts of China. 


In addition to the prefatory material, the book contains five introductory essays, followed by the catalogue of the exhibition proper. The introductory essays include "Taoism and the Arts of China" (13-31) by Stephen Little, "Taoism: The Story of the Way" (33-55) by Kristofer Schipper, "Taoist Architecture" (57-75) by Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt, "Mapping Early Taoist Art: The Visual Culture of Wudoumi Dao" (77-93) by Wu Hung, and "Taoism and Art at the Court of Song Huizong" (95-111) by Patricia Ebrey. According to Little, "[t]he purpose of this exhibition is to examine the role works of art have played in the history of Taoism from the late Han (second century) to Qing (1644-1911) dynasties….This exhibition examines the way works of art function in a religious context" (13). In addition, Little and the book's contributors frequently refer to "Daoist art." The repeated use of the category "Daoist art," without an explicit definition, leaves the reader wondering what characteristics lead to such a designation. Does any work of art made by a Daoist qualify as "Daoist art"? If a painting is housed and interpreted in a Daoist monastery, is this sufficient? Does a painting depicting a Daoist deity or immortal made by a Confucian artist qualify? Although one can begin to construct an answer by culling through the historical essays (see 18, 21, 57, 73-74, 77, 91-92), further theoretical clarification is required if the category is to be historically and heuristically viable. The "Catalogue of the Exhibition" (115-383) is, in turn, divided into three parts with a variety of sub-divisions: (I) "The Formation of the Taoist Tradition," including "Laozi and the Origins of Taoism," "Heaven and Earth: Taoist Cosmology," and "Sacred Mountains and the Cults of the Immortals"; (II) "The Taoist Church," including "The Beginnings of Religious Taoism," "Taoist Ritual," and "The Taoist Pantheon"; and (III) "The Taoist Renaissance," including "Taoism and Popular Religion," "Divine Manifestations of Yin: Goddesses and Female Saints," "Zhenwu, the Perfect Warrior," "Taoist Immortals," "Inner Alchemy and Its Symbolism," and "The Sacred Landscape." 


Containing 151 plates with accompanying descriptions/discussions written by Stephen Little and/or Shawn Eichman, these entries provide excellent information on the relevant historical and religious contexts. The book offers a welcomed opportunity to view and study the "material culture" of Daoism. Moreover, the superb print quality gives the reader/viewer access to the diversity of Daoist religious objects (paintings, swords, robes, stele inscriptions, talismans, calligraphy, sacred diagrams), an experience only surpassed in experiencing the art exhibition firsthand or observing the objects in a lived religious context (see 228-31 for a group of paintings from Baiyun guan [White Cloud Monastery]). The book is especially helpful for identifying the iconography and understanding the historical development of Daoist "gods." An excellent addition to any library or personal collection. Art historians, Sinologists, scholars of Daoism, and general readers interested in Daoism and/or Chinese art should have this book. One agrees with Little when he comments, "It is hoped that this exhibition will succeed in opening a door onto an ancient and vital tradition in Chinese art history that has all too long remained hidden" (30). (See also Journal of Chinese Religions 29 [2001]: 332-34; Religious Studies Review 27.2 [2001]: 200).


Louis Komjathy

Boston University

Jan 1, 2003



Taoism: The Enduring Tradition


TAOISM: THE ENDURING TRADITION. By Russell Kirkland. New York and London: Routledge, 2004. Pp. xxii + 282. Paper, $19.95, ISBN 0-415-26322-0


Russell Kirkland sets out to “shock educated readers, at all levels, into seeing Taoism as something quite different from what they have usually been told that it is…such readers have frequently, in effect, been lied to.” Those liars, Kirkland says, are the scholars of Chinese history and culture who did not consider Daoism worthy of study. The goal of this book is to correct the misunderstandings regarding Daoism by providing a corrective to the traditional discourse of “sinology,” a label which simultaneously refers to colonialist paradigms of knowledge as well as to Neo-Confucian biases in scholarship, especially the secularist construction of Confucianism which has dominated Asian studies in twentieth-century American academia. Kirkland introduces his method in Chapter 1, while responding to a wide range of clichés about Daoism.       


In chapter 2, Kirkland examines the texts of “Classical Taoism.” Placing the Zhuangzi and the Laozi into their intellectual milieu, he considers the implications of the Guodian Laozi manuscripts to our understanding of the development of the Laozi, and even speculates as to the “real” identity of Laozi, which I will not disclose… Kirkland’s iconoclasm extends beyond Daoism, challenging the received tradition regarding the pre-Qin schools, stressing the liturgical aspects of Confucianism, and even questioning whether the best translation for Tian is god rather than the “orthodox translation” of heaven. His detailed discussion of the Neiye chapter of the Guanzi and its importance in the history of “biospiritual cultivation” is especially useful. 


Chapter 3 is a summary of the historical development of Daoism from Han to Qing, beginning with an interesting analysis of the intricate relationship between Daoism and Han Confucianism. The discussions of Celestial Master Taoism, Shangqing and Lingbao are very brief. The analysis of Daoism during the Tang and the Song focuses on the close links between the various Taoist lineages and the state. This relationship was lost after 1126. This watershed in the history of Taoism led to the emergence of new socio-political modalities, expressed in the traditions of Quanzhen and Zhengyi, which remain the two main Daoist traditions in China today. 


The Daoism of early medieval China has been privileged in Daoist studies, Kirkland suggests, while the Daoist traditions of late imperial China remain neglected. I am far less sanguine than Kirkland about our current state of knowledge of the formative period of Daoism. For example, a simple issue such as when does Daoism as a religious institution begin is less than clear. Kirkland provides various dates: The first socio-politcal group whose members identified themselves as Daoists appeared in the fifth century CE (p.16); it was not until 500 CE that a socially coherent Daoist group emerged (76); Lu Xiujing (406-477) is the founder of Daoism (89). Kirkland also refers to the “earliest “Taoist” religious movement – the Celestial Masters (T’ien-shi) of the second century” (25). 


The problem here is twofold. First, wishing to be inclusive in his description of Daoism, Kirkland does not provide clear definitions for determining boundaries between groups. Secondly, the scholarly bias towards the Celestial Master tradition which Kirkland complains about is inherent to the sources themselves. Arguing that Lu Xiujing, the compiler of the first Taoist canon and codifier of ritual, may be considered the founder of Daoism, Kirkland adduces the exclusion of Celestial Master texts from the canon as signifying a difference between the earlier group and the aristocratic traditions of the fourth century. But Lu Xiujing’s Abridged Codes for the Daoist Community (HY 1119) envisions an idealized community based on Celestial Master mythography and ritual. Lu saw himself as a reformer of Celestial Master Daoism. Surely Lu’s reasons for excluding Celestial Master texts are far more complex then Kirkland suggests. 


In Chapter 4, Kirkland examines the socio-political realities of Daoism. He begins by showing that Daoists were often members of the literati class and not marginal figures, as is often assumed. Kirkland then examines the place of women in Daoism, beginning with an investigation of the feminine ideal in the Laozi, followed by a sociological study focusing on Tang and Song Daoism. The third section examines the intimate relationship between Daoism and the imperial state. Rather than being rebels, Daoists from the Han to the Song supported and provided legitimacy to the imperial system. Especially valuable here is a discussion of the notion of Dao-nature (daoxing), a Taoist response to the Buddhist notion of Buddha-nature, which remains an understudied facet of the continuing engagement between Buddhism and Daoism.


In chapter 5, the most provocative part of the book, Kirkland discusses the goal of the Daoist life. Did Daoists accept death as part of the natural process, or did they seek longevity, immortality, or transcendence? What do the terms xian, zhenren, shengren, shijie mean; and how did these meanings vary across the Daoist tradition? Showing the diversity of positions in the inherently multivocal Daoist tradition, Kirkland discounts the facile charge that Daoists were “inconsistent” in their views. Yet, there are commonalities. Kirkland suggests that despite the various modalities of transcendence, almost all Daoists “believed that death cannot be avoided, and yet death can be transcended” (187). The fundamental goal of Taoism is “cultivating reality.” Many specialists may find this challenging. As Kirkland points out, zhen, usually understood as “to perfect,” is a key notion throughout the Daoist tradition. Kirkland’s rendering of the term as “reality” will certainly stimulate debate.


Minor quibbles include the editorial decision to dispense with Chinese graphs, even for personal names or book titles, not including HY numbers for texts inculded in the Daozang, and the use of different renderings for the same Chinese terms (e.g. Heavenly Masters, Celestial Masters and T’ien-shi). 


Kirkland is certainly succesful at challenging many common misconceptions regarding Daoism. While challenging current Daoist scholarship, he readily admits that as our knowledge of Daoism progresses, many of his interpretations will be further nuanced, or even radicaly changed. Much of the material presented in this concise book may not be new to experts in the field, but Kirkland’s provocative and lucid presentation would be valuable in classes on Daoism and, perhaps more importantly, in general classes on Chinese religion, culture and history where, as Kirkland puts it, the “enemies of Taoism” still dominate the discourse. 


Gil Raz

Dartmouth College

March 21, 2005 



Taoist Buildings


TAOIST BUILDINGS. By Qiao Yun. Translated by Zhou Wenzheng. Wien, Austria: Springer-Verlag Wien New York, 2001. Pp. 181; 157 illustrations; appendices; maps; glossary. Cloth, €100 (approx. $120.00), ISBN 3-211-83010-3.


Originally published in Chinese as Daojiao jianzhu (Daoist Architecture), this book is a volume in the Ancient Chinese Architecture series published in English by Springer-Verlag. Other volumes in the ten-volume series include Palace Architecture, Imperial Mausoleums and Tombs, Imperial Gardens, Private Gardens, Vernacular Buildings, Buddhist Buildings, Islamic Buildings, Ritual and Ceremonious Buildings, and Defense Structures. 


Qiao Yun’s book consists primarily of large color photographs of contemporary Daoist temples and monasteries, with special attention to northern, northeastern, and central China. No Daoist sacred sites from southern or southeastern China are covered. Taoist Buildings in turn divides into two parts. 


Part one (11-116) contains eighty “figures,” which are beautifully detailed color photographs of Daoist art and architecture. Here one finds photographs of a high professional caliber, representing some of the most important contemporary Daoist sacred sites. Divided into three geographical regions (northern, northeastern, and central), these photographs provide visual documentation of such preeminent Daoist places as Baiyun guan (White Cloud Monastery; Beijing), Taishan (Mount Tai; Taian, Shandong), Songshan (Mount Song; Dengfeng, Henan), Yongle gong (Palace of Eternal Joy; Ruicheng, Shanxi), Huashan (Mount Hua; Huayin, Shaanxi), Louguan tai (Lookout Tower Monastery; Zhouzhi, Shaanxi), Baxian gong (Palace of Eight Immortals; Xi’an, Shaanxi), Maoshan (Mount Mao; Jurong, Jiangsu), Wudang shan (Mount Wudang; Junxian, Hubei), Qingyang gong (Azure Ram Palace; Chengdu, Sichuan), and Qingcheng shan (Azure Wall Mountain; Guanxian, Sichuan), among others. The majority of the photographs (54 of 80) cover “northern China,” under which Qiao Yun includes Beijing, Shandong, Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Ningxia. Still, Qiao Yun’s selection gives one a representative and significant sampling of Daoist architecture. This section of the book contains no textual material. 


