This study employs the critical methodology called “redaction criticism” originally developed in New Testament studies, for the analysis of the relationship between two important but overlooked sources of early Taoist thought: the Kuan Tzu essays entitled Nei-yeh and Hsin-shu, hsia. Although the relationship between these essays has long been the subject of controversy, the author concludes that Hsin-shu, hsia (written ca. 200 B.C.) is a deliberate abridgement, rearrangement, and restatement of Nei-yeh (written ca. 330 B.C.) that demonstrates a different ideological viewpoint.
Whereas Nei-yeh is a collection of twenty-two mostly rhymed stanzas devoted to the practice of guided breathing meditation, its cosmological significance and its physiological, psychological, and spiritual effects, Hsin-shu, hsia is a work of mixed prose and verse that is expressly concerned with the political benefits of such “inner cultivation” practices. In other words, it sees them as techniques for rulership.
This new ideological position is significant. Based upon previous research by the author and on the work of other scholars, the author hypothesizes that there were three distinct, but related, aspects of early Taoism: the Individualist, the Primitivist, and the Syncretist. According to this categorization, Nei-yeh is an Individualist text and Hsin-shu, hsia is Syncretist The deliberate rearrangement and emendation of Nei-yeh by the Hsin-shu, hsia author argues for the position that Syncretist Taoism is a direct descendant of Individualist Taoism — perhaps even its lineal descendant.