Daoist Studies in Australia

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Daoism Studies by Liu Ts'un-yan

Being separated by oceans with other continents in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia was little affected by the two world wars of the 20th century. However, due to its population and unique history, it has a slower economic and cultural development than some European and Latin American countries. The same is true for its studies about China.

Since Professor Liu Ts'un-yan took part in the cause of Australian higher education, its Chinese education and Chinese study has begun to pick up. For the last 40 years it has turned out lots of research workers. With China's opening to the outside, China becomes stronger and stronger and an increasing number of Chinese immigrated into Australia. Both the economic trade and cultural communication between China and Australia are getting more frequent, consequently Australia attaches more importance to its studies about China and has won its place in the international field of Chinese Study.

Of course, Professor Liu Ts'un-yan should be the No. One among the researchers who study about Daoism.

Liu Ts'un-yan (1917- ), styled himself Yu Sheng, has his ancestral home in Lin Qing, Shan Dong Province. His ancestors before the 10th generation moved to Guang Zhou and his family became one of the "eight banners" of the Han Army. Liu was given the name Ts'un-yan by his uncle-in-law Zuo Zi and Bing Long Gong. His friend Yuan Shusan, an astrologer, named him Yu Sheng just because the Five Agents of his Eight Characters lack water. He was born in Beijing and had started to learn some hornbooks such as "Three-Character-Classic", "One-Hundred-Family-Surname" and "Thousand-Word-Primer" since his childhood. Later in adulthood he read and learnt by heart The Four Books and the Five Confucian Classics. At the age of 12, he left for Shanghai to go on with his studies there. He had been in Dong Wu No. 2 Middle School and Guang Hua Middle School. While in middle school, he liked to read novels, especially those by such contemporary writers as Lu Xun, Zhou Zuoren, Ye Shentao, Lao She, Shen Congwen and Mao Dun, etc. Afterwards, he turned to prose and often contribute to the literature magazines like The Analects and On The Earth, etc. In 1935 he was admitted as a student of the Chinese literature department in Beijing University. Zheng Ji, Luo Shangpei, Zheng Tianting and Sun Kaidi had been his teachers successively. When he recalled his life in Beijing University, he said: "All the courses here are doctrine of the mean, for she did guide you into the gate of a comparatively ideal and unbiased learning", "life here is almost perfect. " During his study in Beijing University, Liu Ts'un Yan copied books in the library daily. He had once abstained from eating lunch for over two weeks in a cold winter because he was copying the left works of Wang Guowei and twice proofreading the Supplementary Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government and the Four Books. When the Resistance War against Japan broke out, Liu returned to Shanghai and took up some teaching work in the universities. He had once edited or co-edited some magazines and published An Introduction to the History of Chinese Literature, the Literary History in Qing and Han Dynasties, A Chronicle of Mr. Yu Lichu, and A Collection of Western Star. In 1940 Liu went to Hong Kong to take an official position there. After the war, he went to England to pursue advanced study and got his Doctor's Degree at London University. Later he came to Australia and once was the dean of the Chinese Department in National University, president of the Asian research institute and research fellow of the humane studies centre. Besides he was once invited as a member of the British and Northern Ireland Imperial committee on Asia. Originally Liu was interested academically in Chinese Classic literature. His works included: Chinese Popular Novels in the Two Libraries in London, A Study on the Edition of Popular Literature in Ming and Qing Dynasties, and Buddhism and Daoism Influence on Chinese Novels, etc.

Around the 60's Liu Ts'un-yan became concerned with the study of Daoism and got a series of articles about Daoism research published, most of which was taken in The Collected Works of the Gentle Breeze Hall. He studied Confucianism while very young and had a solid foundation in Chinese traditional literature, history, and philosophy. Later as a youth he received a strict education on modern science. Consequently he held a critical attitude against both the Daoism and Buddhism at the beginning. He once regarded Daoism as " the humblest, the most meaningless and the most shallow and poorest", etc. After the 70s, Liu Ts'un-yan was invited successively by Chinese academia to visit and participate in academic activities in Beijing, Tianjing, Chengdu, Xian, Shanghai, Wuhan and Dunhuang, etc. With a tender feeling for both his motherland and his old friends, he had a deeper understanding of China's present condition and gradually took an impartial attitude towards Chinese culture and religion. What's more, he made more original discoveries and gave his incisive arguments.

