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

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

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

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

Synopsis

This first Western-language translation of one of the great books of the Daoist religious tradition, the Taiping 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, the Taiping jing raises 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 ancient Laozi were spread with missionary fervor among the population at large. The Taiping jing demonstrates 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.

Excerpt

The Taiping jing, or Scripture on Great Peace, sets forth views on social and political organization that are exceptional. There is nothing quite like them in other texts from ancient and early medieval China. the text proclaims that the traditional gap between the status of men and of women and also between leaders and followers must be narrowed. It also questions the reliability of scholarly traditions of reasoning and demands that the belief in heaven’s life-giving power be the sole principle of human action. It invites every concerned individual to enter into an ongoing dialogue with everyone else. Humankind, faced with the possibility of an imminent and violent end to the world brought about by the crimes that men have committed throughout history, is called upon to jointly mobilize its resources. There is therefore no doubt that this text has a lot to say, but it is not easy to access its message. Recent Chinese editions and Chinese-language translations of the text, however, have eliminated some of the problems inherent in accessing its message, and this translation is deeply indebted to them.

My involvement with the Scripture on Great Peace has been of some duration, and thanks are due to many colleagues and friends, and in particular to everyone in Daoist studies. From my perspective, Daologists across the world have shown themselves to be true followers of the dao, open, cooperative, and happy to share information and invite others to venture into their field. Special thanks are due to Christoph Harbsmeier for initiating this translation project. the librarians at the University of Sydney’s Fisher Library and at the University of New South Wales have helped . . .

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