History of the Canon's Compilation

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The Daoist Canon of the Kaiyuan Era ( 開元道藏 Kaiyuan Daozang )

It is the first Daoist canon in Chinese history and was compiled in the Kaiyuan years of the Tang dynasty (A.D. 713-741). After ascending the throne, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty ordered more than 40 persons, including Shi Chongxuan, to compile The Pronunciation and Meaning of All Daoist Scriptures ( 一切道經音義 Yiqie Daojing Yinyi ). Subsequently, on this basis, he sent people to search for Daoist scriptures here and there in the Kaiyuan era, and together with those collected in the capital, a corpus named The Exquisite Compendium of the Three Grottos ( 三洞瓊綱 Sandong Qionggang ) was compiled, which consisted of 3,744 volumes (some say there are 5,700 volumes, some say there are 7,300 volumes) altogether. The Daoist Canon of the Kaiyuan Era was compiled according to the classification into Three Grottoes ( 三洞 Sanding ). It was composed of three grottoes, containing 36 books in all. Each of the sections, the Pervasive Perfection ( 洞真 Dongzhen ), the Pervasive Mystery ( 洞玄 Dongxuan ) and the Pervasive Divinity ( 洞神 Dongshen ) consisted of 12 books. In the seventh year of the Tianbao era (748), an imperial order to copy the canon was given in order to spread it widely. At the end of the Tang dynasty and in the Five Dynasties, the canon was destroyed in wars and is no longer extant.

The Comprehensive Catalogue of Precious Literature ( 寶文統錄 Baowen Tonglu )

It was one of the Daoist corpuses compiled in the Song dynasty, in the era of Dazhong Xiangfu during the reign of Emperor Zhenzong of the Song dynasty (1008-1016) to be exact. After the rebellion of An Lushan in the Tang dynasty, most of the Daoist books collected in the two capitals were burnt. Later, ordered by Emperor Suzong and Emperor Daizong of the Tang dynasty, the Daoists Shen Fu, Du Guangting and Ji Qiwu searched all over the country for Daoist books, but "few of the precious excellent books still existed" (Volume 52 of The Supreme Yellow Register Fasting Rituals ( 太上黃籙齋儀 Taishang Huanglu Zhaiyi )), and most had been lost. After the founding of the Song dynasty, more than 7,000 volumes of Daoist books were collected during the reign of Emperor Taizong of the Song dynasty, and Sanqi-Changshi (imperial attendant) Xu Xuan and Zhizhigao (official in charge of imperial documents) Wang Yuchen were ordered to collate, delete and copy them. After this, there were 3,737 volumes. During the first years of the Dazhong Xiangfu era, Emperor Zhenzong of the Song dynasty ordered Prime Minister Wang Qinruo to be in charge, choosing Daoists Zhu Yiqian, Feng Dezhi, etc. to collate the canon. Based on Xu Xuan and Wang Yuchen's edition, they supplemented 622 volumes. There were altogether 4,359 volumes, including 620 volumes of the Pervasive Perfection Section, 1,013 volumes of the Pervasive Mystery Section, 172 volumes of the Pervasive Divinity Section, 1,407 volumes of the Supreme Mystery Section ( 太玄部 Taixuan Bu ), 192 volumes of the Supreme Peace Section ( 太平部 Taiping Bu ), 576 volumes of the Supreme Clarity Section ( 太清部 Taiqing Bu ), and 379 volumes of the Orthodox Oneness Section ( 正一部 Zhengyi Bu ). A catalogue of the corpus was compiled and presented to the emperor and was given the title The Comprehensive Catalogue of Precious Literature. It has been lost today.

The Precious Canon of Heavenly Palace of the Great Song ( 大宋天宮寶藏 Dasong Tiangong Baozang )

It was one of the Daoist canons compiled in the Song dynasty. Since the compilation of The Comprehensive Catalogue of Precious Literature was not too ideal, in the fifth year of the Dazhong Xiangfu era (1012) Emperor Zhenzong of the Song dynasty appointed Zhang Junfang Zhuzuo-Zuolang (assistant historian) who was to compile the canon specially. Based on the existent Daoist books and scriptures collected from Suzhou, Yuezhou, Taizhou and so on, Zhang Junfang and Daoist priests discussed the stylistic rules, examined different versions, selected and arranged them in the order of the Three Grottoes and the Four Complements ( 四輔 Sifu ), and compiled a corpus of 4,565 volumes. With the item "heaven" in the 1000-Word Writ ( 千字文 Qianzi Wen ) as its first heading and the item "palace" as the last, the canon was titled The Precious Canon of Heavenly Palace of the Great Song. It is not currently extant.