In 1971 Liu Ts'un-yan got one of his articles on Daoism and Chinese history of medicine published in Bulletin, a well-known periodical on Chinese Studies in Holland. Its title is Daoists' Knowledge of Tuberculosis in the 12th Century. He pointed out in the article that the Daoists at that time had already known that tuberculosis could be infectious through various means, especially by special or parasitic reason, as was shown in a Daoism Book named the Highest Mysterious Origin Great Skills of the Jade Hall of the Three Heavens in middle 12th century. They also discussed about the prevention and treatment. Having studied all the literatures of different times and compared with the concerned records in western history of medicine, Liu Ts'un-yan concluded that the Chinese Daoists had obtained a knowledge in the field hundreds of years earlier than other countries in the corresponding period. Although Liu Ts'un-yan was not an expert in medicinal history, he set a good example to the latter scholars on Daoism studies for his detailed analysis, wide vision, accurate reasoning and impartial argument presented in this article.

The Collected Works of the Gentle Breeze Hall and its Content

It's the traditional Chinese habit to name one's collected works after the place where he lives. In the 30s when he was playing an outstanding role in the literary world in Shanghai, Liu Ts'un-yan lived in a room named "Benevolence Deposit Hall". In the No.1 issue of the periodical Talk of Wind and Rain was a translation of A Story of the Saint Robber by Liu Yusheng. It was annotated in the end that "this is finished on January 24th, 22 AD, at Benevolence Deposit Hall in Shanghai." His pseudonym and room name at that time were respectively his style and name. Having undergone many hardships living and writing abroad, he named his room "Gentle Breeze Hall", which showed his longing and wish. In his youth he liked giving speeches and was good at words. Although he is old now, he still can write a magnificent piece of writing in detailed sharpness just as he did when he was young. In 1976 and 1984, the English translation of The Selected Works of The Gentle Breeze Hall and its continuation were published in Bylun Bookstore, Lyedon, Holland. Thus it proved that he entitled his works "the Gentle Breeze Hall" at least in the 70s.

In 1991, three volumes of his collected works containing 48 thesis were published in Shanghai Ancient Books Publishing House, about 20 of which were research essays on Daoism. They are mainly concerned about the following three aspects:

First, researches about the Daoist Scriptures, especially those about the commentaries to the Book of Dao and its Virtue, such as On the Nature of the Gu Huan's Commentaries on Laozi in the Daoist Canon, the Collective Commentaries in the Daoist Canon on the Book of Dao and its Virtue by the Three Emperors, and the Merits and Demerits of Commentaries by the Three Emperors on the Book of Dao and its Virtue in the Daoist Canon etc. Liu Ts'un-yan thought the notes and detailed annotations to the Book of Dao and its Virtue by Gu Huan was indeed one of the best research books on Laozi from the North and South Dynasties to the Tang Dynasty. The comments were made by He Shanggong while the detailed annotations by Cheng Xuanying in early Tang Dynasty. Emperor Tang Xuezhong also gave his annotation in the "Imperial" section and Gu Guan himself presented his explanation in the part "Huan said…". Besides, Yan Zun of the East Han Dynasty had his idea in the "Yan" part. Therefore Liu Ts'un-yan concluded "the notes by Gu Huan available now had not been compiled into a book until the Song Dynasty. Although it seemed unnecessary for Gu Huan to do so, it is undoubtedly self-evident that his researches on the Book of Dao and its Virtue are of objective value." The essay The Merits and Demerits of Commentaries by the Three Emperors on the Book of Dao and its Virtue in the Daoist Canon was published in 1969, followed by the Collective Commentaries in the Daoist Canon on the Book of Dao and its Virtue by the Three Emperors in 1973. The three emperors refer to Tang Xuanzhong, Song Huizhong and Ming Taizhu who had given their remarks to Laozi respectively. Generally speaking, the scholars studying the history of thoughts considered that their interpretations would lack penetrating judgements and thus had no research value because they were not actually done by the emperors themselves. However, in Liu Ts'un-yan's opinion the Notes by the Three Emperors worth a further discussion as they had their individual distinguishing features. Any scholars or those studying the history of ideology should not attach less importance to them just because they were by emperors. This is disclosed in The Merits and Demerits of Commentaries by the Three Emperors on the Book of Dao and its Virtue in the Daoist Canon and is further proved in the Collective Commentaries to the Book of Dao and its Virtue. Liu Ts'un-yan put in the Notes that since the emperors had different experiences they held deep or shallow understanding of the Daoist thoughts. What really provoked thinking was that the one with a deep understanding did not necessarily become successful emperor while that with a shallow understanding did. Comparing their Notes, Song Huizhong and Wang Yuanze particularly knew the essence and there were certain places between the lines that deserved praising.

