Guide Comparative Journeys: Essays on Literature and Religion East and West (Masters of Chinese Studies)

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History of the Taoist Canon. Sources other than the Taoist Canon. Taoist History After the T'ang. The Immortals and their Mythology. The Supernatural Bureaucracy. The Human Body and Longevity Practices. Taoism in Chinese Culture. Officialdom and Confucianism.

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Original Chinese Buddhist Sutras. Buddhism in Taoist Scriptures. This essay is not a "state-of-the-field" presentation of only the most recent scholarship on Taoism, although I have tried to include the latest important research. Nor is it a chronological presentation of Western scholars' discovery and study of Taoism since Maspero — Barrett has outlined this story , Finally, this is not a general presentation of Taoism, nor is it merely an annotated bibliography. What I have tried to do is to summarise what we know and believe we understand today about Taoism.

Therefore, the text does not necessarily reflect the importance of the topics in the whole scheme of Taoism, but rather the interest and study a topic has received from Western scholars.

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  • I have tried to structure my presentation so that each sentence, or at least each paragraph, summarises one study indicated by the name of the author and the year of publication — detailed references are in the bibliography. The criteria used to select the studies reviewed are outlined on the first page of the bibliography. Here I would like to note that I adopt James J. Liu's motto for state-of-the-field essays: "Failure to mention a work does not necessarily imply lack of esteem, nor does mention of a work necessarily imply unreserved agreement" in Silbergeld Chronicle of Taoist Studies The inspiration for this particular and, I think, very useful way of introducing students to a subject came from my teacher Herbert Franke's presentation of the whole field of sinology in Sinologie , an excellent and successful tour deforce that no scholar in his right mind will ever again have the courage to undertake.

    I started work on this text in , after scholars of religion at the Peking Academy of Social Sciences expressed interest in a report summarising Western research on Taoism since Therefore, this chronicle was originally intended for a Chinese audience and stressed problems such as the need to rehabilitate Taoism, distinguish it from popular religion, and study it from its own abundant literary and canonical sources. Since the Chinese did not need a Westerner to inform them about Japanese research, this was excluded from the start — inasmuch as one can exclude the important Japanese contributions on which many Western studies are based.

    Thus, this work is dedicated first of all to our colleagues in the People's Republic of China in the fondest hope that it may encourage their study of their own religious heritage and serve as a basis for dialogue and collaboration, which Taoist scholars in the West urgently need and have been waiting for these last forty years. For various reasons, I had to abandon the project in A after the completion of a first draft in French and Chinese.

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    However, in the need for such a text for Western students of Taoism was brought home to me when I taught two courses on Chinese religions at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The dearth of introductory material for students made me save the old draft from the waste basket. As long as we do not have an overall history of Taoism to complete Kaltenmark's Lao-tzu and Taoism a, and the various presentations of Taoism in encyclopaedias used as textbooks, this chronicle should prove a useful guide to the growing wealth of specialised studies on various aspects of Taoism — it being more informative than a bibliography and more accessible than the concise encyclopaedic presentations.

    To make this sort of chronicle entirely objective and complete is, of course, impossible.

    Preliminary Material

    Any presentation is necessarily biased in favour of the topics and periods with which the author is most familiar. Moreover, for the last twenty years, my own research on Taoism largely has been a sideline of my professional work, and I have undertaken this survey only because full-time Tao- ologists have not provided this kind of necessary help to students. Therefore some studies, especially unpublished ones, may have escaped my attention. Readers are encouraged to voice criticism and provide additional material.

    We will be happy to provide space, in future issues of the Cahiers, for addenda and the updating of this chronicle. But, as perfection is beyond the reach of mortals, the best fate this text can meet is to contribute to the progress of research in such a way that it will be outdated sooner rather than later.

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    I want to thank the friends and colleagues whose help during the various stages of this work has been essential to its completion. Hubert Durt read the entire text and contributed valuable information. The fact that Ellen Neskar was available for the word-processing can only mean that the Taoist gods approved of the undertaking. Discussions with her provided much inspiration and improvement during the final writing. All errors and omissions are, of course, my responsibility.