The Longevity Daoist Canon ( 萬壽道藏 Wanshou Daozang )

It was one of the Daoist canons compiled in the Song dynasty. In the Chongning era of the reign of Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty (1102-1106), an imperial order was given again to search for Daoist books, and Daoist priests were ordered at the publishing office to collate The Precious Canon of Heavenly Palace, which added up to 5, 387 volumes. In the Zhenghe era (1111-1118), the emperor ordered to look for missing Daoist books and set up an office in charge of scriptures. He ordered Daoists Yuan Miaozong and Wangdaojian to collate the scriptures and sent them to Minxian County, Fuzhou. Huang Shang, a court scholar, official and prefect of Fuzhou, employed workers to print them. The canon, 5,481 volumes altogether, filled 540 boxes. It was called The Longevity Daoist Canon, or The Longevity Canon of the Zhenghe Era as it was compiled in the Zhenghe era. This is the first printed Daoist canon. In the turmoil of the Jiajing era (1126-1127), it was lost, and in the Jin dynasty, it was completed. Today it does not exist.

The Precious Canon of the Mysterious Metropolis of the Great Jin ( 大金玄都寶藏 Dajin Xuandu Baozang )

It was a Daoist canon compiled in the Jin dynasty. In the 26th Dading year during the reign of Emperor Shizong of the Jin dynasty (1186), the emperor ordered to give the printing board of The Daoist Canon in the southern capitcal (i.e. today's Kaifeng, Henan) to the Tianchang Temple in Zhongdu (i.e. today's Beijing). In the first Mingchang year during the reign of Emperor Zhangzong of the Jin dynasty (1190), the emperor ordered the temple's inspector Sun Mingdao to search for missing books and re-compile The Daoist Canon. Sun Mingdao sent Daoists looking for the missing scriptures in different places of the country, and got 1,074 volumes. Together with the more than 21,800 books that survived, there were 83,198 books in all. They classified them into Three Grottoes and Four Complements, discussed the stylistic rules, examined different versions, and compiled one corpus, which totaled 602 books, 6,455 volumes and was titled The Precious Canon of the Mysterious Metropolis of the Great Jin. Due to the fire of the Tianchang Temple in the second Taihe year during the reign of Emperor Zhangzong of the Jin dynasty (1202), the canon was burnt and does not exist today.

The Precious Canon of the Mysterious Metropolis ( 玄都寶藏 Xuandu Baozang )

It was a Daoist canon compiled in the Yuan dynasty. In the ninth year during the reign of Emperor Taizong of the Yuan dynasty (1237), the Daoists Song Defang and Qin Zhi'an searched for the missing scriptures and planned to reprint The Daoist Canon. After eight years of compilation, the canon was completed in the third year during the reign of Empress Naima Zhen of the Yuan dynasty (1244). The canon consisted of over 7,800 volumes in all and was still titled The Precious Canon of the Mysterious Metropolis. The printing board was kept at the Temple of Mysterious Metropolis in Pingyang. In the eighth Zhiyuan year during the reign of Emperor Shizu of the Yuan dynasty (1281), an imperial order was given to burn the printing boards of all Daoist canons except The Book of Dao and Its Virtue ( 道德經 Daodejing ). So the printing board of the Precious Canon of the Mysterious Metropolis was burnt and many scriptures collected were lost as a result. The canon does not exist today.

The Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era ( 正统道藏 Zhengtong Daozang )

It was a Daoist canon compiled in the Ming dynasty. At the beginning of the reign of Emperor Chengzu of the Ming dynasty (1403), Zhang Yuchu, the Celestial Master ( 天師 Tianshi ) of the 43rd generation was ordered to re-compile The Daoist Canon. After his death in the eighth Yongle year (1410), Zhang Yuqing, the Celestial Master of the 44th generation was ordered to continue the compilation. The board of the canon began to be made in the ninth Zhengtong year during the reign of Emperor Yingzong of the Ming dynasty (1444). Then Daoist Shao Yizheng was ordered to collate and supplement the canon. It was completed and printed in the tenth Zhengtong year (1445). The canon, titled The Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era, consisted of 5,305 volumes and filled 480 boxes. The scriptures were classified into Three Grottoes, Four Complements, and Twelve Subsections. The headings, from "tian" to "ying", were taken from the 1,000-Word Writ. Under each heading, there were a few volumes. The canon was spread in the country and kept in famous mountains and Daoist temples. In the 35th Wanli year during the reign of Emperor Shenzong of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1607), Zhang Guoxiang, the Celestial Master of the 50th generation, was ordered to complement The Daoist Canon. The headings, from "du" to "ying", were also taken from the 1,000-Word Writ. There were altogether 32 sections, 180 volumes. This canon was titled The Supplementary Daoist Canon of the Wanli Era ( 萬曆續道藏 Wanli Xu Daozang ). Together with The Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era, there were 5,485 volumes in all which filled 512 boxes. Only the edition of the Ming dynasty now exists. It is the only existent government-compiled Daoist canon of our country. From 1923 to 1926, Shanghai Commercial Press borrowed The Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era printed in the Ming dynasty, which was kept in Beijing White Cloud Temple ( 白雲觀 Baiyun Guan ), and photocopied it in the name of Hanfen Tower. The canon was reduced into 6 mo. The books amounted to 1,476 and were included in 1,120 volumes. Today, there is the photocopied edition of The Daoist Canon published in 1987 by Wenwu Press, Shanghai Shudian Press, and Tianjin Guji Press. In addition, a photocopied edition published by Taiwan Yiwen Yinshuguan Press and Taiwan Xinwenfeng Publishing House is in circulation.