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  • The Taoism of Clarified Tenuity: Content and Intentionby Florian C. Reiter
  • Jan De Meyer (bio)
Florian C. Reiter. The Taoism of Clarified Tenuity: Content and Intention. Volume 48 of Asien- und Afrika-Studien der Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinWiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2017. xvi, 163 pp. Hardcover €38.00, ISBN 978-3-447-10772-3.

The lineage of Thunder rites known as Qingwei 清微 (Clarified or Pure Tenuity), which emerged in thirteenth-century southeastern China, was the last of the ritual systems for exorcism, relief, and healing to find its way into the Ming dynasty Daoist canon. Although its written legacy is vast and its importance is well-recognized, studies are relatively scarce. The Taoism of Clarified Tenuity: Content and Intentionby Florian Reiter, whose first publications touching on Qingwei Daoism reach back three decades, is an important contribution to our understanding of this school. [End Page 52]

The author clearly states (p. 10) that his book does not present a history of Qingwei Daoism. However, when this history will one day be written, it will surely contain many insights obtained from Prof. Reiter's book. The greatest quality of The Taoism of Clarified Tenuityis that it makes available a wide range of Qingwei-related texts from the Ming Daozang道藏. Divided into eight chapters, Reiter's book begins with an examination of how the origin and essence of Qingwei Daoism are presented in the canon (pp. 11–20) and a translation of two short fourteenth-century texts (taken from DZ 222 Qingwei shenlie bifa清微神烈祕法 and DZ 223 Qingwei yuanjing dafa清微元降大法) explaining the school's cosmic origins and dimensions (pp. 21–27). Although postdating the Shenxiao 神霄 (Divine Empyrean) rites, the Qingwei claimed to have been orally transmitted since the Han dynasty (p. 19) and perceived itself as encompassing all older traditions in which the use of talismanic writing occupied a central position: Shangqing 上清, Lingbao 靈寶, Daode 道德, and Zhengyi 正一.

The third chapter (pp. 28–47) contains a full translation of a text attributed to Bai Yuchan 白玉蟾 (1194–1229?). Although slightly older than the historical emergence of the Qingwei system, Bai's Daofa jiuyao xu道法九要序 (Reiter translates the title as Nine Essential Introductions to Tao and Method) was included in the first chapter of DZ 1220 Daofa huiyuan道法會元, a particularly rich source of information about Qingwei, to which it devotes its first 55 chapters. Bai's text partly derives its importance from its stress on internal cultivation as a prerequisite for ritual efficacy.

The remaining five chapters constitute what one may call a logical progression of themes and issues related to Qingwei Daoism. Chapter 4 ("Theories of Basic and Practical Issues in Taoism of Clarified Tenuity") presents translations of fragments from DZ 223 Qingwei yuanjiang dafaand DZ 224 Qingwei zhaifa清微齋法. Based on materials taken from DZ 223 and 224, as well as from DZ 1220 Daofa huiyuan, chapter 5 ("The formal side of Taoism of Clarified Tenuity", pp. 62–75) turns to details of exorcist practice, such as summoning Thunder divinities and controlling a number of natural phenomena, besides inquiring into the continuities between older (Shenxiao) rites and Qingwei. The latter theme is pursued further in chapter 6 ("The Thunder Tradition of Amulets and the New Ways of Taoism of Clarified Tenuity"), using DZ 222, 223, and 1220 as its sources.

Of particular interest is chapter 7 ("Two Great Rituals: Taoism of Clarified Tenuityand the Adaptation of Sung Thunder Traditions"), which provides translations of two chapters (36 and 46) of DZ 1220 Daofa huiyuan. The texts presented here illustrate the enormous importance of talismanic writing in Qingwei praxis. Unfortunately, the talismans themselves are not reproduced as part of the translation; their presence within the texts is merely indicated. Continuities and differences between Qingwei and older Thunder rituals are [End Page 53]duly noted. The final chapter ("Applications of exorcism in Taoism of Clarified Tenuity"), which introduces a text from juan6 of DZ 1220 Daofa huiyuan, concludes with a remark on the adoption of different regional elements into the Qingwei tradition, and points at the simultaneous existence of larger cults (that have superseded smaller cults) and independently flourishing smaller cults.

I would not say that The Taoism of Clarified...


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