Second, researches about the history of Daoism, especially textual researches about its history and historic figures. The followings are examples: Daoism of the Past 1800 Years; the Wives and Daughters of Celestial Master Zhang; An Ode to the Genealogy of Celestial Master Collected by MianDeLong; Xue Sun and Lord Lan; Fasts and Offerings of Daoism from the Five Dynasties to the Southern Song Dynasty; Zhang Zunfang and the Daoist Books in the Song Dynasty; Zhang Boduan and On Realizing the Truth; Confucian Scholars in the Ming Dynasty and Daoism; Wang Yangming and Daoism; and Wang Yangming, Buddhism and Daoism, etc.. Liu Ts'un-yan has started his researches on the history of Daoism since he wrote Confucian Scholars in the Ming Dynasty and Daoism in 1966. It discusses in detail the historical background for the popularity of the Daoists' cultivation and refinement in the Ming Dynasty. It believes that "of all the thoughts in the Ming Dynasty Daoism has a much greater impact than that of any of the well-known new scholars like Wang Yangming, Wang Longxi, Zhan Ganquan and Luo Jinxi." Liu Ts'un-yan pointed out that Daoism had been ignored in the past three-hundred-year history of the Ming Dynasty because there hadn't been a single thinker and because the Daoist Books were anonymous without original ideas." In fact, "Daoism spread over all the levels of the society and had a greater impact than any other periods." A case in point is that the famous Confucian scholar Wang Yangming's thoughts contains rich Daoism and that group of Wang Yangming were deeply influenced but not freed from Daoism. In Liu's opinion, "Being employed and communicated by the Confucian scholars, Daoism had made some meaningful improvement to the actual society." On the other hand, "Daoism nature was somewhat purified because of the participation of the Confucian scholars." Later in 1970 and 1978, Liu Ts'un-yan wrote successively Wang Yangming and Daoism, Wang Yangming, Buddhism and Daoism, which further proved the great influence of Daoism in the Ming Dynasty and Wang Yangming's thoughts of mixing up the Three Doctrines. Although these writings were concerned with the history of Daoism, they were written mainly for researches on the history of ideology.

