Daoist Studies in Russia

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The Initial Stage

Russia, a country adjacent to the north of China has had links with China economically and culturally since ancient times. However, the study of Daoism in Russia, like those in France and Japan, concurred with Tsarist Russia's invading China.

From the late 1700's to the early 1800's, missionaries from the Orthodox Eastern Church, who were appointed by the Tsar were curbed by the Holy Religious Yard, a religious organization managed by the government and simultaneously led by the Asian Department of Foreign Affairs Ministry of Tsarist Russia. The missionaries collected a wide range of information concerning China's politics, economy, local people and customs while learning the languages of Manchu and Chinese peoples, and engaging in translating books of Manchu and Chinese languages into Russian. In 1807, the ninth missionary Bichurin(1777-1853) came to China and stayed in Beijing for more than ten years. Bichurin also known as Yatinpu who associated with the influential officials of the Qing Dynasty and the upper class and gathered a big chunk of books and materials, was eminent for doing research on Mongolia and Chengjisihan(1162-1227), chieftain of ancient Mongolia, together with ancient Middle Asia. In 1842, the journal Son of Motherland published his Laozi and His Doctrines. Within the same year, his Statistical Collection of Chinese Emperors was published, which claimed: "Laozi's ethical doctrine went against the Confucian creed," and the heirs of Laozi: "broke away from his mode of thought and formed new principles", which led to the establishment of Daoism.

In 1818, Tsarist Russian government decreed that "the Orthodox Eastern Church missionaries' main mission in China later on should not focus on religious activities, but on the overall research of China's economy and culture as well as on the prompt reports of China's major incidents about politics and lives to the Tsarist Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry." Just in the same year, the translator of Chinese with the Tsarist Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Kamski was transferred to be the dean of Orthodox missionaries in China. The Journal of National Education Ministry published his Russian version of Tablet on Supreme Correspondence translated from the language of the Manchu people in 1912. Russian research on Sinology witnessed bloody aggression from the very inception because the Orthodox Eastern Church missionaries took the political developments of the imperial court in the first place and served Tsarist Russia, whose ambitions were to invade China's Northeast and Huabei, an old administrative division including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei Province, Shangxi Province and the Inner Mongolia. Thus, during the incipient period, the Russian Sinologists did not attach much importance to the studies on Daoist School and Daoism.

Earnest Study on Daoism from the Middle of the 1800's

With the deepening understanding of China's politics and culture from the middle of the 1800's to the early 1900's, the Tsarist Russian Orthodox Eastern Church missionaries began to be keen on the thought of the Daoist School and Daoism. Vaciljev (1818-1900), a Sinologist majoring in oriental languages and graduating from the History and Philology Department of Kasan University, reached Beijing with the Twelfth Orthodox Eastern Church Missionary Delegation and stayed there for seven years to learn Sanskrit, languages of Mongolia, Tibetan, Manchu nationalities, etc. He did research on three religions: Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. Vaciljev was a professor in Kasan University in 1851; he taught as a professor in Petersburg University in 1855. The year 1873 saw the publication of his Oriental Religions: Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism. Vaciljev's religious mysticism conformed to Laozi's philosophy, "unifying those who were discontented with the reality under the same banner". He established the first Chinese school in Petersburg, which laid a foundation for the Department of Oriental Languages of Petersburg University, and fostered an army of Sinologists. After Vaciljev passed away, the study of Sinology in Tsarist Russia was closely related to that in France due to the tradition of worshipping France.

In 1885, Georgijevski (1851-1893) held in his The Early Period of Chinese History in Book of Dao and Its Virtue, the 'Dao' indicated the Primordial Chaos of the primeval state of the universe, and the Primordial Chaos intrinsically bore rationality", "According to Daoist doctrines, the variety of the world could be seen was none other than the indication of life embodied in 'Dao', which was eternal, unified, and absolute. 'Dao' was substance, power, and rationality of the universe." In his Living Principles of the Chinese, completed in 1888, Georgijevski thought the philosophical theories in the Book of Dao and Its Virtue surpassed the materialistic theories in the earliest ancient Greece, and he opposed Hegel's assumption that there were no philosophical thoughts in China. In addition, he wrote Mythological Views of the Chinese & Mythologies. One student of Vaciljev, Popov published his Various Gods and Spirits in China in Moscow in 1901.

The literary giant of Russia Tolstoi (1828-1910) mentioned in his, Letter to the Chinese in October, 1906: "I am so interested in the lives of Chinese. I attempt to go close to their lives by means of Chinese religious doctrines-the books of Confucius, Mencius, Laozi and the notes in these books." Tolstoi paid much attention to the doctrines of Laozi, deeply impressed by the idea that "A good soldier is actually an ominous war machine" in Chapter 31 of Laozi. Nonetheless, he confused Laozi's "non-interference" and "non-resistance" and considered "Dao" and the god in Christianity were the same in essence. Tolstoi was the editor-in-chief in compiling Book of Dao and Its Virtue by Laozi. Book of Dao and Its Virtue was translated into Russian for the first time by Konisy. Dulelin provided notes to it.