The textual matter appears in part two (119-40), which consists of three chapters. In “The Beginnings of Taoism in China and Its Essence,” the author discusses the “origins and evolution” of Daoism, the faith and theology of Daoism, the system of deities and immortals in Daoism, as well as Daoist functional potency and miraculous arts. This chapter seems to have been intended as a concise history of the Daoist tradition with emphasis placed on the formative phases. Chapter two, “Outline of Taoist Architecture,” is by far the most interesting and important of the three chapters. This chapter provides excellent information on “Daoist architecture,” by which the author clearly means the architecture of Daoist sacred sites (monasteries, temples, etc.). Here Qiao Yun gives a brief history of Daoist buildings, architectural designs and norms, site selection and deployment, architectural layout, structure and construction, and architecture in general. Qiao Yun argues that there are traditionally three different classes of Daoist buildings: (1) Palatial city style (highest); (2) Palatial monastery style; and (3) Courtyard style. The latter also falls within four subcategories, including buildings on mountain summits, buildings overlooking the sea, buildings in garden or park style, and buildings in a “grotto haven” (dongtian) style. According to Qiao Yun, Daoist architectural layout may be categorized as formal or liberal, while structure and construction involved brick and timber, stone, and/or bronze. Here Qiao Yun also makes an interesting point concerning Daoist utilization of traditional Chinese architectural design: “Compared to other architecture, that of Taoism displayed innovation in its use, for example, of statues, murals, sculpture, inscriptions and in the arrangement of buildings and the use of pavilions” (129). Chapter three, “The Grotto Haven, Blessed Sanctuary and Taoist Monastery,” is an interesting attempt at organizing a more detailed discussion of the sacred sites documented in the photographs. Here the Daoist notion of “cavern heavens” or “grotto havens” (dongtian) is employed to discuss the sites, by which the author is referring to a Daoist system of ten major grotto havens, thirty-six minor grotto havens, and seventy-two blessed sanctuaries (126). However, the reader is left wondering about the specifics of these grotto havens; only the fifth (Qingcheng shan) and the eighth (Maoshan) are discussed. Here a complete list of the so-called grotto havens including the corresponding geographical locations would have been helpful. 


These three chapters are followed by eleven appendices, including plans and sketches for the architectural layouts of Baiyun guan, Yongle gong, Louguan tai, Wudang shan, and Qingcheng shan. This is followed by paragraph-long notes on each of the eighty photographs, complete with reduced blank and white photographs. Finally, one finds two maps and a chronology of major events in the history of Chinese architecture. 


Taoist Buildings cannot but be considered groundbreaking; it is the first English language book-length presentation of Daoist architecture. As expected, any such endeavor also must be taken as preliminary and partial. In addition, the work contains a number of minor deficiencies that need to be addressed. First, one would have appreciated a more systematic history of Daoist buildings and sacred sites. Most of the extant Daoist buildings date from the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and later, with Yongle gong (Palace of Eternal Joy) containing the earliest surviving structures dating from the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). That is, the study of “Daoist architecture” as preserved in contemporary Daoist sacred sites is predominantly the study of Qing and more contemporary forms of Chinese architecture. On a different note, the book contains no Chinese characters, very few romanized names, and non-standard English renderings of Daoist place names. For example, the author continually refers the “Palace of the Blue Goat,” “Mount of the Verdant Land,” and “Gazebo Terrace,” renderings of Qingyang gong, Qingcheng shan, and Louguan tai, respectively. Such confusion could have been avoided by providing the names in Pinyin romanization, especially since these are Chinese places. Similarly, one finds references to Chen Bo and Zhang Borui, who are more commonly known as Chen Tuan and Zhang Boduan, respectively. The book also lacks a bibliography and an index. 


Nonetheless, used in combination with Stephen Little’s Taoism and the Arts of China (2000), Taoist Buildings will prove invaluable for gaining a deeper appreciation of the material culture of the Daoist tradition. The price of the book, DM 198 (approx. $120), is prohibitive enough to preclude all but the most committed collector. For those with the financial means, the book is highly recommended. Taoist Buildings is the most complete photographic account of contemporary Daoist sacred sites available. All scholars of Daoism and Chinese architecture will want this book. Research libraries should also obtain copies. 


Louis Komjathy

Boston University

Date Posted: April 7, 2004



The Aspirations and Standards of Taoist Priests in the Early T'ang Period


THE ASPIRATIONS AND STANDARDS OF TAOIST PRIESTS IN THE EARLY T'ANG PERIOD. By Florian C. Reiter. Asien- und Afrika-Studien 1 der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1998. Pp. viii + 241; glossary; index. Cloth, DM 140, ISSN 0948-9798/ISBN 3-447-04086-6.


Continuing his wide-ranging research on Daoism from the Six Dynasties (420-589) through the Ming (1368-1644) periods, in the present work Reiter focuses on Tang-dynasty (618-907) Daoist monasticism. The centerpiece of Reiter's book is the Taixuan lingbao sandong fengdao kejie yingshi (Practical Introduction to Rules and Precepts for Worshipping the Dao from the Three Caverns of Numinous Treasure and the Great Mystery; DZ 1125/DH 39; abbrev. Fengdao kejie [Rules and Precepts for Worshipping the Dao]). This text has been labeled the "first handbook of Daoist monasticism" and is traditionally ascribed to a certain Jinming Qizhen (fl. 550 C.E.?), a shadowy figure whose Daoist name Qizhenzi (Master of the Seven Perfected) most likely refers to the seven stars of the Dipper that occupied a central position in the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) tradition. Jinming Qizhen, the Fengdao kejie, and other related texts thus become a means by which to study and understand the early development of Daoist monasticism.


From Reiter's perspective, "The intention of this study on the Taoist priests of the early T'ang period, their ‘aspirations and standards', is rather fundamental. It is an attempt to look at things from the Taoist side. How did Taoist priests define their own profession and requirements? What were the aspirations and standards which they gave themselves and for what ends?" (vii-viii). The book in turn consists of three parts. 


In part one, Reiter discusses features of Daoist history during the early Tang dynasty, religious and geographical concepts and their application, Wang Yuanzhi (528?-635) (a scion of the southern elite who studied under a disciple of Tao Hongjing [456-536] on Maoshan) as a "model Daoist," and the scope of the activities of "outstanding Daoists." This section also contains Reiter's difficult-to-locate introduction to the Fengdao kejie (46-49). 


Part two provides information on Jinming Qizhen and the Fengdao kejie, including Reiter's rendering of the Fengdao kejie in a variety of sections that "present paraphrases and sometimes summarizing descriptions of the most important parts of this extensive work" (55). 


In part three, Reiter considers Jinming Qizhen's standing in the Daoist tradition and three texts associated with him: the Shangqing sanzun pulu (Chronology of the Three Worthies of Highest Clarity; DZ 164), Wushang sanyuan zhenzhe linglu (Numinous Register of the Supreme Three Primes for Protecting Private Residences; DZ 674), and Shangqing jinzhen yuhuang shangyuan jiutian zhenling sanbai liushiwu bu yuanlu (Original Register of Highest Clarity Concerning the 365 Perfected Numen of the Nine Heavens and Highest Prime of the Jade Sovereign Gold Perfected; DZ 1388). The book concludes with a discussion of Jinming Qizhen and the general standard of the scholarly elite. Reiter's study is significant for its consideration of a neglected aspect of the Daoist tradition, namely, pre-Yuan (1260-1368), i.e., pre-Quanzhen (Complete Perfection), forms of monastic Daoism. 


In terms of the "translation" contained in part two, one finds that the received Fengdao kejie contains a wealth of information on all major aspects of Daoist monasticism. The text divides into eighteen sections in six scrolls, with the first ten sections in three scrolls describing the conceptual framework and concrete conditions of monastic practice and the last eight sections, in three more scrolls, dealing with specific rituals. The Fengdao kejie also delineates the steps (titles) for the various ranks and sub-ranks of investiture and lists of the scriptures, registers, tallies, covenants, and the like that were transmitted to ordinands. Such information is especially relevant for those conducting research on Daoist monasticism, ritual, and ordination, as well as on the social history of Daoist organizations. Reiter's notion of "aspirations and standards" also provides a helpful interpretative framework for thinking through the Daoist tradition in general. Still, the book suffers from a number of deficiencies. First, the overall contribution of the book would have been strengthened if it consisted of a complete annotated translation of the Fengdao kejie rather than "paraphrases" and "summaries." Second, the emphasis on, and rather uncritical acceptance of, the various texts considered as evidential work for understanding the actual religious and social conditions of Daoists during the Tang is somewhat problematic. One wonders about the extent to which these texts represent commonly accepted beliefs and match anthological realities. That is, it may be that the texts utilized in Reiter's study were composed in order to establish models of "orthodoxy" or present idealized projections of Daoist lifeways. Particularly conspicuous is the absence of any references to the research of Livia Kohn, a scholar who focuses on the period of Daoist history under consideration here, much of which was published before the appearance of Aspirations and Standards. There is also a certain disorganized and confused (confusing) quality to the work; one finds it difficult to understand how Reiter's questions and concerns presented in part one and the conclusion connect with his central topic of study, i.e., Jinming Qizhen, the Fengdao kejie, and Tang-dynasty Daoist monasticism. The work would have benefited from a more systematic and narrowly focused discussion of these interrelated topics. Scholars of Daoism in general will find valuable information in Reiter's study. However, because of the above-mentioned problems, the book will be most relevant for individuals researching Daoism in the Tang dynasty and traditions of Daoist monasticism. (See also Journal of Chinese Religions 28 [2000]: 235-37.)


Louis Komjathy

Boston University

Date Posted: June 25, 2003



The Daoist Monastic Manual


The Daoist Monastic Manual: A Translation of the Fengdao Kejie. By Livia Kohn. AAR Texts and Translations Series.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2004.  Pp. 200; glossary. Cloth, $65.00,. ISBN 0-19-517070-9.


Livia Kohn’s fascinating and useful new book, The Daoist Monastic Manual: A Translation of the Fengdao Kejie, is the first complete English translation of the rules and precepts for Daoist monastics. This work should be of great interest to Sinologists, students of Daoism or religious history, and monastics.  The present volume may be seen as a primary-source companion to her Monastic Life in Medieval Daoism: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (University of Hawai’i, 2003), backing up many of that work’s general discussions with specific textual evidence.  Some readers might like to compare the Chinese text of the Fengdao kejie (Rules and Precepts for Worshipping the Dao, DZ 1125) with Professor Kohn’s translation.  They will find the Chinese text in volume 41, pages 33061 – 33099 of the widely used edition of the Daozang published in 1976 by the Yiwen Press in Taiwan.


Before the translation proper, Kohn provides three introductory chapters that cover the development and nature of Daoist monastic institutions, the authorship and textual history of the Fengdao kejie, and some important related texts and relevant terminology.  Chapter one explains the development of Daoist monastic regulations in their social and political context, narrating the basics of Daoist institutional history and making comparisons with the Buddhist Vinaya (Monastic Regulations). The Daoist church in medieval China was always close to the imperial Chinese state and in competition with the Buddhist church. The reader obtains a vivid picture of the economic foundations and material contexts of Daoist practice. Kohn briefly describes the contents of each of the eighteen sections contained in the six scrolls of the Fengdao kejie. These include discussions of Daoist interpretations of karma and retribution (sections 1-3), physical aspects of the monastery (4-6 and 8-10), requirements for ordination (7), and rituals (11-18).


