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Taiping jing hendrischke, barbara


The Taiping jing was compiled in the late 6th century by Daoist practitioners who were close to the Upper Clarity (shangqing 上清) group whose basis was at Mount Mao (Maoshan 茅山), in Jurong County 句容市 of Jiangsu Province. Due to linguistic and doctrinal reasons, most scholars agree it originated in the late second century CE. It consists of roughly three textual layers. The bulk, layer A, is an account of meetings between a heaven-sent Celestial Master (tianshi 天師) and a group of at least six students who have travelled from elsewhere to be instructed. They discuss the urgent need to actively promote universal great peace so as to prevent the approaching cataclysm that threatens the end of humankind and, in consequence, heaven and earth. The main topic is the need for widespread moral reforms. Regarding philosophical intention and terminology, layer A has parallels in Han dynasty (206 BCE- 220 CE) sociopolitical thought. Layer B contains conversations between a disciple and members of the celestial bureaucracy who discuss the chances for a career in the celestial bureaucracy. The disciple aims to turn immortal, which became the primary content of Daoist religious instruction. Layer C contains religious materials, in the form of talismans (fu 符) or reiterated characters (fuwen 複文), images and short Upper Clarity passages; it also includes a brief summary of layer A; several sections, composed in layer A style, propose positions divergent from those expressed in layer A. The 6th-century text was organised in ten divisions (bu 部), 170 chapters (juan 卷) and 366 sections. Simultaneous to the compilation, it was accepted into the Daoist Canon (Daozang 道藏). Due to the Canon's spurious transmission, parts of the Taiping jing were lost so that the text we have today has 57 chapters. It relies on the Canon that was printed in 1445. A manuscript preserved in Dunhuang (S 4226) contains the full table of contents of the 6th-century text. The 9th-century Taiping jing chao (Digest of the Taiping jing 太平經鈔), in ten divisions, consists of excerpts from the full 6th-century text. We can draw conclusions from these two sources regarding parts of the 6thcentury text that have not been transmitted. For the four hundred years between the supposed origin of much of the Taiping jing and the creation of the transmitted text, there is hardly any evidence for the text's existence. Throughout the Han dynasty, the term great peace was widely used. Historical sources mention that in the outgoing first century BCE and again in the mid-second century CE, texts with great peace in their title were presented to emperors but did not find acceptance. These texts may have had some impact. Whether the second one, titled Taiping qingling shu (Book on great peace with the title written in blue 太平清領書), played a role in the Yellow Turban rebellion of 184 CE is under debate. The Yellow Turbans were originally the Great Peace Movement (Taiping dao 太平道) that had started well over a decade earlier. Daoist hagiographic sources, followed by a number of scholars, depict the second of these texts on great peace as the original version of the Taiping jing that entered the Daoist Canon. It was written by Gan Ji 干 吉, an expert in vitality techniques (fangshi 方士) in the region of Langya 琅琊 in the southeast of today’s Shandong province and presented to Emperors Shun 顺 (r. 125-144) and Huan 桓 (r.147-168). In 166 BCE, the scholar-official Xiang Kai 襄楷 travelled from Langya to the court to present the text and two memorials in its praise that official historical accounts have preserved. While there is no way to prove any material link between the Taiping qingling shu and the received Taiping jing, it is not impossible that layer A and layer B materials of the received text originated in the environment and at the time when Gan Ji and Xiang Kai were active.

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