Daoism study after 1917

From 1920s to 1960s, the study of Russian Daoism underwent the third development. After the October Revolution in 1917, the USSR was concerned with the national independence of the colonial and semi-colonial countries in Asia. Adopting new positions, viewpoints, and methods, the Sinological studies in the USSR evolved rapidly and excelled in international Sinological study. However, the "Leftist" ideological trend affected the religious research, leading to the restraints of research work, including the research on China's Daoism. Apekseev(1881-1951), a Sinologist who had taken up Sinology in France, and who was an adored student of Chavannes, came to investigate China and covered more than half of China from 1906 to 1909. He founded the second Chinese school in Russia in 1912. Apeksjev concentrated on Confucianism study and wrote a large number of works with regard to Chinese history and culture such as

  1. Buddhism in Chinese Folk Religions,
  2. Chinese Folk Religions,
  3. Gods and Ghosts in Chinese Folk Painting,
  4. Chinese New Year Pictures: Social Ordered Articles and Classical Performers,
  5. A Tentative Study on "Laozi"Compilation,
  6. On Chinese Religious System,
  7. On Problems in " the Book of Change" for Sinology in Europe,
  8. Daoist Superman Theory, and The Dragon Cult in China, etc.

In 1982, the Russian Oriental Research Institute published Apekseev's collected works Oriental Study•Essays and Documents.

Shushki(1897-1946), a student of Apekseev specialized in researches on Daoist School and Daoism, and Published Daoist Daoist Believers in Buddhism, Study on Daoist Classics "Liezi" in 1928. He also translated the Inner Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity into Russian and completed translating the Book of Change, which was published by Russian Science Publishing House in 1960. Besides, Shkurki(1868-1948) got his A Survey of Daoism published on Asian Bulletin in 1926.

From the 1930s on, the studies on Daoism were strikingly reduced due to the political factors of the scholars, whose published essays centred on the philosophy of Laozi and Zhuangzi and some other subsequent schools. For example: Petrov(1907-1949) got his On China's Philosophical History published in 1936.

In 1940, the third copy of Journal of Academic Series of Tomsk Teachers' College issued the Book of Secret Correspondences--A Page of Chinese Philosophical History appended with the translation of Scripture of Yin Mark and notes by Marakujev(1891-1955). Marakujev also gave his comments to every note.

The entry of "Daoism" can be found in both USSR Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Encyclopedia published from 1942 to 1947. In 1950, Yang Xingshun(1905-1989), a Chinese descendant overseas published his A Philosopher in Ancient China, Laozi and His Doctrines with a prose translation of Book of Dao and Its Virtue which was the second version in Russia. Mr. Yang, who came from Zhejiang Province, China, and graduated from the University of Communist Social Sciences, taught in the Far East Chinese Lenin School in Haishenwai. From 1939-1940, he taught and moonlit as an interpreter in the Communist International Specialized Workshop, and obtained a post in the Committee of USSR Broadcasting from 1941 to 1946. When appointed as dean of Oriental Philosophy and Sociology Study Room of Philosophy Research Institute in USSR Academy of Sciences in 1948, he earned his vice PHD for his dissertation of Philosophical Theories in Book of Dao and Its Virtue . After the publication of A Philosopher in Ancient China, Laozi and His Doctrines in 1950, its Chinese version was issued by the Science Publishing House in Beijing in 1957. The book summarized that Laozi's thoughts took an important position in the philosophical history of ancient China, and that Laozi's doctrine of "Dao" was materialistic in essence. It finalized in commenting the studies on "Book of Dao and Its Virtue" by the scholars in Europe, the Tsarist Russian scholars before October Revolution, and the USSR scholars. Being the representative of the study on Laozi within the period of USSR, this book exerted an influence on the researches about Chinese philosophical history for quite a long time, and it is still taking effect up to now.

Daoism study in Russia after 1970s

From 1970s on, since the USSR witnessed violent political turmoil, the research of social sciences took on an unprecedented activist look. Especially, changes took place in religious policy, which led to the fact that the Russian academic circle paid more concern and attention to the religious issues and all the religions in the world. Such an academic ideological trend adjusted itself to China's success in reforming and opening up to the world, and the researches on China's thoughts and culture as well as on Chinese Daoism proceeded actively in the USSR and the Russian academic circle.