Chapter two delves into issues of dating and textual history. The issues are complex, and the scholarly debates intense. Kohn lays out her evidence and argues convincingly that the Fengdao kejie contains materials related to the southern Daoist church in the mid-sixth to early seventh centuries. The work was expanded during the high Tang to make a more elaborate and complete set of regulations, and then later contracted to create the current text. This part of the argument relies on a mastery of texts and philology that is quite dazzling. Although scholars disagree about the exact dating of the work, all agree that it is essential for our understanding of medieval Daoism as the oldest and most detailed text to describe the concrete organization of Daoist monasticism. 


The third introductory chapter explains related texts and important terminology.  Here the author draws upon supplementary sources such as behavioral manuals, precursors, later supplements, technical works, and ritual collections to illuminate aspects of the Fengdao kejie, such as its worldview, soteriological paths, and physical setting.  The unpretentious but precise language is helpful for Sinologists and general readers alike. The section on terms is so useful that I plan to follow her example and include an explanation of important words and expressions in the introduction to my next book.  


The translation that follows is of the highest quality. Kohn supports her work with just enough notation and explanation to answer the questions that come up in the mind of experts in Daoism and readers of medieval Chinese without making the reading cumbersome for others.


With the publication of this translation, Daoist monastic rules can finally take their rightful place alongside the Buddhist Vinaya within the study of Chinese religious and social history. Perhaps even more important, here Daoist monastic regulations are made available for comparative religionists and students of Western religions.  There is no longer any excuse for scholars of medieval Christian monastic rules and practices, for example, to ignore the Chinese Daoist case.


Suzanne Cahill

University of California, San Diego

February 9, 2005



The Fragments of the Daoxue Zhuan


THE FRAGMENTS OF THE DAOXUE ZHUAN. By Stephan Peter Bumbacher. European University Studies Series XXVII, Asian and African Studies vol. 78. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2000. Pp. xv + 609; appendixes; index. Paper, $79.95, ISBN 3-631-36539-X; US-ISBN 0-8204-4772-2.


A revised and corrected version of the author's Ph.D. thesis (University of Heidelberg, 1996), this is an impressive textual study, critical edition and analysis of the fragments of the Daoxue zhuan (Biographies of Students of the Dao), a late sixth-century C.E. compilation of some 252 biographical fragments. The Daoxue zhuan sheds light on the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) and Lingbao (Numinous Treasure) traditions that flourished in this period and may be distinguished from other biographic collections by its section on Daoist women and by its inclusion of Daoist figures who did not attain immortality but nonetheless were considered important religious persons. Bumbacher's analysis of the text provides important information on the hitherto neglected study of pre-Tang monastic traditions and the roles of women in Daoism. 


The book consists of an introduction, conclusion, and seven chapters: (1) Text and authorship of the Daoxue zhuan; (2) The sources of the fragments; (3) Chinese text and translation; (4) The place of the Daoxue zhuan within the literary tradition; (5) The Daoxue zhuan's scheme of composition; (6) Daoist monasticism; and (7) Female Daoists. It also contains five appendixes including versions of Ma Shu's biography, alphabetical lists of quotations of "separate biographies" (biezhuan), synopses of the Zhen'gao and Dongxian zhuan biographies, synopses of the Liexian zhuan and Da'nan yangsheng lun, and the Chinese text of the Taizhen furen zhuan. Having reviewed the complexities surrounding the authorship of the text, Bumbacher concurs with the mainstream view that the text should be attributed to Ma Shu (522-581) (ch. 1), a scholar-official from a Buddhist family who retired to Mount Mao in part to escape the political vicissitudes of his era. Having discussed the text and its author, Bumbacher then proceeds to present a critical edition (in Chinese) and an annotated English translation of the fragments (ch. 2; 99-347). The author is to be commended for his heroic efforts at presenting a critical Chinese edition that builds upon and amends the partial edition produced by Chen Guofu in his Daozang yuanliu kao (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1963).


The 252 identified fragments refer to 105 Daoists, including a chapter devoted to the lives of nine women. Bumbacher argues that the women's lives show that women were able not only to "escape being married" but also "have access to the topmost stratum of society" (523). In his literary analysis, Bumbacher places the text in the context of Chinese biographies including the Liexian zhuan (Biographies of Ranked Immortals) and the Shenxian zhuan (Biographies of Spirit Immortals), but argues that the text most closely resembles Buddhist hagiographies such as the Biqiuni zhuan (Biographies of Buddhist Nuns) (ch. 4). 


Scholars will also be interested in the tentative study of early Daoist monasticism that this work offers, comparing and contrasting early Daoist monastic centres with the chambers of tranquility (jingshi) and the parish centers (zhi) of the Celestial Masters tradition (ch. 6). Though chapters 1-5 constitute a highly technical sinological work, the book is highly recommended not only for specialists in Chinese religions, but also for those interested in comparative hagiography, monasticism and the religious lives of women.


James Miller

Queen's University, Canada

Jan 1, 2003



The Mandate of Heaven: Hidden History in the Book of Changes


THE MANDATE OF HEAVEN: HIDDEN HISTORY IN THE BOOK OF CHANGES. By S. J. Marshall. London: Curzon Press; New York: Columbia University Press, 2001. Pp. xviii + 252; illustrations; maps; index. Cloth, £25/$32.50, ISBN 0-7007-1299-2.


According to tradition, the Yijing, or Book of Changes, was originally a divination manual whose omen and prognostication texts were conjured by the sagely founders of the dynasty—culture heroes elevated almost to the status of gods by Confucius and his school. Supposedly the earliest layers of the text were written by Chang, crowned posthumously as Wen, first king of the Zhou dynasty, in the 11th century B.C.E. This attribution was not seriously questioned until the introduction of the critical apparatus of scientific methodology into China in the 20th century. Questions of origin were first raised by such scholars as Gu Jiegang and Li Jingchi in the 1930s, and since then the academic world has considered the sagely authorship of the Yijing to be the stuff of myth and legend. In the book under review, S. J. Marshall attempts to overturn this "complete disavowal of tradition" (7) by uncovering historical references to the founding fathers that have remained hidden in the cryptic text for thousands of years.


The book's fundamental argument hinges on the author's interpretation of the text of hexagram 55, "Feng." Two lines in the hexagram depict the Big Dipper constellation appearing in the middle of the day, which is only possible during a total eclipse of the sun, according to some. Marshall's remarkable insight is to identify the word feng in the same lines not as the common word for "abundance," which is the standard interpretation, but as the name of the capital city of Zhou, a feudal state at the western periphery of the ancient kingdom of Shang. Chang, Chief of the West, had begun to consolidate his power and move his sphere of influence toward the east at this time, but died unexpectedly soon after founding his new capital at Feng. Marshall deduces that Chang's son, Fa, saw the eclipse as a sign or "mandate" from Heaven that he was chosen to lead the rebellion against the evil Shou, last king of Shang. A check by Marshall of modern research verifies the occurrence of a total eclipse in northern China around noon on June 20, 1070 B.C.E., a year that was also calculated by 4th century B.C.E. calendrical scholars to have been the time of the conquest. Section I of the book, "The Mandate of Heaven," frames this basic argument and buttresses it with clever readings from other hexagram texts. 


Section II, "Further Mysteries of the Changes," continues the same line of reasoning by seeking in other hexagrams historical references to events of the conquest. For example, hexagram 36, "Ming Yi," has always baffled scholars. Ming, an ideograph composed of the pictographs for the sun and the moon, usually means "bright" or "light." Yi is the pictograph of an arrow with a cord tied around the shaft and means "to wound, injure." Since many of the lines in the hexagram clearly picture a bird being hunted, modern scholars have speculated that mingyi is the forgotten name of a bird, specifically the "calling pheasant." Marshall does not completely refute this interpretation, but he believes the literal meaning of wounding or "darkening" the light also refers to the phenomenon of the eclipse. To bolster his reading he makes another interesting deduction, this time in reference to an ancient Chinese myth. The earliest variant of a popular myth asks literally "Why did the Great Archer shoot the sun?" and, after having done so, "Why did the crow lose its feathers?" (my translation). The standard answer, verified in later variants of the myth, is because there were ten suns in the sky whose intensity was scorching the earth. Feathers scattered because the ten suns were in reality ten sun-ravens who roosted in the east before one normally took flight every morning of the ten-day week. Marshall believes the later versions of the myth were accretions meant to explain an occurrence whose purpose had been totally forgotten, namely, that the mythical archer shot at the black bird that had eaten the sun, thus killing it and releasing the sun from the eclipse. Other hexagram texts reinterpreted in Section II are 1, 18, 43, and 44.


Section III of the book is a collection of five appendices that clarifies such things as "genealogical matters" (the family tree of King Wen), the "sexagenary cycle" (the sixty-term numbering system of the ancient Chinese), and the "sinological maze of Wilhelm-Baynes" (the puzzling format of the most popular English translation of the Yijing, that by Richard Wilhelm and Cary Baynes). Following this last section are over fifty pages of notes, an extensive bibliography of Western language works on the Yijing and related subjects, and a comprehensive index. 


S. J. Marshall's intriguing work will be read with great interest by Yijing aficionados, and it will also attract the attention of contemporary scholars. The former will be immensely grateful for the clarity that Marshall brings to such an enigmatic text. The latter will initially scoff at the absence of Chinese language sources and point out a contradiction here or an anachronism there before grudgingly admitting that the thesis is basically sound. Everyone who reads The Mandate of Heaven will return to the Book of Changes with a renewed historical perspective. 


Stephen L. Field

Trinity University

September 10, 2003



The Penumbra Unbound

THE PENUMBRA UNBOUND: THE NEO-TAOIST PHILOSOPHY OF GUO XIANG. By Brook Ziporyn. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003. Pp. 186; appendices; elementary index; no Chinese characters. Cloth, $68.50, ISBN 0-7914-5661-7; paper, $22.95, ISBN 0-7914-5662-5.

Based on a dissertation at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, this book looks at the philosophy of the third-century thinker Guo Xiang (d. 312) as it is expressed in his only surviving (and maybe only authored work), a commentary to the classical Daoist text Zhuangzi. The work carefully places Guo Xiang's thought into the greater history and environment of traditional Chinese philosophy, acknowledging his indebtedness to Wang Bi and other early contemporaries, then proceeds to analyze certain key concepts and terms, including ziran (spontaneity), ji (traces), suoyi ji (that which left the traces), ming (darkness), shi (suitability), duhua (lone transformation), and wuwei (nonactivity). In all cases, the author presents a careful and correct reading of the original sources, writes with conviction and in a systematic fashion, and makes a coherent argument on how to understand Guo Xiang's thought as an attempt to combine Ruist (read Confucian) thinking as seen through the eyes of Xuanxue philosophy with traditional Daoist thought as represented in the Zhuangzi. Ziporyn's study relies heavily on Chinese secondary studies and places Guo Xiang's philosophy further in the work of other thinkers who have tackled issues of freedom and determinism, such as Hobbes, Priestly, Nietzsche, and especially Spinoza, providing an approach that is overall philosophically oriented and valuable for students of comparative philosophy. For students of Daoism, on the other hand, the book has little if anything to offer. It does not mention the religious dimension of Guo Xiang's or other Daoist thought and fails to reflect on issues of mysticism and religious cultivation, expressed in concepts such as zuowang (sitting in oblivion), zide (spontaneous realization), and the pairs xingming (inner nature [discussed briefly in an appendix] and destiny, both important in later Quanzhen thought) and fenli (lot and principle; the ways people are linked to Dao). Nor does this book acknowledge the urgency which pervades Guo Xiang's writings to create a consciousness that is free from thought and at one with Dao. What is particularly regrettable is that there is an extensive scholarly literature in Japanese, English, and French that presents this side of Guo Xiang and also, maybe even more importantly, of the Zhuangzi (see the list below). Why not at least mention these works? Why ignore this important side of a key Chinese thinker? Why negate his Daoist dimension so thoroughly as if it did not exist at all? There seems to be a tremendous prejudice against Daoist thought, as already revealed in the translation of xuanxue with the denigrating "abstruse learning," especially considering that the term's translation as the more neutral "dark learning" has been rejected actively by Daoist scholars (notably by Alan Chan in his Two Visions of the Way) and its rendition as "Neo-Taoism" has been out of scholarly discourse for several decades. Despite these shortcomings, the author bases his observations on the same original source as the ignored Guo Xiang scholars and does a competent job translating and presenting the text. As a result, in a number of instances he comes to the same or very similar conclusions. It is gratifying to see certain concepts, such as "traces" and "lone transformation" discussed in more depth, although one regrets that Ziporyn had to reinvent the wheel in many places instead of benefiting from the fruits of previous labors. To sum up, the book is competent in its foundations and may appeal to students of Chinese thought who focus primarily on Confucianism and enjoy comparative philosophy. However, it misses a large and, at least to this reviewer, essential component of Guo Xiang's vision. By ignoring too much of previous scholarship it does not promote the kind of engaged discussion and progress in understanding one would like to see.