    Of the basic components of traditional Chinese culture the Taoist religion was the last to be discovered and studied in the West. This belated recognition of Taoism was due less to practical obstacles than to a kind of ideological blind spot.

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    • The image of China in seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe had been formed by Christian missionaries. Instructed by their Confucian teachers, these missionaries described to their European audience a Chinese civilisation that resembled more the Confucian ideal of an agnostic and well-regulated society than the reality of Chinese life. What the missionaries saw with their own eyes of the religion practiced by the people was looked down upon as "superstition" incompatible with Christianity.

      Taoism remained invisible to them except for the texts that enjoyed the esteem of Confucian schoolmasters. The missionaries, moreover, were incapable of discerning the difference between Taoism and popular cults. They regarded all religious phenomena that were not clearly Buddhist as vulgar and degraded residues of what had once been the "pure" Taoist philosophy of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu. This misunderstanding, endemic in the Chinese elite and perpetuated by the missionaries' dream to create a new "Confucian" China, purified of all superstitions and converted to Christianity, was very tenacious.

      At the end of the nineteenth century the academic study of China began and soon flourished at many European universities. Several of the great scholars of that period showed interest in Taoism, and some of their studies are still not outdated. The investigation of the religious life in Amoy by J. It is indicative of the European mentality of the late nineteenth century that, apart from missionaries describing the "superstitions" of their neophytes, de Groot was the only European to take a scholarly interest in the religion flourishing all around him in the streets and temples of China.

      The other outstanding studies of that period were not based on field-work but took shape in the seclusion of European libraries. They applied the critical methods of European philology and historiography to ancient Chinese texts. Edouard Chavannes and Paul Pelliot treated the textual history of the Tao-te ching Chavannes ; Pelliot ; cf.

      During the first half of the twentieth century a new trend in European thought sought a better understanding of the basic structures that underlie human consciousness. In the course of this search for a deeper and more objective understanding of the collective consciousness of societies, non-European civilisations came to be regarded with renewed interest: the further removed the mentality and social organisation of another civilisation was from one's own, the easier — it was thought — one could distill from it the basic functions of human thought and the fundamental structures of all social behaviour.

      These fundamental structures motivate and condition the conscious thought of a society's elite yet remain below the threshold of perception. It is easier to grasp them at the base of a society's hierarchy, in the daily life of the people, and in its images and dreams. Scholars sought to understand the basic mental make-up of a given society by studying its myths and its folklore, its customs and rituals ; partly they examined primitive societies Durkheim and the anthropologists with a sense of absolute Western superiority and hence evolutionist , partly they adopted a relativist perspective to study Hochkulturen Weber.

      Applying these methods to the study of ancient China, Marcel Granet , a disciple of Durkheim, shed new light on Chinese religion.

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      Taoism, for him, was "the great mainstream of Chinese thought" coming down from mythical antiquity "from which the orthodox doctrine detached itself only with difficulty" , vol. II : We might add that, several times in the course of history, the official Confucian doctrine renewed itself by delving back into this stream as, for example, in Sung-period Neo-Confucianism, cf. At about the same time, Henri Maspero ventured into the seemingly chaotic abundance of texts in the Taoist Canon.

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      His critical studies of these texts made him the pioneer of Taoist studies in Europe. He was able to date enough Taoist texts to trace, from the Han to the T'ang dynasty, the history of an organised Taoist religion with its beliefs, rites and practices as well as its social and political ideas , a. That a Taoist religion existed in the Six Dynasties period had been known before Maspero, but mostly it had been mistaken for a Chinese adaptation and imitation of Buddhism. Maspero showed that, quite to the contrary, the Buddhists were the ones who, during their first centuries in China, borrowed their Chinese vocabulary from Taoism and adapted their teachings to Taoist concerns such as methods of meditation ; repr.

      It is all too easy today to criticise and correct various details in the extensive and varied writings of Maspero, but his critics must remember that it is this great pioneer's vision of Taoist history and Taoist practices that still inspires the second and third generations of his disciples on Maspero, cf. Their weekly seminars began to produce a new generation of scholars devoted to the study of Taoism.

