The Interaction of Daoist, Buddhist and Confucian Thinkers in the Sui and Early Tang Dynasty

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2024) | Viewed by 9320

Special Issue Editor


E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Department of Chinese Studies, University of Leipzig, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
Interests: Chongxuan xue (Twofold Mystery teaching); Tang dynasty Daoism; debates between Buddhists and Daoists; reception of Buddhism in China; Early Medieval epigraphic documents

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The focus of this Special Issue, “The Interaction of Daoist, Buddhist and Confucian Thinkers in the Sui and Early Tang Dynasty”, is on the interactions, ideas, and discourses that cross the divides between the three teachings of Buddhism, Confucianism (or Ruism), and Daoism. The 7th century was a period of vibrant intellectual life; the capital Chang’an attracted brilliant thinkers from all over China and abroad. The Chinese empire had been reunified after a long period of almost 400 years of division, during which Buddhism had entered and spread in China, and Daoism had developed from relatively marginal sectarian movements to a religion claiming precedence at court. Early Tang intellectuals made great efforts to systematize the disparate intellectual and religious heritage that had come down in all three teachings from the period of division.

Scholarly studies of philosophy and religion[1] of the period tend to compartmentalize developments within Daoism, Confucianism, or Buddhism, focusing on the diachronic perspective, with emphasis on interaction within single “teachings” (interpreted either as schools of thought, or as religions) and attention to how thinkers integrated the disparate heritage from the time of division within their respective teachings. Emphasis on the authority of ancient classics and sacred scriptures, as well as the importance of commentarial literature as a genre for developing philosophical ideas supports this approach.

However, the coexistence of three teachings in medieval China entailed complex co-option, demarcation, and integration processes. Thinkers redefined ideas, concepts, and even texts and persons repeatedly, making the fault lines between the teachings fluid and rarely corresponding to our neat textbook versions. Even though lineages of teaching and interpretation of classic or sacred scriptures were important in the formation of ideas, exchange and interaction with “colleagues” adhering to competing teachings arguably also contributed to the development and the systematization of all three teachings.

Interactions were lively and diverse. The early Tang rulers encouraged interaction of representatives of the three teachings, organizing large public debates of representatives of the three teachings at court. They also sponsored academic projects, such as the compilation of the Orthodox Commentaries for the Five Confucian Classics (Wujing Zhengyi), or the massive translation project of Buddhist scriptures headed by the monk Xuanzang, or the project of translating the Daoist Daode jing into Sanskrit in a collaboration of Daoists and Buddhists under the guidance of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang. Thinkers involved in such projects worked in the environment of the court, where Buddhist and Daoist monks would collaborate with officials and Confucian scholars, with ample opportunity to discuss common or controversial interests and learn from each other.  

This Special Issue on “The Interactions of Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist thinkers in Early Tang Dynasty” is dedicated to an exploration of these traces of dialogue, debate, common discourse, or polemic exchange with other teachings or religions in the writings of early Tang authors. It proposes to draw together work from scholars who usually follow separate tracks of Buddhist studies, Daoist studies or Confucian studies, with the aim to highlight discourses and interactions that cross the divides of the three teachings, and become visible in intertextual relations, shared terminologies, and also direct references and exchanges.

The scope of the Special Issue is to present ideas and discourses that emerge in the engagement with the respective other teachings, their scriptures, texts, and concepts.

The papers should aim to overcome the “walls” that scholarship usually sets between disciplines (Buddhism and Daoism as religions, and Confucianism as philosophy) and between the three schools of thought. Subjects can range from individual thinkers and aspects of their interaction with other teachings, to concepts, practices, ideals, etc., which are discussed by representatives of all three teachings, to texts, which are cited, adduced as proof, or co-opted by members of different teachings. The focus on the “in between,” the engagement with the respective other teachings and religions offers a new and comprehensive approach to early Tang dynasty thought. It should further our understanding of the complex interaction of the three teachings in early medieval China at the crucial time of reunification of the empire, and of the role of this interaction in the development of Chinese philosophy and religion. 