Allinson, Robert E. 1990. Chuang-Tzu for Spiritual Transformation. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Aoki Goro. 1979. "Kaku Sho Soshichu shisen" [Examining Guo Xiang's Zhuangzi Commentary]. Kyoto kyoiku daigaku kiyo 55: 196-202.

Aoki Goro. 1979. "Shoshi Kaku Sho chu no shini mondai ni tsuite" [On the perfect world in Guo Xiang's Zhuangzi Commentary]. Kyoto kyoiku daigaku kokubungaku kaishi 14: 27-35.

Fukunaga Mitsuji. 1954. "Kaku Sho no Soshi kaishaku" [Guo Xiang's interpretation of the Zhuangzi]. Tetsugaku kenkyu 37: 108-24 and 167-77.

Fukunaga Mitsuji. 1964. "Kaku Sho no Soshi chu to Ko Shu no Soshi chu" [Guo Xiang's Zhuangzi Commentary and Xiang Xiu's Zhuangzi Commentary]. Toho gakuho 36: 187-215.

Fukunaga Mitsuji. 1969. "‘No-Mind' in Chuang-tzu and Ch'an Buddhism." Zinbun 12: 9-45.

Hachiya Kunio. 1967. "Soshi shoyoyu hen o meguru Kaku Sho to Shi Ton no kaishaku" [The interpretation of the Zhuangzi's chapter on ‘Free and Easy Wandering' by Guo Xiang and Zhi Dun].

Hikaku bunka kenkyu 8: 59-98. Horiike Nobuo. 1972. "Soshi no shiso to Kaku Sho no shiso" [Zhuangzi's and Guo Xiang's philosophies]. Kambun gakkai kaiho 31: 63-75.

Knaul, Livia. 1982. "Lost Chuang-tzu Passages." Journal of Chinese Religions 10: 53-79.

Knaul, Livia. 1985. "The Winged Life: Kuo Hsiang's Mystical Philosophy." Journal of Chinese Studies 2.1: 17-41.

Kohn, Livia. 1992. Early Chinese Mysticism: Philosophy and Soteriology in the Taoist Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Lukashevich, Stephen. 1987. Thus Spake Master Chuang: A Structural Exegesis of Taoist Philosophy. New York: Peter Lang.

Mair, Victor H., ed. 1983. Experimental Essays on Chuang-tzu. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Nakajima Ryuzo. 1970. "Kaku Sho no shiso ni tsuite" [On the philosophy of Guo Xiang]. Shukan toyogaku 24: 43-60.

Nakano Toru. 1990. "Kaku Sho ni okeru zabo" [Sitting in Forgetfulness according to Guo Xiang]. Toho shukyo 75: 1-19.

Robinet, Isabelle. 1983. "Chuang-tzu et le taoïsme religieux." Journal of Chinese Religions 11: 59-109. Robinet, Isabelle. 1983. "Kouo Siang ou le monde comme absolu." T'oung Pao 69: 87-112.

Seki Masao. 1965. "Kaku Sho no Soshi chu ni mirareru shizen to sono hoka" [Ziran and related concepts in Guo Xiang's Zhuangzi Commentary]. Niigata daigaku jimbun kagaku kenkyu 28: 31-71.

Seki Masao. 1974. "Kaku Sho, Sei Gen'ei no Soshi kaishaku" [The interpretation of the Zhuangzi by Guo Xiang and Cheng Xuanying]. Niigata daigaku kokubun gakkai shi 18: 50-59.

Togawa Yoshio. 1966. "Kaku Sho no seiji shiso to sono Soshi chu" [Guo Xiang's philosophy of life and his Zhuangzi Commentary]. Nihon Chugoku gakkaiho 18: 142-60.

Livia Kohn Boston University April 12, 2004

The Tao of the West


THE TAO OF THE WEST: WESTERN TRANSFORMATIONS OF TAOIST THOUGHT. By J. J. Clarke. London: Routledge Press, 2000. Pp. xi + 270; appendixes; indexes. Paper, $20.99, ISBN 0-415-20620-0. 


This deservedly prize-winning book's stated aims are "to uncover the ways in which Daoism has entered Western consciousness, and to examine the methods by which ideas and texts from this ancient Chinese tradition have been selected, translated, interpreted, reconstituted and assimilated within the framework of modern Western thought" (5). The book consists of nine chapters: (1) 'The way that can be told': introduction; (2) 'The meaning is not the meaning': on the nature Daoism; (3) 'Cramped scholars': Western interpretations of Daoism; (4) 'The Great Clod': Daoist natural philosophy; (5) 'Going rambling without destination': moral explorations; (6) 'The transformation of things': the alchemy of life, sex and health; (7) 'The Way is incommunicable': transcendence; (8) 'The twitter of birds': philosophical themes; and (9) 'Journey to the West': by way of concluding. 


Chapter one is a general introduction to the possible pitfalls and potentialities of Clarke's hermeneutic approach. Chapter two provides a very clear summary of the latest research in the field of Daoist Studies. Chapter three presents the history of the study of Daoism and is especially strong on the problems of translation as well as the history of the major "Daoist" texts in the West, namely the Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Yijing. Chapter four is mostly about how Daoism in the West intersects with the new physics and with environmentalism. Chapter five, on "moral explorations," deals with questions of ethics, anarchy, and gender. Chapter six on "the alchemy of life, health, and sex" describes the growing popularity of Daoist-influenced self-cultivation techniques, holistic healing, and popularized sexual practices. Chapter seven concerns mysticism and transcendence, including a digression on Daoist themes in Chinese landscape painting and in gardens and the possible impact of those art forms on Western aesthetics. Chapter eight deals with parallels between Daoism and Western philosophical systems, including skepticism and post-modernism. Finally, chapter nine concludes by considering the possibilities of Daoism taking root in the West and what changes it might effect. 


The Tao of the West, it should be made clear, is not an ethnographic survey of contemporary Western Daoist teachers and groups. Clarke is a philosopher, and his book is a history of ideas. However, ideas can only be generated, transmitted and transformed by people. The set of attitudes known as Orientalism typically views Asian religions (and Daoism in particular) as comprised of ancient texts and not living and historical people. Clarke ably dissects and critiques this Orientalist position. And yet, as a historian of ideas, Clarke cannot help but fall into the same trap: very few people inhabit The Tao of the West. Indeed, too many sentences begin with phrases such as "the Daoists believe…", which might prompt a scholar of Daoist Studies to ask, "which Daoists and when?" Clarke's study might be less frustrating for specialists of the Daoist tradition if one were to consider that this book is "a study in the history of Western ideas" and that Clarke has few tools to access Daoist ideas and texts other than the most translated in the West. (Indeed, this book completes Clarke's trilogy on the East-West encounter. Reading the two previous volumes, Jung and Eastern Thought [Routledge, 1994] and Oriental Enlightenment [Routledge, 1997], makes it even clearer that Clarke's interests lie in the West.) 


Nonetheless, The Tao of West admirably lays the hermeneutic groundwork for the ongoing encounter between the West and certain strands of Daoist thought and popular practice. Clarke possesses wide and deep knowledge of Western philosophers and popular thinkers. He ably assimilates a variety of sources and presents his argument in lucid prose. A comprehensive bibliography adds to the book's credentials. The Tao of West is an important book for all scholars of Daoism, enabling them to more fully appreciate the history of their discipline as well as to reflect upon the constructed nature and historical contingency of various interpretative stances. It is also highly recommended for the general reader and as a required text for an advanced class on Daoism. (For a collection of critical responses to The Tao of the West see the Religious Studies Review 28.4.)


Elijah Siegler

Wilfrid Laurier University

May 21, 2003



The Taoist Canon: A Historical Companion to the Daozang

The Taoist Canon: A Historical Companion to the Daozang (Daozang tongkao 道藏通考). Edited by Kristofer Schipper and Franciscus Verellen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004 (2005). 3 vols. Pp.  xix + 1637; illustrations; indexes. Cloth, $175.00, ISBN 0-226-73817-5.


The publication of the three-volume Companion must be considered one of the most historically significant events for the field of Daoist Studies and a milestone in Chinese area studies. These volumes provide an analytical and topical survey of the entire contents of the Ming-dynasty (1368-1644) Daoist Canon, which consists of roughly 1500 texts from two originally distinct collections: (1) the Zhengtong daozang 正統道藏 (Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Reign; printed in 1444-1445), and (2) the Xu daozang 續道藏 (Supplement to the Daoist Canon; dat. 1607). With contributions from twenty-nine scholars, the guiding motivation behind the Companion centers on opening the apparent impenetrability of the Daoist Canon because “[a]t every turn, the Daozang holds new and significant discoveries in store that are transforming our perceptions of Chinese religion and society” (xiii). Moreover, according to the editors, the Daozang may be read as a chart for the Daoist adept’s path to initiation, a library for all branches of Daoist learning, and a core history of the Daoist tradition in continuous interaction with the larger contours of Chinese religious and cultural history (xiii-xiv; see also 2-5).


Almost thirty years in the making, the Companion is the culmination of the European Tao-Tsang Project, which was originally proposed by Kristofer Schipper (Shi Zhouren 施舟人) at the European Conference of Chinese Studies in 1976. “The aim was to provide the first comprehensive, systematic, and analytical bibliography of the Ming canon. All texts were to be investigated for their date, authorship, and significance, as well as abstracted” (45). Under the direction of Schipper, the headquarters of the project was established at the Center for Documentation and Research on Taoism of the École Pratique des Hautes Études and a steering committee was installed. Three working groups were established, one in Paris, one in Würzburg, and at a later stage, one in Rome. From this, it is obvious that the Tao-Tsang Project was primarily a European undertaking. In the ensuing years, various scholars, including many of the major European researchers of Daoism, joined the project. The work was, in turn, organized to progress in stages, which consisted of training sessions and workshops to develop the required specialist skills, and then a systematic, cooperative investigation of each text of the Daoist Canon. These various entries were originally written in four different languages: French, German, English, and Italian. At the final sessions of the steering committee it was decided that the work should be presented in English, and Schipper took responsibility for completing the work and editing it for publication. An initial deadline was set for 1993. In 1991, Franciscus Verellen joined Schipper as co-editor. In addition to the challenges of editing and finding contributors, the work was also stalled by organizational and historical concerns. The editors eventually decided to abandon the received Daoist textual classifications (Three Caverns, Four Supplements, and Twelve Categories) in favor of a historical and topological classification system. The preparation of the final manuscript was coordinated entirely by Franciscus Verellen, which included the daunting task of formatting the entire manuscript and compiling the bibliographic section. Such is the contents of volume three, and it was this material that made the actual publication date summer of 2005 rather than the announced and printed date of 2004. As one can see from this abridged history, the Tao-Tsang Project was a monumental undertaking and the publication of the Companion cannot but be considered an equally remarkable accomplishment. It should also be mentioned that various publications in the late 1980s and 1990s identified the Companion, most often referred to as The Handbook of the Taoist Canon, as “forthcoming.” 


