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The Scripture on Great Peace: The Taiping jing and the Beginnings of Daoism

Barbara Hendrischke
Series: Daoist Classics
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 420
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  • Book Info
    The Scripture on Great Peace
    Book Description:

    This first Western-language translation of one of the great books of the Daoist religious tradition, theTaiping jing, or "Scripture on Great Peace," documents early Chinese medieval thought and lays the groundwork for a more complete understanding of Daoism's origins. Barbara Hendrischke, a leading expert on the Taiping jing in the West, has spent twenty-five years on this magisterial translation, which includes notes that contextualize the scripture's political and religious significance. Virtually unknown to scholars until the 1970s, theTaiping jingraises the hope for salvation in a practical manner by instructing men and women how to appease heaven and satisfy earth and thereby reverse the fate that thousands of years of human wrongdoing has brought about. The scripture stems from the beginnings of the Daoist religious movement, when ideas contained in the ancientLaoziwere spread with missionary fervor among the population at large. TheTaiping jingdemonstrates how early Chinese medieval thought arose from the breakdown of the old imperial order and replaced it with a vision of a new, more diverse and fair society that would integrate outsiders-in particular women and people of a non-Chinese background.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93292-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-66)

    TheTaiping jing太 平 經 orScripture on Great Peace(hereafter TPJ), is an outsider with respect to China’s tradition of great books. It differs in content and style from the texts that helped to create, nourish, and sustain the country’s central institutions and thereby became part of them. It was not until the twentieth century, when scholars began to articulate their skepticism about these institutions and search for alternative traditions, that the TPJ gained broader scholarly attention.

    When Werner Eichhorn took an interest in the TPJ in the 1940s and 1950s he approached it with the suspicion that he...

  6. Translation

    • SECTION 41 How to Distinguish between Poor and Rich
      (pp. 67-94)

      This section is one of the most practice-oriented in the text.¹ It consists of two parts, one analyzing relations of property and the other the lot of women. The first is too short to be a separate section of its own, and there is no other material in the received text to which it could belong. The second part is linked closely to the following section, section 42, an indication that here, at least, the sequence of sections is not haphazard.

      The first half of the section discusses the stages of wealth and poverty and how they are achieved. I...

    • SECTION 42 One Man and Two Women
      (pp. 95-104)

      This short section deals with sexual conduct. The need to have children is asserted despite the contemporary trend to avoid it. This need is seen as rooted not in the demands of filial piety or other family-oriented considerations, but rather as rooted in nature. The benefits of having children are said to override any benefit individuals might hope to gain from sexual abstinence or from sexual techniques preventing the flow of semen (benefit that is, in any case, described as imaginary). What is at stake is the order of nature, and in particular weather conditions and the growth of plants,...

    • SECTION 43 How to Promote the Good and Halt the Wicked
      (pp. 105-112)

      This section provides a concrete example of “heaven-guided” political administration. A general hearing is organized that is meant to unite the local population and government organs in order to isolate any unruly elements that have become active in a neighborhood. It can succeed only if it follows a ritual that corresponds to cosmic patterns. Thus the participants are divided into groups, each of which represents a cosmic force. The groups are seated in a way that reflects cosmic order. This is what we might call a worldly or participant-oriented use of ritual and is in itself an interesting phenomenon. The...

    • SECTION 44 How to Preserve the Three Essentials
      (pp. 113-120)

      This section reads like an exegesis of Laozi’s political thought. In proclaiming that there are only three human needs, it follows the fundamentalist approach ofLaozi81.¹ To fulfill these needs means to preserve life. Should men ignore them the world would come to an end. This position was not as unrefuted as one might suppose. It contradicts outright Confucius’s dictum about the respective importance of food, weapons, and ethics. He thought food irrelevant because men die anyway. Although these needs play a role in deciding government policy and evaluating its outcome—the people, of course, have to be fed,...