We request that, prior to submitting a manuscript, interested authors initially submit a proposed title and an abstract of 400–600 words summarizing their intended contribution. Please send it to the Guest Editor (friederike_assandri@yahoo.com) or to the Religions editorial office (religions@mdpi.com). Abstracts will be reviewed by the Guest Editor for the purposes of ensuring proper fit within the scope of the special issue. Full manuscripts will undergo double-blind peer-review.

[1] From an emic perspective, the medieval Chinese teachings (jiao 教), such as Daoism (daojiao 道教), Buddhism (fojiao佛教) and Confucianism (rujiao儒教), encompass both of our etic conventional academic disciplinary categories of religious studies and philosophy.  

Dr. Friederike Assandri
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Tang dynasty philosophy
  • Tang dynasty religions
  • inter-religious discourses
  • three teachings
  • Tang dynasty Buddhism
  • Tang dynasty Daoism
  • Tang dynasty Confucianism

Published Papers (7 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

15 pages, 391 KiB  
Article
Syncretism in Exegesis: The Integration of Confucian Texts in Chengguan’s Huayan Commentary
by Imre Hamar
Religions 2024, 15(4), 400; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040400 - 25 Mar 2024
Viewed by 587
Abstract
Commentarial literature constitutes a cornerstone in the edifice of Chinese Buddhism, providing critical exegesis of Indian Buddhist texts. This paper examines the pivotal role of Chengguan (738–839), the fourth patriarch of the Huayan school, revered for his extensive commentarial work on the Chinese [...] Read more.
Commentarial literature constitutes a cornerstone in the edifice of Chinese Buddhism, providing critical exegesis of Indian Buddhist texts. This paper examines the pivotal role of Chengguan (738–839), the fourth patriarch of the Huayan school, revered for his extensive commentarial work on the Chinese translations of the Buddhāvataṃsaka-sūtra. Chengguan not only composed a written commentary but also engaged in discourses with the monastic and lay communities at Wutaishan, prompting the creation of a sub-commentary derived from these oral elucidations. The study posits that the composition of Chengguan’s audiences, comprising Confucian-educated scholars and Buddhist monks, necessitated a pedagogical strategy that integrated Chinese intellectual traditions into the Buddhist narrative to enhance comprehension. This analysis focuses on Chengguan’s citations of the Analects, showcasing how he interweaves Confucian maxims into the fabric of his commentary to illuminate Buddhist doctrines. The research articulates the method he employed to make the Buddhist texts resonate with a Chinese audience. Full article
20 pages, 481 KiB  
Article
Kong Yingda, Cheng Xuanying, and Their “Others”: A Synchronic Contextualization of Visions of the Sage
by Friederike Assandri
Religions 2024, 15(3), 256; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030256 - 21 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1003
Abstract
The early medieval period saw the spread of Buddhism from India into China and the development of Daoism as a religious institution. By the early Tang dynasty, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism were referred to as the three teachings, and had developed separate institutions; [...] Read more.
The early medieval period saw the spread of Buddhism from India into China and the development of Daoism as a religious institution. By the early Tang dynasty, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism were referred to as the three teachings, and had developed separate institutions; representatives of the three teachings were competing at court for patronage and influence. This paper probes the extent to which the institutionalization of these three teachings as separate, often competing, entities is mirrored at the philosophical level and attempts to delineate the fault lines of philosophical contention among them. Scholarship on Daoist chongxuan philosophy, as it developed in early Tang Changan, documents Daoists’ utilization of Buddhist concepts and terminologies, implying shared discourses. This paper extends this investigation to include Confucianism, focusing on excerpts from two texts written in early seventh-century Changan: the Confucian Zhouyi zhengyi and the Daoist Daode jing yishu, as a case study for a synchronic contextualization across the boundaries of the teachings. Analyzing explicit demarcation discourses and intertextual occurrences of specific terminologies, the paper juxtaposes the Daoist and Confucian conceptualizations of the “sage who embodies Dao”. Through this analysis, the paper explores shared discourses and demarcations in philosophical thought among the three teachings, emphasizing the complexity of fault lines in philosophical arguments, which resist simplistic alignment with sectarian affiliations. Full article
20 pages, 17847 KiB  
Article
The Annual Difference: How a Four-Century Debate between Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist Thinkers on a Problem of Classical Exegesis Shaped a Predictive Mathematical Construct
by Daniel Patrick Morgan
Religions 2024, 15(1), 70; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010070 - 4 Jan 2024
Viewed by 839
Abstract
In China, the precession of the equinoxes was conceptualized as an “annual difference” (suicha 歲差) between the tropical and sidereal year. The idea was introduced in the fourth century, it saw universal acceptance from the eighth century on, and it was in [...] Read more.
In China, the precession of the equinoxes was conceptualized as an “annual difference” (suicha 歲差) between the tropical and sidereal year. The idea was introduced in the fourth century, it saw universal acceptance from the eighth century on, and it was in the four centuries in between that it was tried, debated, and spread whilst a Mediterranean-origin concept thereof arrived from India. Its four-century journey from fringe idea to universal truth is a well-studied point of interest in the history of astronomy. In this article, we will shift focus to the idea’s polymathic protagonists and epistemic foundations to explore how a scientific idea was born, debated, transmitted, and taught in Confucian commentary and, no less important, how politics, geography, regional schools, foreign transmission, and the Buddhist and Daoist religions shaped how thinkers engaged with it as individuals and as communities. Inspired by the work of Chen Kanli and Randall Collins, the goal is to show that there is nothing simple or inexorable about how even an empirically useful tool of predictive astronomical modeling is received in the relevant expert community, as it is but one element in a complex network of people and ideas aligning and opposing in ever-evolving strategies to assert relevance. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

