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The nature and function of the Buddhist and Ru teachings in Li Daochun’s (fl. ca. 1288) Wondrous Way of Peerless Orthodox Truth Crowe, Paul Benjamin Michael

Abstract

This study examines of the way of cultivation taught by Li Daochun (fl. ca. 1288) and preserved by him and several of his disciples in two lengthy works: Qingan yingchan zi yulu (Dialogic Treatise of Master Qingan yingchan) and the Zhonghe ji (Anthology on the Centre and Harmony). Li describes his teaching as the "Wondrous Way of Peerless Orthodox Truth" and claims that great teachers have transmitted it wordlessly down through the ages. Further, it lies at the heart of the Three Teachings: Buddhist, Ru literati, and Daoist. This "Wondrous Way," being fundamentally beyond words, simultaneously exists outside the confines of the "Three Teachings." It is well known among scholars studying the many varied facets of what is referred to generally as "Taoism" that teachers such as Li Daochun, who described themselves as Golden Elixir (jindan) adepts, also represented themselves as unifiers of the Three Teachings. It has often been noted that Golden Elixir texts show evidence of influence from Buddhism, (Chan Buddhism in particular) and from ideas associated with the way of personal cultivation taught by Confucius and Mencius, and later reinvented by Ru literati of the Song and Yuan dynasties and, at the close of the thirteenth century, unified by Zhu Xi (1130-1200) under the designation "Daoxue" (Teaching of the Way). Employing translated material from the two texts mentioned above, this study enriches these observations with greater detail concerning the precise nature of the influences, both in terms of their provenance and the way in which Li has reinterpreted and incorporated these "Teachings" into his way of cultivation. This added detail sheds light on what Li thought the labels "Buddhist Teaching" and "Ru Teaching" represented. By examining exactly how these teachings were adapted to Li Daochun's "Wondrous Way of Peerless Orthodox Truth" insight is also gained into Li's formation of his own identity. He demonstrates a high degree of facility with a variety of Buddhist doctrines and the Daoxue approach to cultivation as uses his impressive understanding to mould the "Teachings" to his own purposes. Ultimately, Li's project of "unification" rests on his efforts at recreation.

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