    • SECTION 45 The Three Needs and the Method of [Dealing with] Auspicious and Ominous Events
      (pp. 121-125)

      The Master argues that the lives and growth of animals and plants might be at risk should what is necessary be neglected and accessories become overbearing. The fact that human beings are in the same situation as the fauna and flora around them lends strength to the warning issued in section 44: disaster beckons should human endeavors go beyond what men need to stay alive.

      It is argued that the damage—that is, the promotion of superfluous objects and activities—has already been done. Safeguarding the three needs requires reversing this tendency. This is, as the Master put it, an...

    • SECTION 46 You Must Not Serve the Dead More Than the Living
      (pp. 126-135)

      This section deals with funerary rituals and the ancestral cult. It argues that men suffer from the increasing presence of demons brought about by lavish sacrifices. Such a presence bodes evil because daytime and the walkways of life belong to the living. Should demons be about, their deadly qualities will cause illness and early death. The Master gives cosmological reasons for this: Life, Yang, and the sun must not be overpowered by death, Yin, and the night sky. Men must not be misled by filial piety to trespass against this rule and allow the love they feel for their parents...

    • SECTION 47 How to Verify the Trustworthiness of Texts and Writings
      (pp. 136-140)

      This section promotes the nourishing of the vital principle as the basis for all social and political reform.¹ This point lies within the core tradition of theLaozi’s political philosophy and has repercussions throughout ancient thought, for instance, in Mengzi’s interest inhaoran zhi qi. Moreover, as Huan Tan (ca. 43 B.C.E.–28 C.E.) informs us, this was the technique that men who studied theLaoziexpected to learn.² However, this section does not define or discuss the term, but merely establishes it as central.

      Disciple and Master discuss two objections that can be made totaipingbeliefs. One is...

    • SECTION 48 An Explanation of the Reception and Transmission [of Evil] in Five Situations
      (pp. 141-152)

      The term “reception and transmission [of evil]” (cheng fu承 負), used only in the TPJ, is central to its doctrine. It points to evil deeds, which intaipingterminology are violations of heaven committed in the past and inherited by the present. These violations have resulted in a continuous chain of evil that reaches far into the past and is continuously carried on and reinforced, with no end in sight. Humankind is doomed once these evil deeds have accumulated to a certain extent. This concept contributes greatly to the text’s millenarian message and is one of the two reasons...

    • SECTION 50 An Explanation of the Master’s Declaration
      (pp. 153-169)

      TheMaster’s Declarationis a prophetic text consisting of thirteen lines of seven characters each that describes the fate of society in general and the chances for individual happiness.¹ The wording suggests that both the short Declaration as well as its exegesis issue from the Celestial Master, who uses the phrase “my declaration.” TheMaster’s Declarationis almost too vague to attempt a translation, but it must not be left out if we are to present the full spectrum of the original text. It characterizes the transcripts of the Celestial Master’s words as exegetical, clarifying, man-made texts as opposed to...

    • SECTION 51 The True Contract
      (pp. 170-172)

      This short section is placed after theDeclaration,as the Master demands in this section’s last sentence. It touches on the right and wrong of actions and the trustworthiness of actions as well as writings. What it says and how it says it are at odds with the main gist of the discussions between the Celestial Master and disciples. At the start, and without any guidance, the disciple comes up with the right answer. All that is left for the Master to do is elucidate this answer. But, more importantly, what the student says is not in line with the...

    • SECTION 52 How to Work Hard to Do Good
      (pp. 173-179)

      This dense section deals with an individual’s accountability for his deeds. This accountability does not end with death but extends to the world beyond. Good deeds guarantee a happy life in the netherworld, and with some luck they can also bring longevity or, when someone’s personal disposition is right, an avoidance of death. This main argument is supported by two general observations about the human condition. One is concerned with life’s stages and is reminiscent of what is said in section 44 about growing up and raising children. It is argued that full-time religious practice is possible only after one...