34 pages, 539 KiB  
Article
Tiantai’s Reception and Critique of the Laozi and Zhuangzi
by Hans-Rudolf Kantor
Religions 2024, 15(1), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010020 - 21 Dec 2023
Viewed by 809
Abstract
The article addresses the ambivalent relationship of Tiantai Buddhist thought to Daoist ideas from the Daode jing and the Zhuangzi. On the one hand, Tiantai incorporates Daoist rhetoric and some concepts of the Daoist-influenced Xuanxue 玄學 into its Buddhist doctrine of mind [...] Read more.
The article addresses the ambivalent relationship of Tiantai Buddhist thought to Daoist ideas from the Daode jing and the Zhuangzi. On the one hand, Tiantai incorporates Daoist rhetoric and some concepts of the Daoist-influenced Xuanxue 玄學 into its Buddhist doctrine of mind contemplation (guanxin 觀心); on the other, drawing on the Buddhist notion of the tetralemma (catuṣkoṭi, siju 四句), Tiantai criticizes the Daoist ineffable as a misconception that does not really transcend linguistic representation. Thus, Tiantai attempts to develop the view that Buddhist inconceivable liberation (bukesiyi jietuo 不可思議解脫) is neither separate from nor identical with linguistic meaning, implying the recognition of the non-duality of the real and the unreal. In this way, according to the Tiantai teaching, the doctrinal exegesis of the sūtra and śāstra texts can serve as an exercise in spiritual contemplation that frees the practitioners’ minds from the shackles of their self-induced delusions, but this liberation does not mean eradicating unreality. To illustrate that view, Tiantai draws on Daoist parables and combines them with Buddhist imagery. Hence, the article attempts to clarify the intricate relationship between Tiantai’s reception and critique of Daoist ideas. Full article
20 pages, 976 KiB  
Article
Ritual Action and Its Consequences: Libai (Ritualized Prostration) in Medieval Daoist Rituals
by Yang Wu
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1468; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121468 - 27 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1008
Abstract
Chinese Buddhists in the Eastern Han initially employed the term libai to denote a supreme ritual performed by believers and disciples when meeting the Buddha. Deeply rooted in an Indian ritual greeting tradition, libai consisted of the action of touching the ground with [...] Read more.
Chinese Buddhists in the Eastern Han initially employed the term libai to denote a supreme ritual performed by believers and disciples when meeting the Buddha. Deeply rooted in an Indian ritual greeting tradition, libai consisted of the action of touching the ground with the forehead. Buddhist vinayas regulated the performance of libai for senior or sick saṃgha members. In accordance with the ritual rationale of pūjā, libai was frequently used, along with other ritualized actions, for worshiping Buddhist statues and sūtras. The Daoists appropriated libai as a ritual technique in complicated ways. Several pre-5th century texts appeared to apply the term to describe a solemn greeting ritual for high-ranked deities. Since the 5th century, Numinous Treasure and Celestial Master Daoists have provided divergent understandings and usages of libai in their rituals. Specifically, Lu Xiujing considered libai to be a major part of the retreat that functioned to cultivate the body. The end of the 6th century witnessed the continuation of employing libai in the rituals worshiping the Daoist Three Treasures. Its diversity and significance were acknowledged by the early Tang Daoist monastic codes. The lawful performance of libai, interpreted by Zhang Wanfu, associated the body with the mind, and manifested the utmost sincerity. Full article
9 pages, 853 KiB  
Article
Chinese Lunar Stations and Indian Nakṣatras in the Sui and Tang Periods