Liu Ts'un-yan began to study Daosim history probably in late 70s or early 80s. In 1986 he made a public speech entitled Daoism of the Past 1800 Years at Chong Ji College in Hong Kong Chinese University. It is believed to be a summary and outline of all Liu's researches on Daoism. Liu Ts'un-yan said "Daoism is locally born and bred with a history of nearly 2000 years. Of course it is not modern in many ways and we have a hard job to accept many of its superstitious activities. However, with the help of religious power it persuades people to be kind to the social masses, which is also what is aimed at by all the existing noble religious beliefs". Undoubtedly his view was objective and fair compared with what he thought in 60s. In addition to the origin, the establishment, and the changes during the Northern and Southern Dynasties of Daoism, Liu Ts'un-yan gave a complete analysis to Daoism and Chinese society and Chinese people's life. He said: the first worth-mentioning is that Daoist activities were supported by all the rulers in the long history of China, no matter he was of the Han nationality or the other nationalities. The gradual fusion or even mixing up of the Three Schools (Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism) is the second important thing that affected but not hindered the development of Daoism. The third thing I want to mention is that the Inner Alchemy can be traced back to the ancient people's idea of Ascending. On the other hand, the long experienced Refine Elixirs, or the Outer Alchemy inspired it. The fourth thing I must point out is that Daoism as a religious activity had a deep influence on those so-called Confucian scholars in the Song Dynasty and Ming Dynasty. According to Liu Ts'un-yan, if we did not have that knowledge, even if we thought it ridiculous, we could not have a comprehensive understanding of some of the Daoist activities in Chinese history and society. This is the idea of a historian, which has already been agreed on by other historians both at home and abroad. In the 70s and 80s, Liu Ts'un-yan got his other articles on Daoism history published, putting forward more valuable arguments. Xu Sun and Lord Lan is one of them. Xu Sun is called Celestial Master Xu, or the Patriarch of the Numinous Treasure Pure Brightness Sect. In this article Liu Ts'un-yan numerated the various resources related to Xu Sun as was recorded in Daoist Canon. He pointed out the book the Biography of the Two Perfect Sovereigns Wu and Xu of the Filial Piety Sect was not perhaps written until the early 9th century before his other stories were put to words. What was collected in this book was far less complete. As time went by, the stories about Xu Xun grew more concrete and fixed until after the Daoist activities of the Western Hill Sect in Jiang Xi province flourished after the Tang Dynasty. According to the historical materials about ruling and geography, Liu believed it was those northern worshipers who composed the Xu Xun's genealogy purposely. They knew very well the famous family names in the North, although they did not brazenly equal Xu Xun of the religion as that of the Eastern Wei Dynasty. Actually this is like putting Zhang's hat on Li's head, confusing one thing with the other but not clearly stated. The Pious Dao Sect probably began in Shan Dong and spread slowly southward, taking in many true historical stories of the Southern Dynasty and then exaggerating them. The Fasts and Offerings from the Five Dynasties to the Southern Dynasty was a piece of writing on Daoism Rituals from the aspect of documents. It consisted of five parts, including: Fasts Originated from Numinous Treasure, Lu Xiujing's Idea, Differences between Fasts and Offerings, Du Guangting's Criticism, Consecration of the Incense Burner and Outer Official, Refining Salvation, Several Daoist Books in the Southern Song Dynasty, Left Record of the Dreamlike Prosperity of the Eastern Capital, etc. Liu thought Numinous Treasure had been regarded as the sources of fasts and offerings. Lu Xiujing developed the essence of Fasts and improved the spiritual value of Daoist Fasts and Offerings. What is more, he analyzed the difference between Fasts and Offerings, defining the position, condition and qualification of the Ritual Master in Fasts and Offerings. Liu Ts'un-yan also studied and introduced with his approvals two Daoists: one is Du Guangting of the Five Dynasties in late Tang, the other is Jin Yongzhong of the Southern Song Dynasty. Most interestingly Liu gave an introduction to such Daoist rituals as Consecration of the Incense Burner, Outer Official, Refining Salvation, Destruction of Jail. Frankly speaking, Liu Ts'un-yan studied these terms on the basis of the written materials. It was different from what the western anthropologists did. Therefore his researches are sound and persuasive.