    • SECTION 53 How to Distinguish between Root and Branches
      (pp. 180-188)

      This section loosely connects several topics by proposing that in each of the situations discussed a return to the root will make things right. Giving an example of the role of the root, the Master identifies as a root the original version of a text that must be restored when layers of annotation and corruption have damaged it. He promises that when texts are in proper shape, so, too, will be society at large. Moreover, since brevity and oneness are characteristics of the root, it is best that one stick to a single attempt in the process of divination. “Root”...

    • SECTION 54 How to Enjoy Giving Life Wins Favor with Heaven
      (pp. 189-194)

      The text in this section is damaged. It seems to consist of the transcripts of two separate dialogues, both of which are corrupt beyond any hope of emendation. The first dialogue concerns moral action. The issue is raised in a broad context that includes one’s personal life as well as political policy, and it is dealt with in a practical manner, integrating rather than excluding a wide range of approaches. Although it is best to resemble heaven, bring things to life, and let the country’s administration take care of itself, not everyone is free to act that way. The Master...

    • SECTION 55 How to Classify Old Texts and Give a Title to the Book
      (pp. 195-205)

      The task of putting written material in order not only resembles redeeming the world, it also promotes such redemption. The following section instructs a ruler in how to go about assembling texts. The first step, only vaguely defined, is the division of all writings from all ages into different categories. There are meant to be writings ondaoand heaven; writings on “wisdom,” which probably means moral questions; writings on “worthy action,” that is, on political issues; and manuscripts without any o‹ cial status, “which the people have put forth.”

      Memorable passages from these four sets of writings are to...

    • SECTION 56 How the Nine Groups of Men Disperse Calamities Inherited from Former Kings
      (pp. 206-216)

      This section documents how all social groups cooperate in a society at peace.¹ Their togetherness is the ruler’s responsibility, and his success depends on their support. He creates the environment in which each task can be performed and thus attracts the right men to perform those tasks. The interconnection between these groups and between their tasks resembles the relationship between Yin and Yang, where each element is of similar or perhaps even equal importance. We are told that this ideal society functions so well because each group exerts its own influence on the commonqi.Hierarchies are taken for granted,...

    • SECTION 57 How to Examine What Is True and What Is False Dao
      (pp. 217-220)

      This section gives a short preview of the entire missionary process, a long-lasting course that is begun in the presence of the Master and his disciples through the distribution of texts. From this beginning, a process of corrections follows, first of texts and then of men’s understanding. Schools assembled around standard texts will eventually improve men’s behavior and thus reduce the load of inherited evil. Since this load is big, no sudden relief can be expected. Still, progress is observable and proves the validity of the Master’s texts.

      There is an apparent contradiction between the long process through which reforms...

    • SECTION 58 On the Four Ways of Conduct and on [the Relationship between] Root and Branches
      (pp. 221-230)

      This section begins with a discussion of human conduct with respect to the rules laid out by the prognostic sciences. The argument is abstract and formalistic. We are not told what the rules in question are, but the discussion leaves no doubt that they do not involve any moral or political considerations. At stake are advantage, auspiciousness, good fortune, and their opposites, to various degrees and in surprising combinations. The approach is that of an expert in the diagnosis of options for future development. He is involved in prognostics as a scholarly subject. Thus for him the fortunate and the...

    • SECTION 59 Big and Small Reproaches
      (pp. 231-240)

      This section stresses the importance of communication and openness to the flow of information. While this is a topic of mainstream political thinking—as expressed, for instance, in theMengzi¹—it also agrees with thetaipingideal of sharing and cooperation. The Celestial Master places this subject in a cosmic context, in the tradition of cosmological and prognostic reasoning. All deviations from the regular course of nature must be seen as willed by heaven. If men refuse to interpret these deviations as warnings or decide not to act upon them, their fate is sealed. The Master makes this point repeatedly...

