Laughing at the Tao: Debates among Buddhists and Taoists in Medieval China

Laughing at the Tao: Debates among Buddhists and Taoists in Medieval China

by Livia Kohn
     
 

In the early centuries after the introduction of Buddhism to China, the new religion had to come to terms with the worldview of the Confucian elite, the inherent Chinese sense of ethnic superiority, and China's indigenous higher religion of Taoism. The Xiaodao lun (Laughing at the Tao) is an important document of the debates among Buddhists and Taoists,

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Overview

In the early centuries after the introduction of Buddhism to China, the new religion had to come to terms with the worldview of the Confucian elite, the inherent Chinese sense of ethnic superiority, and China's indigenous higher religion of Taoism. The Xiaodao lun (Laughing at the Tao) is an important document of the debates among Buddhists and Taoists, debates that contributed to the process of cultural adaptation. Written by the Taoist renegade Zhen Luan in the year 570, this text aims to expose the absurdity and inconsistency of Taoist doctrine, mythology, ritual, and religious practice. In a complete and fully annotated translation of the Xiaodao lun, Livia Kohn draws on rich Japanese scholarship to place the work within the context of the debates and expose the political schemes behind the apparently religious disputes.

Kohn's work offers rare insight into an important and hitherto largely unexplored episode in Chinese intellectual history. She examines the complexities of medieval Buddhism's relationship to Chinese statecraft and society and shows how the shifting fortunes of varying factions and values figured in this polemical confrontation. Three appendices complete the work, summarizing materials of both earlier and later debates and analyzing the Taoist sources cited in the Xiaodao lun, which brings together many Taoist materials that would otherwise be lost. Richly informed and highly relevant to an understanding of medieval China, Kohn's work greatly enhances the study of medieval Buddhist and Taoist myth, rhetoric, and ideology.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This book is an important new addition to the growing study of Taoist thought in medieval China. Livia Kohn's intriguing book shows her sophisticated knowledge and linguistic skills in reappraising original texts of medieval Chinese religious thought."--The Journal of Religion

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691034836
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
05/15/1995
Pages:
264
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.62(h) x 0.98(d)

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What People are saying about this

[Kohn] makes available a very important and intrinsically interesting episode in Chinese intellectual history to both academic and general audiences. [Her] book will go a long way toward filling a considerable gap in English-language studies of this field.

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