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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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).