The Companion consists of three volumes: (1) general introduction and first two historical divisions; (2) second historical division; and (3) bibliographical material and various indexes. The general introduction provides systematic discussions of the history of the Daoist Canon before the Ming dynasty, the Ming Canon and its supplement, and the Tao-Tsang Project. This is followed by the historical and topological entries. The Companion assigns an entry to each work in the Daozang. The works are identified by their full titles and by “work numbers” in the sequential order of their original appearance in the Ming-dynasty Daoist Canon. These catalogue numbers are based on Shi Zhouren 施舟任 (Kristofer Schipper) and Chen Yaoting’s 陳耀庭D aozang suoyin 道藏索引(Concordance to the Daoist Canon; 1996), which is a revised version of Schipper’s Concordance du Tao-tsang (1975), usually abbreviated as “CT” or “DZ” but appearing as a number without abbreviation in the Companion. 


In terms of the historical scheme, all of the works are assigned to one of three periods: (1) Eastern Zhou to Six Dynasties (vol. 1); (2) Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties (vol. 1); and (3) Song, Yuan, and Ming (vol. 2). Within these chronological divisions, the classification follows a topological interpretative framework that applies roughly the same structural pattern across the different periods. For each period, a first distinction is made between texts in general circulation (A), and texts in internal circulation (B). Within category A, the texts are classified according to subject, whereas in category B the framework is determined by the orders, schools, or textual traditions to which the works belong. Most often each division is preceded by a brief general introduction and historical overview. Each individual textual entry consists of a heading, an article and, if applicable, a bibliography. The “heading” contains the complete Chinese title, the length of the work, attribution and date, as well as the catalogue number. The “article” focuses on the following items: translation or paraphrase of the work’s title; details of provenance, authorship, and transmission, based on factual evidence from prefaces, postfaces, colophons, or bibliographic sources; important independent editions outside the Ming-dynasty Daoist Canon; internal evidence bearing on chronological relationships and affiliations with other works in the canon; and description of the nature and purpose of the work, including a characterization or brief summary of its contents. In this respect, the Companion goes far beyond Ren Jiyu 任繼愈 and Zhong Zhaopeng’s 鐘肇鵬important initial attempt at an analytical survey in their Daozang tiyao 道藏提要 (Descriptive Notes on the Daoist Canon; 1991). Unfortunately, the Companion frequently does not provide a complete and accurate translation of the titles of the corresponding texts and title abbreviations are rarely noted or established. The inclusion of these details would have helped to standardize the academic citation of Daoist texts. The “bibliography” includes only references to studies that are exclusively or substantially concerned with the subject of the entry, but these often are not exhaustive. For example, the entry on the Quanzhen qinggui (Pure Regulations of Compete Perfection; DZ 1235) (1170) does not mention that the text has been translated by Vincent Goossaert in his dissertation (1997), while the entry on the Dadan zhizhi (Direct Pointers to the Great Elixir; DZ 244) (1171) does not mention that the text has been translated by Paulino Belamide in his dissertation (2002). Moreover, in the entire contents of the Companion no mention is made to the Daoism Handbook (Brill, 2000 [Cloth], 2004 [Paper]).


In addition to the general introduction, volume 1, “Antiquity through the Middle Ages,” consists of two parts. Part 1 covers the Eastern Zhou (770-256 B.C.E.) to the Six Dynasties (420-589 C.E.). Under texts in general circulation, one finds sections on philosophy (including texts and commentaries), divination, medicine and pharmacology, yangsheng, alchemy, sacred history and geography, collected works, and compendiums and encyclopedias. Under texts in internal circulation, there are sections on Tianshi (Celestial Masters), Shangqing (Highest Clarity), Lingbao (Numinous Treasure), texts in the Dongshen (Cavern Spirit) division of the Daoist Canon, other revealed scriptures, and the Taiping jing (Scripture of Great Peace). Part 2 covers the Sui (581-618), Tang (618-907), and Five Dynasties (907-960). Under texts in general circulation, one finds sections on philosophy (including commentaries, Tang philosophical texts, the Yinfu jing and its commentaries, and commentaries on the Cantong qi), divination and numerology, medicine and pharmacology, yangsheng, alchemy, sacred history and geography, collected works, and handbooks and encyclopedias. For texts in internal circulation, there are sections on the general liturgical organization of the Tang, Zhengyi (Orthodox Unity; a.k.a. Tianshi), the Taiping (Great Peace) division, the Taixuan (Great Mystery) division, Sanhuang (Three Sovereigns) scriptures and rituals, Dongyuan (Cavern Abyss) and Shengxuan (Ascent to the Mystery) scriptures and rituals, Lingbao, and the Dongzhen (Cavern Perfection) division. 


Volume 2, “The Modern Period,” covers the Song (Northern: 960-1126; Southern: 1127-1279), Yuan (1260-1368), and Ming (1368-1644). This “modern period” ends with the Ming because the latest texts contained in the received Daoist Canon only date to the late fifteenth century. Under texts in general circulation, one finds sections on philosophy (including commentaries on the Daode jing, Zhuangzi, Liezi, Yinfu jing, Cantong qi, commentaries on the scriptures of earlier Daoist movements, as well as treatises and essays), divination and numerology, medicine and pharmacology, neidan and yangsheng (here are subdivisions on the Zhong-Lü textual tradition and the so-called Southern School), alchemy, sacred history and geography, collectanea, as well as handbooks and anthologies. Under texts in internal circulation, there are sections on Zhengyi, Sanhuang, Lingbao, Shangqing, Tianxin zhengfa (Celestial Heart) and related rites, Shenxiao (Divine Empyrean) and thunder rites, Qingwei (Pure Tenuity), Jingming (Clear Brightness), Quanzhen (Complete Perfection), the Beidi (Northern Thearch) and Xuantian shangdi (Supreme Thearch of the Dark Heaven) cult, the Wenchang (God of Learning) cult, the Hongen Lingji zhenjun (Perfected Lords of Vast Mercy and Numinous Salvation) cult, Zhenyuan (Perfect Origin) scriptures, and other popular cults. While such organization and analysis have clearly resulted in making the Daoist Canon more accessible, one is left to wonder if such organization perhaps also does a disservice to the occasional entropy and disorganization of the collection, as certain Chinese and Japanese scholars have formerly suggested (see xiii, 41-44). For example, should Li Daochun’s Zhonghe ji (Anthology of Central Harmony; DZ 249) (1174) or the anonymous Nei riyong jing (Scripture for Daily Internal Practice; DZ 645) (1187) really be categorized as “Quanzhen” works? If so, what are the determining criteria for such inclusion? General remarks are made on pages 1130-1133, but many of the individual entries do not contain specific information.


Volume 3, “Biographies, Bibliography, Indexes,” contains biographical notices of frequently mentioned Daoists, the bibliography, information on the twenty-nine contributors, and indexes. The latter includes a classified title index, work number index, Pinyin title index, finding list for other Daozang editions (Yiwen yinshu, Xin wenfeng, and Sanjia ben), and the general index. In order to utilize these indexes, one must know the complete Chinese title, as abbreviations are again not included. Here it should also be noted that the contributors use the idiosyncratic “logia” for translating yulu, usually rendered as “recorded sayings” or “discourse records.” 


As with any publication, there are certain details that deserve closer scrutiny and deeper reflection. In terms of general comments, it is unfortunate that the editors’ have chosen to use “Taoist” and “Taoism” rather than “Daoist” and “Daoism,” while simultaneously employing the Pinyin romanization system (see the comments in my review of Eskildsen’s Teachings and Practices). On some level, any serious researcher is aware that “Taoism/Daoism/Taoïsme/Taoismus” is a Western construct, but if this is all that it is, rather than a place-holder for a religious tradition (Daoist practitioners, communities, and their material expressions), then one might choose to write fiction over history. The Companion also categorizes the Song, Yuan, and Ming as the “modern period,” but this leaves out roughly four hundred years of Daoist history and textual production. Such is, perhaps, a consequence of the centrality of a Ming-dynasty textual collection in Daoist Studies. It might be more productive to think about Daoist history in terms of the following periodization model: (1) Classical Daoism (Warring States, Qin, and Early Han); (2) Early Daoism (Later Han); (3) Early Medieval Daoism (Period of Disunity and Sui); (4) Late Medieval Daoism (Tang, Song-Jin, and Yuan); (5) Late Imperial Daoism (Ming and Qing); (6) Modern Daoism (Republican and Communist); and (7) Contemporary Daoism. The final period encompasses more contemporary developments in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. It also includes the transmission and transformation of Daoism in other Asian, European, and North American contexts, as well as the establishment of the field of Daoist Studies throughout the world. While helpful, such periods should not lull one into believing that they encompass the dramatic changes that occurred between, for instance, the Tang and Song-Jin periods. 


One must also recognize that the Companion is largely a product of Western European Sinology: 24 contributors are European (Dutch, French, German, and Italian), 3 are Chinese scholars primarily trained in Europe, and two are Americans (Terry Kleeman and Nathan Sivin). This composition is obviously a matter of practicality and convenience, as much of the work involved attending seminars and work sessions in Europe. Nonetheless, major voices in the field of Daoist Studies are absent, some of whom and their areas of specialization include Stephen Bokenkamp on the Lingbao scriptures, Judith Boltz on various late medieval texts, Robert Campany on Daoist hagiography, and Livia Kohn on various Tang-dynasty texts. The inclusion of these and other North American scholars might have increased the depth and accuracy of the Companion. Moreover, scholars are left to reflect on the ways in which European Sinological approaches and concerns have determined the organizational structure and resulting interpretation of Daoism documented in this catalogue.


In addition to historical and topical analysis, and insights into textual families and contents, most researchers utilizing the Companion will be seeking guidance concerning date and authorship. Here the editors of the Companion are clear concerning their aspirations: “We kept fast to the idea that we should aim to say the first word about a given text, not the last” (47), and “the results of our labors are far from perfect and will invite many corrections” (52). It is in the area of dating and authorship that the Companion is sometimes not systematic, exhaustive, or comprehensive. Here I will mention two examples from the Quanzhen order. First, in the unattributed general introduction to “Rules and Organization” the reader is informed that the “Chongyang lijiao shiwu lun, although often translated and quoted in the secondary literature, is simply a short programmatic description of the Quanzhen lifestyle of uncertain date and authorship” (1168). However, the individual entry (1170) suggests that the text was, in fact, written by Wang Chongyang, the founder of Quanzhen. With little evidence for or against, the researcher is left to find his or her own conclusions. The second example comes from the individual entry on the Chongyang zhenren jinguan yusuo jue (Perfected Chongyang’s Instructions on the Gold Pass and Jade Gate; DZ 1156) (1185), which states that “the contents and predominant terminology of this work differ greatly from other writings that can be confidently attributed to Wang Zhe.” The entry then simultaneously suggests that the text may have been written by Wang Chongyang before moving to Shandong and/or come from a later phase of Quanzhen history. However, the situation is far more complex and problematic than this entry suggests. As my Ph.D. dissertation suggests (Boston University, 2005), the Jinguan yusuo jue seems to be a discourse record of instructions given by Wang Chongyang during a variety of occasions, and there are, in fact, parallels between this text and other extant writings by Wang, the poetry anthologies in particular. 


