The Daoist Monastic Manual: A Translation of the Fengdao Kejie

The Daoist Monastic Manual: A Translation of the Fengdao Kejie

The Daoist Monastic Manual: A Translation of the Fengdao Kejie

The Daoist Monastic Manual: A Translation of the Fengdao Kejie

Synopsis

The Fengdao kejie or "Rules and Precepts for Worshiping the Dao" dates from the early seventh century and is a key text of medieval Daoist priesthood and monasticism, which was first formally organized in the sixth century. Compiled to serve the needs of both monastic practitioners and priests in training it describes the fundamental rules, organizational principles, and concrete establishments of Daoist institutions. Speaking in their own voices and presenting the ideal Daoist life of their time, priests and recluses come to life in this fascinating ancient document. Livia Kohn here offers the first complete annotated translation of the Fengdao kejie. She begins with three introductory chapters that outline the development of Daoist organizations and institutions, discuss the date and compilation of the work, and present key issues of terminology and worldview. The text itself contains eighteen sections that address the importance of karma and retribution, the creation of buildings, sacred statues, and scriptures, the design of sacred utensils and ritual clothing, the organization and structure of the ordination hierarchy, as well as a number of essential rituals, from the recitation of the scriptures to the daily devotions and the ordination ceremony. The Daoist Monastic Manual offers a clear and vibrant description of the lifestyle and organizational structures of medieval Daoism, rooting the religion in the concrete reality of daily activities.

Excerpt

However central and important in medieval Daoism, the Fengdao kejie did not stand alone. Rather, it was surrounded by various other texts that reinforce, supplement, and expand the information contained in the text. These surrounding works include behavioral manuals that add to the organizational and ritual information contained in the Fengdao kejie; collections of rules, often haphazard, that are both behavioral and organizational and to a large extent cover the same ground; technical works on ordination ranks, procedures, and vestments, mostly associated with the eighth-century ritual master Zhang Wanfu; and one other extensive ritual collection of the eighth century that discusses organizational structures and practices relevant to both lay priests and monastic institutions (see table). All these texts provide supplementary data and are used variously in the footnotes of the translation.

Aside from covering a highly similar ground, these various texts on medieval Daoist institutions also have a particular vocabulary in common that is highly specific to them and often cannot be found in dictionaries. Terms cover notions of worldview, an extensive hierarchy of people and priests, monastic buildings and institutions, rules of different form and dimensions, and ritual procedures, as well as specific physical and mental actions to be undertaken in proper veneration of the Dao. This chapter, after presenting the main supplementary sources to the Fengdao kejie, will outline the major terms used in the text, providing an overview of the worldview and organization through the specific vocabulary employed.

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