by Jeffrey Kotyk
Religions 2023, 14(10), 1276; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14101276 - 10 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1596
Abstract
The twenty-eight “lunar stations” (ershiba xiu 二十八宿) are unique in Chinese intellectual history in that they served as functional equivalents for Indian nakṣatras, which are also a type of lunar station (or mansion), but in practice these were quite different from [...] Read more.
The twenty-eight “lunar stations” (ershiba xiu 二十八宿) are unique in Chinese intellectual history in that they served as functional equivalents for Indian nakṣatras, which are also a type of lunar station (or mansion), but in practice these were quite different from the comparable Chinese system. The native Chinese lore of lunar stations as it was understood in the Sui period was outlined in the Wuxing dayi 五行大義 by Xiao Ji 蕭吉 (c. 530–610), which is a manual of Chinese metaphysics free of any Buddhist influences. We might compare the content in this text to writings by contemporary Buddhists, such as Jizang 吉藏 (549–623) and Zhiyi 智顗 (539–598), to illustrate the extent to which native, rather than foreign, astral lore took precedence in the writings of Buddhists in the Sui and Tang periods. This study will demonstrate that Buddhists in China struggled with understanding the nakṣatras and even when faced with the opportunity to adopt an orthodox Indian model, they shifted toward a kind of hybridized system. Full article
21 pages, 1506 KiB  
Article
Translation and Interaction: A New Examination of the Controversy over the Translation and Authenticity of the Śūraṃgama-sūtra
by Jinhua Jia
Religions 2022, 13(6), 474; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13060474 - 24 May 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2012
Abstract
From the Tang era (618–907) to the present day, controversy over the translation and authenticity of the Chinese version of the Śūraṃgama-sūtra, which appeared at the end of the early Tang, has been ongoing. The scholar-official Fang Rong (d. 705) has [...] Read more.
From the Tang era (618–907) to the present day, controversy over the translation and authenticity of the Chinese version of the Śūraṃgama-sūtra, which appeared at the end of the early Tang, has been ongoing. The scholar-official Fang Rong (d. 705) has been considered either the translator or the forger of the sutra, while its Chinese elements, especially those from Daoism, have been used as major evidence that the text is apocryphal. By uncovering new historical sources and critically analysing the arguments of modern scholars, this article undertakes a new examination of this old controversy from the perspective of cultural interaction through scriptural translation. The attribution of translators seen in the version of the sutra preserved in the Fangshan stone-canon, as well as the historical context of the translation, proves that—for specific politico-historical reasons—the two early accounts by Buddhist bibliographer Zhisheng (fl. 669–740) do not contradict but rather complement each other. New and solid evidence also supports the argument that Fang Rong indeed participated in the sutra’s translation; moreover, he contributed its Chinese cultural, intellectual and religious elements, and graceful literary style during the process. Additionally, the relationship between early Chan Buddhism, Fang Rong, and Chan master Huaidi, who verified the translation, may have motivated them to make certain embellishments upon the sutra’s central theme of Tathāgatagarbha doctrine. This article thus confirms the Śūraṃgama-sūtra to be a major Mahāyāna scripture that contains elements of the Chinese cultural tradition, and that it in turn has exerted tremendous influence on this tradition. Full article
Back to TopTop