Specialists are, then, left with much work to do in terms of dating and authorship. For this, the Companion has established an important methodology: “internal textual criticism” (see 4-5, 42, 47). This method traces quotations and identical textual passages and searches for datable elements such as specific names and terms and the use of stylistic and linguistic criteria. These internal criteria can be used to construct relative chronologies consisting of dates terminus ante quem and terminus post quem, which then, whenever they can be linked to some clearly datable source, may be transformed into a fairly accurate absolute chronology. However, in many individual entries the evaluative criteria and analytical results are not documented, and so scholars are sometimes left with even the most rudimentary work to do. All of this points to the continued difficulty of dating Daoist texts, even with such a monumental research tool as the Companion. Considered in the face of such challenges, the editors and contributors have done a truly remarkable service to the field of Daoist Studies that deserves one’s deep respect and gratitude.


In combination with the Daoism Handbook (edited by Livia Kohn, 2000) and the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Taoism (edited by Fabrizio Pregadio), the Companion will revolutionize Daoist Studies in the West. Compared to similar works, The Taoist Canon is reasonably priced at $175 for the set of three volumes. Scholars of Daoism will find the Companion an indispensable research tool. Every research library with East Asian collections and every scholar of Chinese religions should also acquire these volumes. The Ming-dynasty Daoist Canon is, at last, accessible to such a degree that the field of Daoist Studies may broaden its areas of inquiry and discovery. 


Louis Komjathy

Institute of Religion, Science, and Social Studies

Shandong University 


August 31, 2005 



The Teachings and Practices of the Early Quanzhen Taoist Masters


THE TEACHINGS AND PRACTICES OF THE EARLY QUANZHEN TAOIST MASTERS. By Stephen Eskildsen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004. Pp. vii + 274. Cloth, $50.00, ISBN 0-7914-6045-2.


The present book is a radically reworked, updated, and supplemented version of the author’s Master’s Thesis (University of British Columbia, 1989), which has already exerted some influence on the academic understanding of Quanzhen (Ch’üan-chen; Complete Perfection) Daoism. One’s gratitude and respect must go out to Stephen Eskildsen for the timely appearance of his research on early Quanzhen Daoism, translated as “Complete Realization” in Teachings and Practices. The necessity and importance of Teachings and Practices cannot be overstated—it is the first readily available and accurate Western language publication on this important twelfth-century Daoist movement, perhaps the most significant sub-tradition in all of Daoist history. 


In its earliest historical phases, Quanzhen was a Daoist religious movement that began in the twelfth century under the leadership of Wang Zhe (Chongyang [Redoubled Yang]; 1113-1170). Following the death of Wang Chongyang, his first-generation disciples, specifically Ma Danyang, Wang Yuyang, and Qiu Changchun, began a process of national dissemination that resulted in the establishment of Quanzhen as the dominant Daoist monastic order in northern China. In the contemporary world, Quanzhen Daoism, in its Longmen (Dragon Gate) branch, is the official, government-sponsored form of monastic Daoism in mainland China. In addition, there are now Longmen and Longmen-inspired organizations outside of mainland China, specifically in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. In the West, the two most prominent organizations are the British Taoist Association and Ching Chung Taoist Association.


In the present book, Stephen Eskildsen concentrates on the earliest historical phases of this Daoist movement, specifically on the “teachings and practices of the early Quanzhen masters,” that is, on the life-world and religious system of Wang Chongyang and his first-generation disciples. Employing a historical and textual approach, but with particular attention given to self-authored Quanzhen writings, Eskildsen endeavors to provide a comprehensive overview of the early Quanzhen movement, which the book does adeptly. Teachings and Practices in turn consists of ten chapters: (1) Introduction; (2) Cultivating Clarity and Purity; (3) The Asceticism of the Quanzhen Masters; (4) Cultivating Health and Longevity; (5) Visions and Other Trance Phenomena; (6) The Miraculous Powers of the Quanzhen Masters; (7) Death and Dying in Early Quanzhen Taoism; (8) The Compassion of the Early Quanzhen Masters; (9) Rituals in Early Quanzhen Taoism; (10) Conclusion. The foundations for these various chapters are numerous and often lengthy translations of Quanzhen primary sources from every major genre (hagiographies, poetry, discourse records, etc.), usually followed by Eskildsen’s exegesis. “By employing these materials, my intent is to let the masters speak for themselves” (18). If such a thing is possible through the translation and study of primary texts, this aspiration has been accomplished.


Chapter one is a historical summary of early Quanzhen Daoism. In chapter two, the author focuses on the Quanzhen emphasis on “clarity and purity” (qingjing), alternatively appearing as “clarity and stillness.” This chapter and some of those which follow also provide selected information on internal alchemy (neidan) in early Quanzhen. Chapter three reveals that the early Quanzhen adepts engaged in intensive ascetic practice, including voluntary poverty, wilderness seclusion, meditative enclosure, begging, fasting, physical austerities, and so forth. Chapter four, “Cultivating Health and Longevity,” supplies detailed information on Quanzhen beliefs concerning anatomy and causes of disease and death as well as Quanzhen responses to disease and death. Consideration is often given to internal alchemy practice, with Eskildsen explaining, “The Quanzhen masters possessed and transmitted a great deal of knowledge on how to prevent, cure, and anticipate disease” (88). However, one wonders if “health and longevity” is really the best category for understanding Quanzhen alchemical training; it seems, rather, that “health and longevity” is simply foundational for higher-level religious praxis. Eskildsen’s research in fact hints at this. In the subsequent chapter, a version of which was previously published as “Seeking Signs of Proof” in the Journal of Chinese Religions 29 (2001), emphasis is placed on the types of visions and related “signs” that the Quanzhen practitioners experienced. A major portion of this chapter centers on Yin Zhiping (Qinghe [Clear Harmony]; 1169-1251), a second-generation Quanzhen adept who, I would argue, belongs in a later phase of Quanzhen history. Chapter six centers on “miraculous powers” (Skt.: siddhi) attributed to the early adherents, including the ability to manifest their yang-spirit (yangshen), both during life and after death, as well as clairvoyance, clairaudience, and the like. Eskildsen translates yangshen as “Radiant Spirit,” which is slightly misleading as the meaning of yang here is not simply “illuminated,” but also purified and perfected. In this context, yang refers to those aspects of self which are divine in nature, with yang being associated with the heavens in Chinese cosmology. Specifically, the “yang-spirit” is a spirit of pure yang, wherein all yin qualities, here connoting negative and impure aspects of being (e.g., intellectual and emotional turmoil, desire-based living, materialistic concerns, and so forth), have been refined and transformed. The chapter is subdivided into sections on how to attain miraculous power, manifesting the yangshen, clairvoyance, miraculous physical feats, healing and ritual thaumaturgy, and wondrous mirages. After discussing Quanzhen beliefs concerning death and dying in chapter seven, Eskildsen turns his attention to more worldly concerns, specifically the compassionate and evangelical activities of the early adepts (“Self-absorbed ascetics they were not” [170]) and ritual performances. With regard to the latter, Eskildsen suggests that the early practitioners had ambiguous attitudes toward ritual, but that they did perform traditional Daoist jiao-renewal and zhai-purification rites. 


While noting the centrality of asceticism and internal alchemy in early Quanzhen Daoism, Eskildsen suggests that “clarity and purity,” or “clarity and stillness,” were the central concerns of the early adepts: “The core of this multifaceted religious system lies in the cultivation of the clarity and purity of mind that occurs not only within seated meditation but also throughout all daily activities” (195; also 19, 21-38, 114; cf. 23, 40, 192). Teachings and Practices does instead provide convincing evidence for this characterization. However, as my forthcoming dissertation, entitled “Cultivating Perfection: Mysticism and Self-transformation in Early Quanzhen Daoism” (Boston University, May 2005), suggests, the early Quanzhen movement is best characterized as an internal alchemy tradition. In this sense, “cultivating clarity and stillness” becomes one method or existential approach for completing alchemical transformation. Eskildsen recognizes this (1), but one needs to make a distinction between the classical Daoist quietistic model, based on recovery, cosmological attunement, and mystical absorption, and the late medieval Daoist alchemical model, based on rarification, transformation, and self-divinization. While Quanzhen Daoism did adopt concerns and practices from classical Daoism, here internal alchemy is not a way of “recovering innate nature,” as Eskildsen and Pierre Marsone have suggested, but a set of transformative techniques that facilitate a shift in ontological condition: from ordinary human being to Perfected or immortal. From this perspective, Quanzhen is best understood as the path toward spirit immortality, as the Way of Complete Perfection.


Before concluding, two final points need to be made. First, one hopes that in the future the State University of New York Press can abandon the outdated requirement of using “Taoist” and “Taoism,” instead of “Daoist” and “Daoism,” even when Pinyin is the main romanization system utilized, as is the case with Teachings and Practices. There is either a superficial post-modern critique of “Taoism” as a Western construct (see Journal of Chinese Religions 29 [2001]), which would lead to the abandonment of the category if fully embraced, or an economics of book publishing underlying such a choice. In either case, the practice should be abandoned. Second, many readers may be perplexed by the cover photograph of Teachings and Practices, the source of which is not mentioned in the book. The image is of a statue of the Quanzhen patriarch Qiu Changchun, which is housed in a cave behind the mid-level temple compound at Longmen dong (Dragon Gate Cavern; near Longxian, Shaanxi). 


Historians of Daoism in particular will want to read this book carefully. It helps to rectify the general lack of attention given to post-Tang developments and rectify mischaracterizations of Quanzhen as “bastardized Buddhism” or as a “reform” or “syncretistic” movement. Scholars of Chinese religions, libraries with collections on Daoism, and individuals interested in Daoism will want to acquire this book. For the latter, Stephen Eskildsen’s study is all the more recommended as it recognizes the connection between early Quanzhen Daoism and contemporary Daoist communities, both in China and in the West.


Louis Komjathy

Pacific Lutheran University

December 2, 2004



The Victorian Translation of China

THE VICTORIAN TRANSLATION OF CHINA: JAMES LEGGE'S ORIENTAL PILGRIMAGE. By Norman J. Girardot. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Pp. xxx + 780; illustrations; appendixes; index. Cloth, $75.00, ISBN 0-520-21552-4

The culmination of some twenty years of research, Girardot's book is a historically nuanced and, at times, a dauntingly detailed study of the Victorian missionary James Legge and the related "Victorian translation of China."

