Dunhuang Daoist Literature
|Daoist Poetry and Ci Poetry|
Daoist Ci Poetry
|Pillar Couplets |
Daoist literary Anecdotes
Daoist Nursery Rhymes
Dunhuang Daoist Literature is a special achievement in the special field of Chinese literature and a reflection of Daoist activities and thought in literature. Here the "special field" refers to the field of "Dunhuang". Because numerous ancient texts and plastic arts are kept in the Dunhuang grotto, Dunhuang studies have come into being for the study of Dunhuang culture. Dunhuang studies had concentrated on Buddhism over a long period of time. 1980's, a scholar from Sichuan, Long Hui, began to write special papers on Dunhuang Daoist literature. Since then, many other scholars have dealt with this problem in different aspects.
According to the classification of these scholars, Dunhuang Daoist literary works generally take two major forms:
- Colloquial stories whose subject matter is the life story of Daoists. The Narratives Interspersed with Poems of Ye Jingneng ( 葉靜能詩話 Ye Jingneng Shihua ), the only Daoist colloquial story, is collected in The Dunhuang Corpus of Tales About Deities' Transformation ( 變文 Bianwen ). There are many records of Ye Jingneng's anecdotes in the repository of Daoist texts, and Ye Jingneng is also an object of attention in some marvelous novels of the Tang and Song dynasties. The Narratives Interspersed with Poems of Ye Jingneng prevalent in Dunhuang attributes many tales of Daoists popular in the Tang to Ye Jingneng, in the styles of colloquial stories and marvelous tales. The work first tells 15 short stories about Ye Jingneng's studying the Dao on Mt. Guiji, throwing Talismans ( 符 Fu ) into a river so as to cross it, and saving Zhang Ling's wife, etc., in order to show the unusual ability of the protagonist, and its exaggerative tone reveals the miraculous function of Daoist Magical Arts ( 法術 Fashu ). This book also propagandizes Daoist social influences in virtue of the story of Emperor Ming of the Tang dynasty worshiping Daoism, and manifests Ye Jingneng's extraordinary force through the plot of Gao Lishi, who disbelieves immortal elixirs, working out a scheme to test Ye Jingneng but being exposed. Overall, the Narratives Interspersed with Poems of Ye Jingneng opens with poems and uses story-telling as its style. The humorous relation enables people to get a glimpse of the traces of the Daoist colloquial stories of the Tang dynasty.
- Poetry is a major genre in Dunhuang Daoist literature. Poetry Concerning Daoism ( 涉道詩 Shedao Shi ) is a representative work. It has altogether 15 pages. Its author is Li Xiang, who is believed by some people to be a descendant of Li Yuangxiang, the ninth generation descendant of the first emperor of the Tang dynasty. Collected in the book are 28 poems, singing the praises of famous Daoist historical sites, extolling Daoist celebrities, or exchanging poems between Daoist disciples. It is said to be the earliest Daoist anthology of poetry in The Supplementary Anthology of Tang Poetry. Apart from poetry anthologies, some Daoist poems are interspersed in Daoist scriptures, such as the two pieces of the Eulogy of the Jade Stars ( 玉晨頌 Yuchen Song ), and the Eulogy of the Mysterious Thrones of the Supreme Immortals ( 太上眾仙玄座頌 Taishang Zhongxian Xuanzuo Song ), etc. Some of the Dunhuang Daoist poems are written by female Daoists. For example, Yinyi Wushou ("Five Poems about Messages") is written by Yuan Yanyi, a female Daoist. "Yinyi" in the title means information or missives. The author expresses her thoughts and feelings of studying the Dao in the form of poems. Among the five poems are Qinzhong Chunwang ("Spring in Qin"), Ji Luoyang Jiemei ("A Letter to Sisters in Luoyang"), and Ganhui ("Feelings"). They both describe the beauty and fun of traveling to the imperial palace of the capital Chang'an in spring, and express the ideal and happiness of studying the Dao with her friends. Besides, the works convey the homesick feelings of the female Daoist. She places the feeling of missing her female fellow disciples on the moon.
In Dunhuang, the works on Fasts and Offerings ( 齋醮 Zhaijiao ) and paying homage to deities also constitute part of Daoist literature. For instance, the works such as Poems for Paying Homage to the Ten Directions ( 禮十方詞 Li Shifang Ci ) and Songs Exchanged Between Immortals ( 仙人唱和歌 Xianren Changhe Ge ) either depict the lofty divine world in the tone of emptiness and quietness, or represent the extreme happiness in the immortal realm and the mysterious guidance for cultivating the Dao with the feeling of worshiping the Dao. By examining the Dunhuang literature, we may find that some Daoist texts begin with "theme poems". For example, the Book of the Ten Precepts ( 十戒經 Shijie Jing ) advises people to believe in the Dao and practice it, using the style of wuyan shi (a poem with five characters to a line), with the rhyming word that ends a line of verse in oblique tones. The author takes pains to exaggerate in order to form an artistic atmosphere for observing commandments and cultivating the Dao, thus endowing his work with a strong appeal.