    • SECTION 60 How Books Illustrate [Rule by] Punishment and [by] Virtue
      (pp. 241-254)

      Rulers who establish their authority by applying the penal code prevent the arrival of great peace. The Celestial Master states this repeatedly, arguing that the misery of those who perish in prisons and those whose lives are cut short causes heaven to be vengeful and inclines it to send calamities. Another, more formalistic, train of thought follows in this section. Here, the course of the year is said to represent what severe government and what a reign by virtue can achieve. As if it were selfevident, the text identifies Yang with virtue on the one hand, and Yin with punishment...

    • SECTION 61 On Digging Up Soil and Publishing Books
      (pp. 255-273)

      Although this section is long and long-winded, it is well composed and not repetitive. The disciple’s questions and objections make the argument plausible and convincing. The section takes as its starting point the close resemblance between soil and mother. The section stresses the close relationship between people and their natural surroundings. Heaven and earth are depicted as mother and father, the former nagging, the latter punishing. Earth nurses its children through its natural springs; it suffers pain from injuries to its skin and body. Men can be to earth what intestinal worms, fleas, and tooth bugs are to men. The...

    • SECTION 62 Dao is Priceless and Overcomes Yi and Di Barbarians
      (pp. 274-282)

      The Celestial Master’s doctrine leads to the political pacification of humankind and is thus immeasurably valuable. It is certainly worth more than beautiful women and heaps of gold. This is the answer to one of the more banal of the disciple’s questions.¹

      This pacification is to be achieved in a traditional manner: A ruler is presented with the Master’s writings, studies them, and does what they say, then worthy men come to offer their support and make all the people content. As a result, natural disasters cease and the ruler’s position is secured.

      Most of this section is written in...

    • SECTION 63 Officials, Sons, and Disciples of Outstanding Goodness Find Ways for Their Lord, Father, and Master to Become Transcendent
      (pp. 283-300)

      In promotingtaipingmorality the Celestial Master does not oppose commonly accepted moral norms but rather argues that conformity with them is not enough. Goodness does not result merely from sticking to norms. Instead, it requires taking initiative, active involvement, and self-denial in the service of others. Considering the great value the Celestial Master places upon life and its protection, it is not surprising that a good person is described as someone who makes others happy and prolongs their lives. However, the TPJ is not a text about philosophical principles for their own sake, but rather a manual on how...

    • SECTION 64 How to Subdue Others by Means of Dao and Not by Means of Severity
      (pp. 301-306)

      This section contrasts the effects of moral example with those of physical violence and clever stratagems. Violent conduct is seen as wrong for a number of reasons: the spirits detest it, it resembles the way criminals act, and it causes cosmic disorder by interrupting the flow of information between heaven and men. However, this is only one aspect of the issue. What must also be considered is heaven’s own use of violence when it punishes men by thunder and lightning. A second contrast thus emerges, a contrast between violent action and the use of force intended to control such action...

    • SECTION 65 Threefold Cooperation and Interaction
      (pp. 307-325)

      This section, repetitive and lengthy as it is, deals with topics that are relevant to social relations and political hierarchies. The claim that the world as we know it functions only because everything is made up of three components leads the disciple to conclude that the arrival of “theqiof great peace”(taiping qi)results from the cooperation of three. The existence of three safeguards the continuity of each single one, or, considered from the opposite perspective, if one were missing, all three would no longer exist. This line of argumentation points to the concept of equality. Although the...

    • SECTION 66 On the Need to Study What Is True
      (pp. 326-342)

      This section does not have much to say that is new. We hear about the chance for great peace to arrive and the necessary preparations, and learn that without moral reform this chance will be missed. The word “good,” which throughout the text is applied totaipingbelievers, is here defined as adhering to “dao,virtue, and benevolence.” The Master stresses that a moral person will not only be of benefit to the world, but he will also himself thrive by obtaining cosmic support for all his endeavors. He is thus assured of living a long life and being successful...

    (pp. 343-372)
    (pp. 373-392)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 393-410)