James Legge (1815-1897) was a Scottish Congregationalist, representative of the London Missionary Society in Malacca and Hong Kong (1840-1873), and first professor of Chinese at Oxford University (1876-1897). Girardot dedicates the lion's share of his study to the period of Legge's life relating to his association with Oxford University, Max Müller (1823-1900) and the Sacred Books of the East series (published in 50 volumes between 1879 and 1891), and Victorian tradition at the end of the nineteenth century. According to Girardot, "I wanted as much as possible to use the prism of Legge's life and works to get at the Victorian foundations of the modern Western perception of China and religion….Legge becomes in this way a pivotal figure for examining some of the most portentous intellectual and religious developments at the end of the nineteenth centuries" (xv-xvi). In addition to an introduction (The Strange Saga of Missionary Tradition, Sinological Orientalism, and the Comparative Science of Religions in the Nineteenth Century), prologue (Missionary Hyphenations West and East, 1815-1869), and conclusion (Darker Labyrinths: Transforming Missionary Tradition, Sinological Orientalism, and the Comparative Science of Religions after the Turn of the Century), the book consists of eight chapters: (1) Pilgrim Legge and the Journey to the West, 1870-1874; (2) Professor Legge at Oxford University, 1875-1876; (3) Heretic Legge: Relating Confucianism and Christianity, 1877-1878; (4) Decipherer Legge: Finding the Sacred in the Chinese Classics, 1879-1880; (5) Comparativist Legge: Describing and Comparing the Religions of China, 1880-1882; (6) Translator Legge: Closing the Confucian Canon, 1882-1885; (7) Ancestor Legge: Translating Buddhism and Daoism, 1886-1892; and (8) Teacher Legge: Upholding the Whole Duty of Man, 1893-1897. There are also four appendixes covering Max Müller's motto for the Sacred Books of the East, James Legge's Oxford lectures and courses, the principal publications of James Legge and Max Müller, and a genealogy of the Legge family

Girardot's study is much more than a critical biography; it also reveals the various ways in which Leggian constructions, rooted in and manifesting contemporaneous Victorian prejudices and missionary sensibilities, set many of the foundations and enduring interpretative tendencies in Sinology ("sinological Orientalism") and the comparative study of religion. In terms of Daoist Studies, Legge established many of the most influential and still predominant ways of understanding Daoism (see especially 419-45). "Legge was truly one of the inventors of the Daoist tradition in the West. In the late-Victorian period in the Leggian understanding of the tradition, Daoism was primarily a reified entity located classically, essentially, and philosophically within two ancient ‘sacred books' associated with the shadowy religious founders known as Laozi and Zhuangzi….[The] full-blown crystallization of Daoism as a Victorian cultural artifact is more accurately dated to the appearance of Legge's translations of the Texts of Taoism that made up volumes 39 and 40 of the Sacred Books of the East" (420). Such insights deserve critical reflection by anyone conducting research on Chinese traditions. (Girardot provides a parallel discussion of Legge's construction of Confucianism.

However, Girardot's nuanced and sympathetic study suggests that it is as much a mistake to dismiss James Legge as simply a "Christian missionary" or "Western imperialist" as it is to believe that "Victorian constructions" concerning China are merely artifacts of intellectual history. During his scholarly life, James Legge not only translated (and thus transformed) Chinese cultural traditions but also was transformed through his scholarship

The Victorian Translation of China will be of interest to researchers in seemingly unrelated fields of study: Chinese history, Chinese religion, intellectual history, comparative religion, missionary history, post-colonial studies, and the history of English higher education. As the detailed nature of Girardot's study (with its 200 pages of notes!) may prove off-putting to some readers, one can image an abridged version that draws particular attention to the still lingering legacy of Victorian interpretations of China. This might ensure the larger readership that The Victorian Translation of China deserves. 


Louis Komjathy

Boston University

June 25, 2003

To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth

TO LIVE AS LONG AS HEAVEN AND EARTH: A TRANSLATION AND STUDY OF GE HONG'S TRADITIONS OF DIVINE TRANSCENDENTS. By Robert Ford Campany. Daoist Classics 2. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Pp. xxviii + 607; illustrations; index. Cloth, $95.00, ISBN 0-520-23034-5.

This book marks a major contribution and an important event in the history of Daoist Studies. Drawing upon his earlier work on the zhiguai ("accounts of anomalies") genre of Chinese literature, entitled Strange Writing: Anomaly Accounts in Early Medieval China (SUNY, 1996), here Campany provides a historical study and critical, annotated translation of the Shenxian zhuan (Biographies of Spirit Immortals; translated as Traditions of Divine Transcendents by Campany). A collection of some 100-odd hagiographical accounts, this work has traditionally been attributed to Ge Hong (283-343), famed author of the Baopuzi ([Book of] Master Embracing Simplicity), grandnephew of the fangshi (lit., "formula master") Ge Xuan (d. 244), and leading exponent of the Taiqing (Great Clarity; translated as Grand Purity by Campany) tradition of laboratory alchemy (waidan) during the fourth century. 

With regards to the justification for such a translation endeavor, Campany explains, "Ge Hong's works afford us an unparalleled glimpse into certain aspects of Chinese religious life and practice at a critical time in the history of Chinese religions….Ge Hong records elements of religious ideas and disciplines relating to the quest of transcendence that might otherwise remain unknown to us, and his writings constitute a valuable terminus ante quem for them….With respect to Daoist religious history proper, furthermore, Ge Hong's writings, and the practices, ideas, and values represented in them, constituted an important voice in ongoing inter- or intrareligious rivalries and self-definitions" (9-10). 

The book is, in turn, divided into three parts. Part one, "Traditions of Divine Transcendents and Its Context," covers Ge Hong and the writing of the Shenxian zhuan, the nature of religion reflected in Ge Hong's works, the Shenxian zhuan as hagiography, and text-critical matters. Part two is Campany's critical, annotated translation of the Shenxian zhuan, which contains the following sections: (1) Group A: Earliest-Attested Hagiographies; (2) Group A: Earliest-Attested Fragments; (3) Group B: Early-Attested Hagiographies; (4) Group B: Early-Attested Fragments; (5) Group C: Later-Attested Hagiographies. Finally part three is a highly detailed and specialized consideration containing Campany's text-critical notes, which include sources for extant Shenxian zhuan hagiographies. This section also discusses items attributed to the Shenxian zhuan excluded from the translation. Campany's attentiveness, care, and dedication are evident throughout the present study, especially in his detailed annotations and notes and his insights concerning theoretical and methodological issues (on possible translations of xian see 4-5; on the appropriateness of referring to Ge Hong as a Daoist see 6-9). 

There are a number of noteworthy features that deserve further mention, not the least of which is the opportunity to read a complete, annotated translation of one of the most important Daoist hagiographies. According to Campany, "My work on Traditions, a hagiography of more than one hundred figures spanning many centuries, is premised on the contention that it is a case-by-case history of the successful quest for transcendence. I believe that it was made, intended, and read as a work of record, an evidential work, a set of transmissions or traditions…about persons, practices, and results claimed to be actual" (98-99). Individuals studying and researching Chinese religious traditions in general and Daoism in particular will find the section "The Nature of Religion Reflected in Ge Hong's Works" (18-97) especially fascinating. Here Campany provides information on the following topics: the pneumatic idiom, dietetics, sexual arts, alchemy and the scriptures of Grand Purity, the bureaucratic idiom of life and death, the adept's armament, preferences and persuasions (including levels of achievement and taxonomies of practice), and adepts and society. This section also contains the only readily available English-language discussion of the Taiqing tradition of laboratory alchemy, the alchemical tradition associated with the family lineage of Ge Hong. 

In addition, the text-critical method developed, employed and advocated by Campany identifies distinct textual stratas within extant editions of the Shenxian zhuan (distinct Shenxian zhuans if you will), mostly datable to between the fourth and seventh centuries C.E. According to Campany, "This feature of my translation [the identification of temporal stratification] might be the single most useful one- as it is usually the case that each hagiography contains within itself relatively early- as well as late-attested elements" (124). However, Campany's methodology also raises a fundamental consideration: what does it mean for a contemporary Western scholar to dissect and reorganize a text considered sacred by a religious tradition? This reorganization also makes consultation of the original Chinese text(s) more difficult, a difficulty which Campany attempts to avoid by arranging the hagiographies alphabetically. 

Nonetheless, To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth is highly recommended for historians of Daoism and Chinese religion. Scholars of comparative religion will also find insights here concerning issues of death and post-mortem existence as well as hagiography as a type of religious writing. As the cost of the book will be prohibitive for many, it is to be hoped that the University of California Press will follow its previous policy of issuing a paperback edition a year or so after the publication of the clothbound version. Every scholar of Daoism and research library should have this book.

Louis Komjathy

Boston University

May 9, 2003

Way and Byway


WAY AND BYWAY: TAOISM, LOCAL RELIGION, AND MODELS OF DIVINITY IN SUNG AND MODERN CHINA. By Robert Hymes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Pp. xvii + 364; appendix; glossary; index. Cloth, $60.00, ISBN 0-520-20758-0; Paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-520-20759-9.


Expanding on his earlier Statesmen and Gentlemen: The Elite of Fu-chou, Chiang-hsi, in Northern and Southern Sung (Cambridge University Press, 1986) and Ordering the World: Approaches to State and Society in Sung Dynasty China (co-authored with Conrad Schirokauer; University of California Press, 1993), here Hymes examines Chinese conceptions of the divine during the Song dynasty (Northern: 960-1126; Southern: 1127-1279). In particular, this study focuses on two new religious traditions at the time, namely, the Tianxin (Celestial Heart) tradition (ch. 2), a nationally active school of healing and exorcistic ritual, and the "Three Immortals cult" (chs. 3, 4, and 5), also referred to as the "Three Lords cult" or "Huagai cult," which originated on Huagai shan (Flower Canopy Mountain; Jiangxi) and centered on worship of the so-called Three Immortals (Masters Fuqiu, Wang and Guo). "The central project of this book is to connect the different choices that different actors make from a repertoire of religious models to differences in their places in society, the situations in which they find themselves, and their views of religious and secular authority" (5).


Hymes argues for a strong, sometimes unconscious but sometimes purposeful tendency to analogize between two spheres treated as equally real: from the divine to the human and from the human to the divine. He also sees Song religion as the meeting point of a relatively few common assumptions, a wide variety of usages, gods, rituals, and practices, and several organized and semi-organized bodies contending to impose order on variety (21). Religious activity in turn expanded, multiplied, and differentiated during the Song. Way and Byway contains nine chapters: (1) Introduction; (2) Celestial Heart Taoism; (3) Hua-kai Mountain and Its Immortals; (4) The Rise of the Hua-kai Cult; (5) Explaining the Rise of the Hua-kai Cult; (6) Taoists, Local Gods, and the Transformation of Wang Wen-ch'ing; (7) The Bureaucratic Model: A Speculation; (8) God Worship and the Chiao; and (9) Conclusion: The Two Models. Finally, an appendix discusses issues revolving around the dates of specific individuals and texts, specifically Deng Yougong, the Shangqing tianxin zhengfa (Correct Methods of Celestial Heart from Shangqing; HY 566), Shangqing gusui lingwen guilü (Spirit Code: A Numinous Text from the Marrow of Shangqing; HY 461), and Huagai shan Fuqiu Wang Guo san zhenjun shishi (Verities of the Three Perfected Lords Fuqiu, Wang, and Guo of Huagai Mountain; HY 777). 


Utilizing diverse source materials, Way and Byway offers in-depth analysis of Song religious innovations such as popular ritual movements and deity cults. Perhaps most importantly, the book makes a compelling argument for revising the "bureaucratic model" of Chinese divinity. Hymes identifies two competing "models of divinity," namely, the bureaucratic model and the personal model (on characteristics of the former see 4, 171-72, 267; on the later see 4-5, 265-66). The centrality of these models within Chinese society varies according to three elements that condition their use: (1) the god, (2) the representer or actor, and (3) the context (267). According to Hymes' analysis, the bureaucratic model tends to predominate among professional clergy, while the personal model tends to be more central to lay and local conceptions. This general tendency, of course, varies according to social circumstances. The reader may also become confused by reference to the "Three Immortals cult" under three different names: Three Immortals cult, Three Lords cult, and Huagai cult. This confusion is added to because the Chinese terms are not included in either the main body of the work or the glossary. Gathering from the title of a related text, the cult was most specifically related to worship of the "Three Perfected Lords" (san zhenjun). This minor deficiency aside, Way and Byway is an excellent book, recommended for scholars specializing in Chinese history and religion. The book will make an important contribution to research libraries and the personal collections of researchers involved in the study of Daoism as well as of Song and post-Song religious traditions.