The Chinese Department of the Oriental Study Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences consecutively held academic seminar, titled Chinese Society and State in February to March annually since 1970. It is said that the symposium has been held more than twenty times. After the symposium, a collection of theses would be published. The collection of 1982, named Dao and Daoism in China, gathers 14 theses and consisted three sections. The first section is concerned with the theoretical structures of Daoism and its revelation in China's ideology in the Middle Ages, including:

  1. The Universality of the Early Daoism (Golohova)
  2. Symbol of Instrument in the "Book of Dao and Its Virtue"(Blozlova)
  3. Philosophy of Zhuangzi: A Peaceful and Ascetic Life (Malyawin)
  4. The Main Evolutions of Daoism in the Six Dynasties-Motivated by "The Master Who #Embraces Simplicity" by Ge Hong (Torchinov)
  5. Wang Yangming and Daoism (Kobtsev)
  6. Culture in Ming Dynasty and Lin Zhaoen's Daoist Topic (Martilov)

The second section makes a comparison between Daoism and Buddhism conceptions, including:

  1. Dao and Brahma: Phenomena of the Incipient Ultimate Community (Vaciljev)
  2. A Preliminary Study on the World Model in Daoism and Buddhism (Gligriva)
  3. Buddhism and Daoism in Japan-Study on the Mutual Relation and Evaluation (Ignatolwitch)

The third section is about the influence of Daoist thoughts upon the social lives, including:

  1. Chinese Monstrous Novels from the 3rd to 6th Century and Daoism (Gonejina)
  2. Roaming Proses with Daoist Traits (Zawtskaya)
  3. Daoist Concept of Life and Dramas from 1500 to 1600 (Shelowa)
  4. Daoist Origin of Chinese Martial Arts (Abajev)
  5. The Daoist Tradition in Folk Religious Campaign (Porchneva)
  6. Vaciljev and Porchneva co-compiled Dao and Daoism in China.

Vaciljev, Doc. of History, whose masterpieces are Chinese Sacrificial Rites, Religion and Tradition, Oriental History of Religion, Daoism as Religion: Explorations on Immortality, Divination and Superstition , etc. is an advanced researcher in Moscow Oriental Study Research Institute, and a representative of contemporary Russian Daoist research. Porchneva, also an advanced researcher in Moscow Oriental Study Research Institute, specialized in Chinese folk religions and wrote Bailianjiao Uprising: Ideology of Chinese People's Revolt from 1796 to 1804, Chinese Folk Religious Campaign in Ming and Qing Dynasties: Ideological Issues, together with a dissertation, Concepts of Heretical Religions, etc.

Russian First Monograph of Daoist History

In 1993, St. Petersburg Oriental Study Center published Daoism: A Preliminary Account of Historical Religion by Torchinov. Torchinov (1955-) called himself Torchv, graduated from the Oriental Department of Leningrad University and obtained his vice PHD in Leningrad Religious History Museum, majoring in Chinese Daoism. He transferred his job to Oriental Study Research Institute of Moscow, Russian Academy of Sciences afterwards and earned his PHD in St. Petersburg in 1993. He produced a great number of works, including

  1. On Realizing Perfection: Translation with Notes,
  2. Daoist Philosophy in Daoist Documents-Motivated by 'Tablet on Secret Correspondences' and 'On Realizing Perfection',
  3. The Origin of Daoism and Its Different Stages, Alchemy and Rituals in Daoism,
  4. A Prose Interspersed with Verse on Touring to Mount Tiantai by Sun Chuo and the Mutual Relations of Buddhism and Daoism,
  5. The Traditional Chinese Daoism in Contemporary History Studies and Science beyond Russia,
  6. Methodology on the Researches of the Mutual Relations of Buddhism and Daoism,
  7. Daoism and State in Traditional China,
  8. Chinese Theories and History of Alchemy and Chemistry,
  9. Chinese Medical Sciences and Its Social Ethical Position,
  10. Utopia in Chinese Society at the Joint of the Ancient Times and the Middle Ages,
  11. Traditional Chinese Daoism and Imperial Power,
  12. Ethic and Rituals in Daoism,
  13. Selective Translation of 'the Book of Suprme Peace',
  14. Daoism and Alchemy --the Mutual Relations between Religions and Traditional Scientific Forms in Medieval China,
  15. Daoism: Explorations on Immortality and Liberty-Selective Translation of Chinese Ancient Daoist Documents.

In 1993, St. Petersburg Oriental Study Center published Torchinov's monograph Daoism: A Preliminary Account of a Historical Religion, which consisted of four parts, foreword, body, conclusion and references. In the foreword, Torchinov illustrated Daoist research aimed to structure the Daoist philsophical system in the historical development and to put forward the scientific ideas of the production, formation and development of the Daoist tradition. The first chapter of the body consists of eight sections, presenting the eight major issues of Daoist research, namely, unification of Daoist Schools and Daoism; whether Daoism was China's national religion; the relation between Daoism and folk beliefs; the relation between Daoism and the state; Daoist Schools and the Daoist developing regularities; traditional Chinese Daoism and the skills of making pills of immortality; the general evaluation on Daoist doctrines; the universal productive theory in Daoism and theory of the universe. The second chapter is made up of seven sections, outlining the Daoist historical development, namely, the origin of Daoism; Daoism before and after Han Dynasty; masters of Heaven and Daoist church; Daoism in the turbulent period (from the 4th to 6th century); Daoism in Tang and Song Dynasties; composition and deformation; the Daoist 'religious reformation' and its consequences; Daoism from 1300 to 1800. This book is followed with references in Russian, Chinese, English and French.

Compared to that in other countries, Daoist research in Russian lagged behind as far as research talents or research fruits are concerned. The publication of Torchinov's monograph indicated the Sinological tradition in Russia had begun to renew itself.