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Towards a date for the Chin-so liu-chu yin

  • T. H. Barrett


The Chin-so liu-chu yin is a text of twenty-nine fascicles preserved in the Taoist canon in the form of a revelation to Chang Tao-ling, the late Han founder of the Taoist religion, to which comments by Li Ch‘un-feng (602–670) are attached. Though scholars have not so far addressed the question of the origins of the text itself, a certain willingness to accept the attribution of the commentary has already been made manifest. Yet to the eye of the expert in Sung Taoism this attribution raises serious doubts: text and commentary display features much more reminiscent of Sung religion than that of the early T'ang. It has already been noticed that Li Ch'un-feng provides information on the cult of the city gods (ch'eng-huang shen) and on Thunder magic; the former religious development may be traced back before the T‘ang but only achieved prominence towards the end of the dynasty, while the latter is unattested in T‘ang Taoist literature. One might add that Li displays a detailed knowledge of the legend of Hsü Sun in a developed form—again a cult v with early origins hardly noticed until the late T‘ang. The text also provides information (though separately) on the Buddhist warrior-king Vaisravana (P‘isha-men PI) and on the seventh-century warrior-hero Li Ching (571–649): these two figures were eventually to merge.



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1 Text no. 1015 in the enumeration of the Harvard-Yenching Index to the Taoist Canon, abbreviated to CSLCY below.

2 See Saso, Michael R., The teachers of Taoist Master Chuang (New Haven and London, 1978), 50 and 280 (n. 132), 239 and 294 (n. 17); Johnson, David, in n. 219, p. 436, of ‘The city-god cults of T'ang and Sung China’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 45, 2, 1985, 363457, quoting the opinion of a colleague in Taoist studies.

3 See Boltz, Judith M., A survey of Taoist literature: tenth to seventeenth centuries (Berkeley, 1987), p. 262, n. 42.

4 See the references in n. 2 above.

5 References in anecdotal literature of the late T'ang and Five Dynasties to the magical power of thunder do not amount to evidence for a knowledge of Thunder Magic in the Sung Taoist sense: rather, they show that the techniques of Thunder Magic remained unknown to writers of the period even when they were aware of the importance of thunder to new forms of Taoism. My earlier remarks on this question, Modern Asian Studies, 14, 1, 1980, p. 168, n. 18 (in a review of Saso, Teachings of Taoist Master Chuang), could have been more cautiously expressed.

6 CSLCY, 17. 12a-b, 28.7a. The standard work on Hsü remains Akizuki Kan'ei, Chūgoku kinsei Dōkyō no keisei (Tokyo, 1978).

7 CSLCY,, 25.17a. For the merging of these two, see e.g. Dudbridge, Glen, The Hsi-yu chi: a study of the antecedents to the sixteenth-century Chinese novel (Cambridge, 1970), 34–5.

8 CSLCY, 21.4b.

9 Hsü, Liu, Chiu Tüang Shu 79 (Peking, 1975), 2717.

10 CSLCY, 15.1b.

11 See Beckwith, Christopher I., The Tibetan empire in Central Asia (Princeton, 1987), 35–6. Even this distant disaster would have had far less impact than the border raids of the eighth century.

12 Beckwith, Tibetan empire, 168–72.

13 See Malek, Roman, Das Chai-chieh hi: Materialien zur Liturgie im Taoismus (Frankfurt am Main, 1985), 47, 86.

14 CSLCY, 25. 17a; D., C. Twitchett (ed.), Cambridge history of China, III (Cambridge, 1979), 468; Ou-yang Hsiu, Hsin Tang Shu 58 (Peking, 1975) 1506 (later book titles containing the phrase shih-tao).

15 See Hsin-ch'eng, Chang, Wei-shu t'ung-k'ao (Shanghai, 1957), 1091–2, for some of these: the latter page quotes the jaundiced remark of the eighteenth-century editors of the Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu that ‘old books disappear and grow fewer by the day; only Li Ch'un-feng's works grow in number as time goes by.’ One of his alleged works of prophecy was so popular (and so potentially subversive) that in the early Sung the government, it is said, deliberately released a ‘scrambled’ version of it to undermine confidence in the work and put it out of circulation: see Yüeh K'o Ting-shih , 1 (Peking, 1981), 2.

16 CSLCY, 25.16b: mention is simply made of the ‘immortal ancestor’ of the ‘Li family’; in the T'ang context the meaning is unambiguous.

17 See Wei Hsün , Liu Pin-k'o chia-hua lu (Tsung-s'hu chi-ch'eng edition), 6.

18 See Beckwith, , Tibetan Empire, 148, and Weinstein, Stanley, Buddhism under the T'ang (Cambridge, 1987), 7783; for fuller details, see the 1981 Princeton dissertation ‘A study of Chinese documents concerning the life of the Tantric Buddhist Patriarch Amoghavajra (A.D. 705–774)’, by Raffaello Orlando.

19 See Kuo-fu, Ch'en, Tao-tsang yüan-liu k'ao (Peking, 1963), 125–6

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Towards a date for the Chin-so liu-chu yin

  • T. H. Barrett


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