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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Eschatology in Ming-Qing sectarian precious volumes (baojuan) and its daoist elements Sze, Tak Pui

Abstract

The Ming-Qing era (1368-1912) was an important period in the history of Chinese popular religious sects. Modem scholars have paid attention to their development for a long time, and have conducted a lot of studies, some of which deal with the relationship of popular sects to Daoism. Few scholars focus on Daoist elements in sectarian eschatology although it is one of the important themes of sectarian teachings in the Ming and Qing. What are the contents of Daoist eschatology? Are there any similarities and differences between Daoist and sectarian views on the end of the world and collective suffering and salvation? What was the early development of sectarian eschatology? The intention of this thesis is to investigate these issues. This thesis is mainly based on textual studies; the two main kinds of primary sources are the Daoist texts of the Six Dynasties (220 A.D.-589) collected in the Daoist Canon (Daozang), and precious volumes (baojuan), the scriptures of popular sects. The Six-Dynasties period was a chaotic period after the collapse of the Han empire (206 B.C.-220 AD), a dynasty that had been one of golden ages of Chinese history. The scriptures composed during this period present us with contemporary understandings of collective sufferings and prophecies. Baojuan literature appeared in the mid-Ming, and was devoted to sectarian doctrines and myths. From the discussions of this thesis, it can be concluded that the eschatological belief was not exclusive to the common people in China, and it was an indigenous tradition shared by ordinary sectarian members and literati Daoist believers. Although there are exceptions in early scriptures, in most Ming-Qing precious volumes the explanation of disasters and the expectation of a blissful age came from Daoist tradition. Buddhist terminology and narratives about universal crises made a contribution to sectarian eschatology, but sectarian writers do not adopt many important Buddhist philosophical ideas. Compared with their Daoist counterparts, Buddhist borrowings are superficial.

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