Louis Komjathy

Boston University

March 1, 2003



Westliche Taoismus-Bibliographie

WESTLICHE TAOISMUS-BIBLIOGRAPHIE (WTB)/WESTERN BIBLIOGRAPHY OF TAOISM. By Knut Walf. Essen, Germany: Verlag Die Blaue Eule, 2003. 5th rev. ed. Pp. 209. Paper, €24.00, ISBN 3-89924-020-0.

First published in 1986, this book is the fifth, revised edition of Knut Walf’s (University of Nijmegen, Netherlands) Westliche Taoismus-Bibliographie and contains approximately 2100 entries. It is the most up-to-date bibliography of Western book-length publications on Daoism. It supplements and expands previous Western-language bibliographies, including Michel Soymé and F. Litsch “Bibliographie du tao¬isme: Etudes dans les langues occidentales” (1967; 1971); Donna Au and Sharon Rowe’s “Bibliography of Taoist Studies” (1977); Julian Pas’ A Select Bibliography of Taoism (1988; revised 1997); Anna Seidel’s “Chronicle of Taoist Studies in the West 1950-1990” (1990); Franciscus Verellen’s “Taoism” (1995); Fabrizio Pregadio’s “Chinese Alchemy: An Annotated Bibliography of Works in Western Languages” (1996); and Louis Komjathy’s “Daoist Texts in Translation” (2003) (see 206-8; also Title Index to Daoist Collections [Three Pines Press, 2002], 14-15). The book divides into five sections: (1) Daode jing (11-48; 430 entries); (2) Zhuangzi (49-57; 81 entries); (3) Weitere Daoistische Texte/Further Daoist Texts (58-68; 100 entries); (4) Darstellungen-Sekundärliteratur/Secondary Literature (69-205; 1448 entries); (5) Bibliographien/Bibliographies (206-8; 31 entries).

There are three primary advantages and noteworthy contributions of WTB. First, it is the most up-to-date bibliography of Western book-length publications on Daoism. Second, it catalogues works in less “conventional” Western languages such as Czech, Danish, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and so forth. Finally, it includes popular publications of “Western Daoism.” Some of these include books by Charles Belyea (now Liu Ming) and Steven Tainer (74), John Blofeld (76), Mantak Chia (88-90), Ni Hua-ching (157-60), Stuart Olson (161), Alan Watts (195), Eva Wong (199-200), and so forth. Although WTB does not provide a full bibliographical documentation of “Western Daoist literature,” it does represent one important beginning. WTB also has a number of disadvantages. It only catalogues book-length publications. Journal articles, probably the most prolific, diverse and important sources for secondary scholarship on Daoism, are not documented. Some relevant publications include Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, History of Religions, Journal of Chinese Religions, Monumenta Serica, T’oung Pao, and so forth. In addition, Walf only catalogues some Ph.D. dissertations. (For a more complete catalogue see

Finally, there are some strange choices for inclusion, including The Blue Cliff Record (59, 64), Two Zen Classics (61), The Art of War (65), The Rhetoric of Immediacy (107), Chan Insights and Oversights (107), and so forth. Such inclusion hints at an unstated assumption that the Chan/Zen Buddhist tradition is somehow intricately connected with Daoism and Daoist Studies. As almost any reference work of this kind is bound to have deficiencies and idiosyncratic choices, the above disadvantages are outweighed by the advantages. A more serious issue is Walf’s organizational typology. Using the primary division of Daode jing/Zhuangzi and “Further Daoist Texts” presupposes an outdated interpretative framework based on a “philosophical Daoism”/“religious Daoism” dichotomy. Such bibliographical ordering once again privileges classical Daoist texts over the scriptures of organized Daoist sub-traditions. This division is obviously based more in convenience and lack of familiarity, but it does lead to the unjustified perpetuation of the Daode jing and Zhuangzi as the “most representative” Daoist texts, in contrast to “further” or “other” Daoist texts. (For a more complete catalogue of Daoist texts in translation see A more detailed and helpful organizational typology, utilized in the bibliographies of Anna Seidel and Julian Pas for example, would employ a topical and tradition-based categorical system for both primary texts in translation and secondary scholarship.

It is to be hoped that the next phase of bibliographical cataloguing will be a collaborative online, searchable and updatable bibliography of international scholarship, including non-Western publications. One can imagine a topical and tradition-based annotated bibliography edited by scholars from each major language-family. The Daoist Studies Website ( would be an ideal choice for such a project. Until such a project is initiated and completed, Walf’s bibliography will prove useful for scholars and students of the Daoist tradition. Research libraries with Daoist collections should acquire the book.

Louis Komjathy Pacific Lutheran University December 2, 2004

Women in Daoism


WOMEN IN DAOISM. By Catherine Despeux and Livia Kohn. Cambridge, Mass.: Three Pines Press, 2003. Pp. viii + 296, illustrations, charts. Paper, $25.00, ISBN 1-931483-01-9. 


This volume assembles together for the first time a comprehensive history of women in Daoism. Despeux and Kohn explore both symbolic and historical women in the Daoist tradition, from the earliest times up to the near-present. Each of the book’s three sections focuses on a unique aspect of women in the Daoist tradition. This is preceded by an introduction covering aspects of women’s activity and representation. Five “visions and roles” are identified: female as cosmic mother; women as symbols of cosmic yin, the complement of yang, and their expression in fertility; women as divine teachers; women as possessors of divine communication with the supernatural and of healing powers; and the female body as the seat of ingredients needed to achieve immortality. These five “visions” are each tied to an historical timeframe, or in the case of the first “vision,” to a text, namely, the Zhuangzi. The mother-image in the Zhuangzi links motherhood to the Dao and cosmic production. In the second vision, the authors underscore how the yin-yang pairing led to active roles for women as cosmic partners with men in the Taiping (Great Peace) and early Tianshi (Celestial Masters) movements. The authors clearly identify the inexact relationship some Western scholars have drawn between sexual practices—both within and outside a Daoist framework—and Daoist and alchemical practices (10). The emergence of women as divine teachers is linked to Shangqing (Highest Clarity) Daoism in the fourth and fifth centuries, while the vision of women as possessors of divine communication with the supernatural is tied to the emergence of important female teachers in the Tang and Song, such as Zu Shu (fl. 889-904), Cao Wenyi (fl. 1119-1125) and Sun Bu’er (1119-1182) (17-19). The final vision is discussed in terms of inner alchemy, especially as it developed in nüdan (“female alchemy”) in the Late Imperial period. The introduction ties together with a note on women and their social context. Confucian norms influenced how moral regulations solidified in the traditions, but Daoist “institutions” also served as a safe haven for widowed and divorced women who failed to fill normative roles in Confucian society.


Having provided an historical framework for the representations and roles of women in the tradition, the first section goes on to focus on major female Daoist gods, Xiwangmu (Queen of Immortals), Shengmu yuanjun (Mother of the Dao, also known as Mother Li,) and Doumu (Dipper Mother). The gods are well chosen not simply for their importance in the tradition, but also for the models they invoke. Xiwangmu invokes the vision of a cosmic mother who gives birth not to humans or gods but to the world. She is a divine catalyst, a divine instructor, and a divine administrator, holding sway over the immortals. Particularly in later worship, the Queen of Immortals has the ability to command salvation of the faithful. Mother Li represents another face of cosmic mothers. Mother Li’s life represents the ideal life-cycle of human women. Mother Li descends to be born as a human, is a filial daughter, gives birth to a pure life-force in the form of Lord Lao, instructs her son, then retreats from the world as a benevolent but distant ancestor. The Dipper Mother is a star deity and a Daoist adoption of the Tantric deity Marici, a personification of light and dawn. As a savior and healer, she is invoked through visualizations that unite the adept with cosmic light and “oneness with cosmic principles” (75-76). As the cosmic mother of the nine star-gods of the dipper, she is a nurturer and instructress, but the Dipper Mother also maintains her own salvific powers and authority.


The second section of the book deals with historical women in the Daoist tradition: immortals (xian), model nuns, matriarchs and founders, and Quanzhen (Complete Perfection) nuns. Female immortals are discussed largely in the vein of all other immortals: as perfected beings, mostly hermits and eccentrics tied to the Han and pre-Han period. These sprite-like beings escaped the human life through dietary regimen, breathing exercises or sexual techniques. They travel at will between the divine and mundane realms. They share with shamans magical powers, but differ in their erratic behavior, saving and performing magic as personal whim rather than as social duty. Model nuns are discussed in their relation to the rise of monasticism in the Tang. Models nuns are discussed as chaste examples of moral and spiritual purity. They are identified with both the ruling elite and commoners, and are described as having the ability to command great authority. Matriarchs and founders are noted particularly from the political collapse of the Tang. As iconic of medieval founders, Zu Shu is discussed, credited as the founder of the Qingwei (Pure Tenuity) school of Daoism. The iconic matriarchs are Cao Wenyi and Sun Bu’er. These women differ from earlier renunciants in their literary competence, relationships to elites, and integration with society. Their practices are described as “more conventional” and more community oriented. They contribute to, rather than escape from society. They undertake both visualizations and breathing exercises for personal perfection, and social rituals and exorcisms for the benefit of the community (149-50). In this aspect they are more fully engaged in society than their Six Dynasties and Tang predecessors. The final aspect of historical women discussed is that of Quanzhen nuns. The authors discuss the rise of major convents, their key locations, and their changing relationship with government and community. The authors summarize the monastic codes, practices and lifestyles. In particular, they linger over the discomfort many endured to partake of the tranquility necessary for perfection practices to underscore the very determined nature of those women who have chosen and still choose this life. (172-74)


As expected, the final section, devoted to inner alchemy, is a masterful discussion of the topic. Building on Despeux’s earlier Immortelles de la Chine (Pardès, 1990) and Kohn’s unparalleled and exhaustive scholarship on Daoist meditation, yoga, and history, as well as other recent scholarship in the field, the authors cover (consume) three major aspects—inner landscape, inner alchemy and stages of attainment. For each of these aspects, the authors provide a general (voir unstated andocentric) background, and follow this with a discussion of how women’s inner landscape, inner alchemy and stages of attainment each differ from the (unstated male) norm. Indeed, the major problem with the discussion is the authors’ failure to acknowledge the male-centered norm that underlies the Daoist and alchemical worldview. In attempting to write women (back) into the tradition, the authors flirt with the danger of idealizing the historical and social context within which Daoism emerged and continued to develop. They smooth over male-centered biases in alchemical symbolism, and attribute to historical women inordinate intellectual and religious authority.


Despite this idealized presentation, the discussion of alchemical schools, techniques, processes and soteriological potential provides an excellent survey of the topic. The work as a whole gathers together for the first time all major research in the field. It is an excellent resource for teachers and scholars, and is a welcome addition to the field. The detailed information provides an excellent framework for undergraduate and graduate courses in Chinese religion, women and Chinese society, or women in world religions.


Sara Elaine Neswald

McGill University

December 2, 2004