      Since the s a growing number of American scholars have joined their ranks. The following chronicle briefly summarises the major aspects of Taoism that these and other Western scholars have tried to understand and describe over the past forty years. This distinction, we believe today, is incompatible with historical reality.

      Tao-chia is a term invented by historiographers and librarians in order to classify a wide assortment of personalities and texts in the dynastic histories and the imperial libraries; not only the Lao-tzu, the Chuang- tzu and related writings but works of alchemy, hygiene, rituals, etc. To complicate matters still further, tao-chia was, in the Six Dynasties period, a designation for Taoist priests — whereas tao-jen 3H A was a designation for. Buddhist monks. Moreover, before modern scholarship, the term Tao-chiao was never used to distinguish Taoist philosophy from Taoist religion but to differentiate the Taoist tradition from Confucianism and Buddhism Sivin ; Strickmann Today, "Taoist philosophy" Tao-chia is almost synonymous with Lao-Chuang, because it refers to the textual tradition of the Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu.

      The following remarks on Lao-Chuang studies are not exhaustive. They focus on works that have placed these texts in their proper religious context. Ghuang-tzu mentions and quotes the teachings of his "Old Master" Lao- tzu , but as a text, the Chuang-tzu fE-f-, is the oldest Taoist source. It was translated into German Wilhelm and French Wieger The best scholarly translation of the first seven chapters was done by Graham The interpretations of all these translators are based on the text edition of the Confucian scholar Kuo Hsiang fjSJsi.

      Kuo Hsiang, alas, did not simply write a commentary to the Chuang-tzu; he edited i. Today it is becoming increasingly clear that, on the one hand, the author of the Chuang-tzu was much inspired by the religious practices of his time and that, on the other hand, his spirit is present, in a diffuse but very profound way, in the majority of the sacred texts of the Taoist Canon Maspero 42; Robinet ; Schipper For the views of Japanese scholars on these questions, cf.

      Sakade Schipper The same questions have of course been raised in connection with Lao-tzu's Tao-te ching. The best of the innumerable translations of this text are already old: the historical interpretation by Waley , the philological analysis by Duyvendak and the elegant rendering by Lau Another excellent, but incomplete, translation was made by Kaltenmark a, In the U. Chen , There are summaries of these discussions in Girardot and Yu In the sense that Schwartz has defined mysticism in a very. However, scholars looking for early traces of the vast religious phenomenon of Taoism and therefore interested in the question of how the Tao-te ching was understood and practiced at various periods, have found that this scripture has played a bewildering variety of roles that have little to do with mysticism.

      In his study of the Legalist school, Vandermeersch corrected the view of Legalism as merely a pragmatic doctrine of Realpolitik. The Ho-shang kung has nothing in common with the philosophical interpretation of the Lao-Chuang school. Following in the footsteps of Granet and Maspero, a good number of scholars today agree that the Tao-te ching was understood as a teaching of physiological practices for the individual, a teaching which also can be applied to social groups, village or state.

      The cosmogonie metaphors of the text advocate a return to the undifferentiated state before the unfolding of the universe, a state which, in the case of man, corresponds to the pure potentiality of the embryo and, in the case of society, to a harmonious state of anarchy with rules of conduct so well adapted to the course of nature that they can be fol-. Once this interpretation is clear, we are no longer perplexed by the many different roles the Tao-te ching plays in Taoist social, individual and doctrinal contexts and in the religion of the Chinese people.

      The two Ma-wang-tui versions of the Tao-te ching are remarkably similar to the standard received text, but they have engendered new debates on chapter divisions and interpolations in the text W. Boltz Both versions reverse the order of the text, and Henricks' study and translation of them consequently are called Lao-tzu Te-tao ching. Most Western scholars accept this identification e. Moreover, many sinologists in the West regret the outright positivist attitude of Chinese scholars that tends to obstruct the publication of complete information on subjects considered superstitious or "fanciful" Tu That the Huang-Lao school i.

      A complete translation of the Huai-nan tzu is the goal of a current project in Paris in collaboration with Le Blanc.