Third, researches related to Daoism. Liu Ts'un-yan cultivated an interest in literature since childhood and had especially studied the popular literature in the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasty. Consequently his researches combined literature studies with that of Daoism. For example, Complete Perfection Tradition and the Novel "The Journey to the West", Make-up Examination of Lu Xi-xing and Wu Chen-eng's Stories, Reading the Daoism Section in the Religion Dictionary, Left Traces of Zoroaster and Mani Tradition before the Tang Dynasty, etc.. Among them Complete Perfection Tradition and the Novel "The Journey to the West" was published in 1985. It put forward the question: "Is there any relationship between the Complete Perfection Tradition and the novel The Journey to the West, or what is the relationship?" Liu Ts'un-yan replied:" In my opinion, supposing the existence of the novel the Journey to the West in Complete Perfection tradition before the appearance of the hundred-chapter version of Jingling Lifetime Virtue Hall during 1573-1620 of the Ming Dynasty, it is quite possible the case." There is some sense in his assumption. One reason is that "many of the classic novels such as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Outlaws of the Marsh, the Romance of the Gods had been converted into different versions by various compilers during its pretty long history of existence." There were many records in the Ming and Qing Dynasties that the Journey to the West was written by Qiu Chuji. Another reason is that the existing one-hundred-chapter version has lots of traces of the Complete Perfection Tradition. For example, the 8th chapter began with the quotation from the 5th piece of the Poetry of Su Wu by the revered Master Feng in Vol. 2 of the Lingering Sound of the Cranes. In the 36th chapter was the seven-character poem "after the front string is the string after", which was from On Realizing Perfection. In Chapter 71 came the Ziyang Perfect Man Zhang Boduan. Notes in Chapter 36 were from On Realizing Perfection. Chapter 90 concluded by saying "the ancient sublimity Three Ways Unified and Normalized is slightly different as not to set up Elixir exactly". In the 50th chapter was the original writing of Ma Danyang titled Nan Kezi. And so Chapter 91 started with the modified poem of Wang Danyang's Patridge. What the Elder of the State said about the only Revered Dao was from the rhapsody in Chapter 9 of the Lingering Sound of the Cranes. In addition, there were lots of words and phrases from the Complete Perfection Tradition, such as "local immortal", "Eight Hundreds, Three Thousands", "Twelve Hours", " Long Hua Fair", "Yu Hua Fair", "As Like", "Six Six, Three Three", etc.. Liu Ts'un-yan believed that in the novel the Journey to the West there still remains two original versions of the original stories from Complete Perfection Tradition. One is what happened in Cechi from Chapter 44 to Chapter 46. The other is what Monkey told Monk Tang in Chapter 36. In Liu's words: "These words are just like the refurbished version of the Three Ways Unified and Normalized and On Realizing Perfection. The author wrote in such way that we are made to forget who they really are while reading. If there was once a Complete Perfection Tradition version of the Journey to the West, I am sure these words are original." Naturally people doubted Liu Ts'un-yan's assumption about the existence of the Complete Perfection Tradition version of the novel, for they were still expecting the discoveries made in archaeology and edition study. Mr. Liu Ts'un-yan too is concerned with every bit of the news related to different editions of the novel. However, people are filled with admiration as to Liu's familiarity with the novel and his skillful use of the Daoist Documents.

Although Liu Ts'un-yan is retired now, he goes on with his studies in Daoism. Recently he has some writings published including Philosophical Daoism and Daoist Arts, Xiang'er's Commentary on Laozi and Daoism, the Nature of the Daoist Canon, On the Inner Alchemy Rhapsody of Perfect Man Tao, etc.

Daoist Researches by Other Australian Scholars

there are a group of young and middle-aged scholars in Australia who have a good command of Chinese and are active in various economic and cultural fields related to China. Among them is Professor D.L.Holm of Mchaley University, Sydney. His research is concerned about Chinese studies and Daoism studies. Holm was a German born in American. He has been interested both in China and Chinese culture since his childhood when he came across some Chinese students. He finished his college education in America and Britain and obtained his Master Degree with the thesis On the Confucian Classics of the Chang Zhou School of the 19th Century. Later with the help of Professor Peter Long of Cambridge University in England, he finished his Doctor Thesis On the Activities in Literary and Artistic Field in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region during the Resistance War against Japan. Holm focused on the researches on folkways in North China and had his personnel investigations in the Northwest and the North China. He divided Chinese traditional yangko dance, a popular rural dance into two types: comic and mythic. The latter type of yangko opera is closely related with people's religious life in North China and Northwest. During his investigation in China, Holm once went to White Cloud Temple in Mount. White Cloud, Jia County, Sanxi province and was deeply impressed by the grandness of this Daoist temple built in the Ming Dynasty.

Professor B. Hedrischke of the Merben University had also studied Chinese Daoist thoughts. Her thesis Notions about Wealth and Poverty in the Book of Supreme Peace discussed the classification of wealth and poverty, the plan of achieving wealth and avoiding poverty and the social role of the wealthy as well. Besides, she put forth many original ideas about the Book of Supreme Peace and the early Daoist studies.