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Daoism and Cct

History and Sources

Is there an official canon of Daoist scripture?

Around 471 Lu Xiu Jing (406-477 C.E.) compiled the earliest formal attempt at a Daoist canon. He only catalogued important works, but there would eventually be seven major edited collections of Daoist sacred texts. Between about 1000 and 1250 C.E., five enormous collections would appear. The final product was a large anthology of separate texts organized in three sections and published in its present form in 1444 C.E.

The triple division of the canonical collection, called the Dao Zang, may have been associated with, or perhaps a response to, the Buddhist scriptural canon known as the “Three Baskets.” Each is named after one of the three heavens that were the abodes of the Three Pure Ones and begins with a major text said to have been revealed by one of the Pure Ones. The Dao Zang (jing)’s three parts include 1,476 disparate works in over 5,000 scroll-volumes. Every imaginable variety of text is available in the modern sixty-volume reprint of the canon. Twelve subdivisions arrange the material as follows: primal revelations, talismans, scriptural interpretation (or exegesis), sacred diagrams, historical texts, ethical texts, ritual texts, practical techniques, biographical information, sacred songs, and memorials. Most of the various sects and schools of Daoism focus on one or a select few of the many possibilities the canon offers. As we shall see later, recitation or chanting of sacred texts forms an important part of some ritual observances.



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