The Book of Laozi’s Conversion of the Barbarians

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The background of the Book of Laozi's Conversion of the Barbarians ( 老子化胡經 Laozi Huahu Jing ) is as follows. During the reign of emperor Huidi of the Western Jin dynasty (AD 290-306), Wang Fu, the Libationer ( 祭酒 Ji Jiu ) of the Celestial Masters Tradition ( 天師道 Tianshi Dao ) often debated with the Buddhist monk Bo Yuan about which religion was the orthodox one. Thus he wrote the one- volume Book of the Conversion of Barbarians ( 化胡經 Huahu Jing ), which narrates the story that Laozi went to India, changed into Buddha, and converted the barbarians to Buddhism, "so as to defame Buddhism". Later, the book was gradually enlarged and adapted into ten volumes and became a basis for Daoists to attack Buddhism, thus raising the position of Daoism above Buddhism. This led to a fierce conflict between the two religions. Both emperor Gaozong and emperor Zhongzong of the Tang dynasty once gave orders to prohibit it. In the twenty-second Zhiyuan year of the Yuan dynasty (AD 1285), emperor Shizu ordered to burn the false scriptures in the Daoist Canon ( 道藏 Daozang ), and the first one was the Book of the Conversion of Barbarians. It was lost from then on and so does not exist in the Daoist Canon of the Zhengtong Era ( 正統道藏 Zhengtong Daozang ) of the Ming dynasty. In the last years of the Qing dynasty, incomplete handwritten volumes of the book were found in Dunhuang. Some of them are entitled Book of Laozi's Western Ascension and Conversion of Barbarians ( 老子西升化胡經 Laozi Xisheng Huahu Jing ) (Bo 2007), and some are entitled the Supreme Numinous Treasure's Sublime Book of Laozi's Conversion of the Barbarians ( 太上靈寶老子化胡妙經 Taishang Lingbao Laozi Huahu Miaojing ) (Si 2081). They are different names for the same book. The incomplete versions of the Book of the Conversion of Barbarians stored in England, France and so on are the version in ten volumes, which is not the original book written by Wang Fu.