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Livres de morale révélés par les dieux. Textes présentés, traduits et annotés par VINCENT GOOSSAERT. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2012. xliii, 200 pp. €29 (pb). ISBN 978-2-251-10011-1 This volume includes Vincent Goossaert’s French translations of eight “morality books” and a concise, but quite substantial, introduction. Morality books since early times have attracted the attention of sinologists, but they still remain understudied in China and abroad, despite their importance for the social, ethical, and religious life of this country from the twelfth century onwards. Livres de morale révélés par les dieux was published by the prestigious French publisher Les Belles Lettres in the series “Chinese Library” that consists of translations of Chinese classics. This book makes an important contribution to this corpus of translated sources, as morality books belong to the sphere of popular religiosity rather than elite literature and philosophy, mostly featured in this series. On the other hand, as morality books combine ethical values and concepts of all three major teachings of China, they contain rich material for the study of religious syncretism . Besides, they constituted an important part of popular religiosity in traditional China, as many these texts were distributed by educated philanthropists in the printed form among the broader public. As stated in the inscription of an illustration of Precious Manuscript of the Jade Registers (Yuli baochao 玉歷寶鈔), printed by Jinzhang Publishers in Shanghai (1920), reproduced in this volume (but not translated), dissemination of morality books was considered to be the supreme act of charity in China, as “distribution of food and clothes will save people only for a short time, while dissemination of morality books can give them salvation in this reincarnation” (p. 182, fig. 24). As noted by Goossaert, “morality books” denote a quite broad category of texts that are considerably different in terms of their form, language, and contents, their common feature being a special emphasis on the law of retribution and divine response to human behavior. This law is defined in the very first sentence of Treatise of the Exalted One on Response and Retribution (Taishang ganying pian 太上感應 篇, ca. eleventh–twelfth centuries), considered to be the earliest and the most often printed morality book: “Disaster and fortune do not appear on their own; they are provoked by men themselves. Retribution for good and bad deeds will follow just as shadows follow the figure” (p. 5). The texts selected by Goossaert for translation are quite varied in period of composition , volume, form, and contents; his goal was obviously to make this selection as representative as possible. These texts are the Treatise of the Exalted One on Response and Retribution; Text on Lord Wenchang’s Invisible Reward (Wenchang dijun yinzhiwen 文昌帝君陰騭文, ca. early seventeenth century); True Scripture of Sage Lord Guan that Awakens the World (Guan sheng dijun jueshi zhenjing 關聖 帝君覺世真經, ca. end of the seventeenth century); Ledger of Merits and Demerits of the Immortal Lord of Great Subtlety (Taiwei xianjun gongguoge 太微仙君功過 格, 1171); Exhortations Bequeathed by the Great Lord of Dark Heaven from Wudang Mountain (Wudangshan xuantian shangdi chui xunwen 武當山玄天上帝 垂訓文, dated to 1302); Text Exhorting the World by the Empress of the Bushel of Perfect Light (Yuanming doudi quanshiwen 圓明斗帝勸世文, ca. end of the seventeenth–early eighteenth century); True Scripture of the Patriarch Lü that Awakens the Heart (Lüzu xingxin zhenjing 呂祖醒心真經, preface dated to 1707); 204 REVIEWS and Precious Manuscript of the Jade Registers. The last text is claimed to be a revelation of the Song dynasty, but was dated to ca. sixteenth–seventeenth century by Japanese scholars; its earliest extant editions date back to the beginning of the nineteenth century (p. 102). The volume includes the original Chinese texts on facing pages, numerous comments, and introductions to each text that summarize the history of their creation, transmission, and social background. In spite of the numerous differences between these texts, there are certain common features that bring all of them together. Firstly, they are claimed to be revealed by popular deities of the Chinese pantheon and represent a common form of communication between deities and humans in Chinese popular religion. These texts contain many details of the cults of these deities. Secondly, there are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2050-8999
Print ISSN
0737-769X
Pages
pp. 204-206
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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