Li Rong’s Notes on the Laozi

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Lirong's Notes on the Laozi ( 老子李榮注 Laozi Lirong Zhu ) was compiled by Li Rong of the Tang dynasty. Both the sections of bibliographies of The Old History of the Tang Dynasty and A New History of the Tang Dynasty collect the four-volume Collection of Explanations to the Laozi ( 老子集解 Laozi Jijie ), which is no longer extant. Today's Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era ( 正統道藏 Zhengtong Daozang ) has the incomplete version by Li Rong. A hand-written copy of the book produced during the reign of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang dynasty was discovered at Dunhuang. The recent scholar Meng Wentong compiled the four-volume Lirong's Commentary on the Book of Laozi according to the incomplete version collected in The Daoist Canon and the Dunhuang versions kept in the Beijing Library and the Paris Library. Besides, a collated version by Yan Lingfen is collected in the third section of the first edition of Annotations of the Book of Laozi Collected by the Wuqiubei Study ( 無求備齋老子集成 Wuqiubei Zhai Laozi Jicheng ). The book illustrates the theory of Twofold Mystery ( 重玄 Chongxuan ) and the Dao of Harmony ( 中和 Zhonghe ), which are basically identical to Cheng Xuanying's Dao of Twofold Mystery. It holds that the being and the nonbeing should be got rid of by means of "mystery", and after that, "mystery" is also negated. This is called twofold mystery, which is meant to imply "the door to myriad secrets". Moreover, the book gives a metaphor, saying that after the medicine of the Dao of twofold mystery cures the disease of persisting in the being or the nonbeing, the medicine itself is also discarded. Not owning a thing, one enters the wonderful condition of twofold mystery. The book is one of the representative works of the Daoist School of twofold mystery in the Tang dynasty. It provides important reference material for the study of this school.