We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Philosophy and Religion in Early Medieval China

Alan K. L. Chan, Yuet-Keung Lo

Publication Year: 2010

An exploration of Chinese during a time of monumental change, the period after the fall of the Han dynasty. Exploring a time of profound change, this book details the intellectual ferment after the fall of the Han dynasty. Questions about “heaven” and the affairs of the world that had seemed resolved by Han Confucianism resurfaced and demanded reconsideration. New currents in philosophy, religion, and intellectual life emerged to leave an indelible mark on the subsequent development of Chinese thought and culture. This period saw the rise of xuanxue (“dark learning” or “learning of the mysterious Dao”), the establishment of religious Daoism, and the rise of Buddhism. In examining the key ideas of xuanxue and focusing on its main proponents, the contributors to this volume call into question the often-presumed monolithic identity of this broad philosophical front. The volume also highlights the richness and complexity of religion in China during this period, examining the relationship between the Way of the Celestial Master and local, popular religious beliefs and practices, and discussing the relationship between religious Daoism and Buddhism.

Published by: State University of New York Press


pdf iconDownload PDF
p. v

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 1-21

Early medieval China was a time of profound change.1 The fall of the Han dynasty altered drastically the Chinese political and intellectual landscape. Leaving aside changes on the political front, which fall outside the scope of the present work, questions about “heaven” and the affairs of the world that seemed to have been fully resolved under ...

read more

1. Sage Nature and the Logic of Namelessness: Reconstructing He Yan’s Explication of Dao

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 23-52

There is little question that the concept of wu 無, variously translated as “nothing,” “nonbeing,” and “negativity,” is central to the early medieval Chinese intellectual enterprise. Famously, the Jin shu 晉書 (History of the Jin dynasty [265–420]) relates that during the Zhengshi 正始 reign period (240–249) of the Wei dynasty (220–265), He Yan 何晏 (d. 249), Wang Bi 王弼 (226–249...

read more

2. Tracing the Dao: Wang Bi’s Theory of Names

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 53-70

The third-century Chinese commentator of the Laozi 老子, Wang Bi 王弼 (226–249) is credited with being one of the founders of xuanxue 玄學 (Studies of the Profound). One of the most intriguing claims his acclaimed commentary makes is that the sage infers the Dao as the source of all things, starting from the names of objects. In this chapter, I argue that it is Wang Bi’s correlative...

read more

3. Hexagrams and Politics: Wang Bi’s Political Philosophy in the Zhouyi zhu

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 71-96

Since the publication of Tang Yongtong’s 湯用彤 article in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies in 1947,1 Wang Bi 王弼 (226–249) has been a main focus in Western studies of Chinese philosophy. This interest in Wang Bi is due in part to his brilliant commentaries on the Laozi 老子, the ...

read more

4. Li in Wang Bi and Guo Xiang: Coherence in the Dark

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 97-134

The standard textbook doxa on the understanding of li 理 (“principle,” “pattern,” “coherence”) in the two greatest xuanxue 玄學 thinkers, Wang Bi and Guo Xiang, is still perhaps that suggested long ago by Wing-tsit Chan:...

read more

5. The Sage without Emotion: Music, Mind, and Politics in Xi Kang

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 135-172

One of the main issues in xuanxue 玄學 debates during the Zhengshi 正始 era (240–249) of the Wei dynasty (220–265) concerns whether or not the sage experiences emotion. Increasing interest in the emotions as the interface between the inner world of desires, goals, and plans, and the outer world of objects ...

read more

6. The Ideas of Illness, Healing, and Morality in Early Heavenly Master Daoism

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 173-202

Although many scholars of Daoism have noticed the close interaction between early Heavenly or Celestial Master Daoism (Tianshi dao 天師道) and popular religion in the Han period (206 bce–220 ce), it is important to identify the distinctive features of the former and examine how they impacted ...

read more

7. Imagining Community: Family Values and Morality in the Lingbao Scriptures

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 203-226

In his recent article, “A History of Surrender” 屈服史, the intellectual historian Ge Zhaoguang has identified three ways that Six Dynasties Daoism seemingly “surrendered” to the forces of social and imperial orthodoxy.1 He argues that: (1) The early Celestial Masters organized their followers into twenty-four parishes—administrative centers in fact—but abandoned the system...

read more

8. What is Geyi, After All?

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 227-264

A constant theme of nearly all introductory and general expositions of the history of Buddhism, be they composed in the East or in the West, be they presented in the classroom or in written works, is that the presumed translation technique of geyi 格義 played a central role in the transmission and assimilation of Indian Buddhism in China during its earliest phases. According to this scenario...

read more

9. The Buddharaja Image of Emperor Wu of Liang

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 265-290

In 1999, the Taiwanese scholar Yan Shangwen published a book entitled Liang Wudi 梁武帝. Yan’s book is the most detailed study on the “Emperor-Bodhisattva” policy of Emperor Wu (Xiao Yan 蕭 衍, r. 502–549) of the Liang dynasty (502–557). In the conclusion, he says:...

read more

10. Social and Cultural Dimensions of Reclusion in Early Medieval China

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 291-318

The idea of reclusion ostensibly concerns hiding, but in early medieval China recluses seem to be everywhere visible. Some are courted by the court. Some are offered material support by local patrons. Some teach and write at home, some in institutions. Some are visited in the hills, some in town. Some even are perched in the gardens of the rich and famous. Some practice occult arts in public, sometimes in the company of the highest officials. Some ...

read more

11. Destiny and Retribution in Early Medieval China

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 319-356

As the Later Han dynasty was unraveling in the late second century, many people began to sense not only its imminent downfall, but the final demise of human history itself. These uncanny observers came from a wide social spectrum that included government officials, Confucian thinkers, and religious Daoist...


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 357-360


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 361-376

E-ISBN-13: 9781438431895
E-ISBN-10: 1438431899
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438431871
Print-ISBN-10: 1438431872

Page Count: 381
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 659590046
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Philosophy and Religion in Early Medieval China

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • China -- Religion.
  • Taoism -- China -- History -- To 1500.
  • Buddhism -- China -- History -- To 1500.
  • Philosophy and religion -- China -- History -- To 1500.
  • China -- Intellectual life -- 221 B.C.-960 A.D.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access