Laughing at the Dao
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Laughing at the Dao

Debates among Buddhists and Daoists in Medieval China

Paperback 34.95 USD
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Livia Kohn
284 Pages
March 2008
ISBN 978-1-931483-07-0


Originally published by Princeton University Press in 1995, Laughing at the Dao went out of print and the copyright reverted to the author. She has now updated the references and bibliography, and is making the book available in a Three Pines Press edition.

The Xiaodao lun (Laughing at the Dao) is an important document of the debates among Buddhists and Daoists in sixth-century China. These debates contributed to the process of cultural adaptation of Buddhism, which had to accommodate itself to the worldview of the Confucian elite, the Chinese sense of ethnic superiority, and China's indigenous religion of Daoism. Written by the Daoist renegade Zhen Luan in the year 570, the text aims to expose inconsistencies in Daoist doctrine, cosmology, ritual, and religious practice. In this effort it presents many aspects of Daoist doctrine and practice, providing ample citations from numerous Daoist sources often otherwise lost.

In a complete and fully annotated translation of the Xiaodao lun based closely on the work of Japanese scholars, Livia Kohn places the work within the context of the debates and exposes the political schemes behind the apparently religious disputes. The translation is carefully framed by a thorough introduction on the history of the debates as well as by two appendixes: one summarizes materials of both earlier and later debates; the other analyzes the Daoist sources cited in the Xiaodao lun. Richly informed and highly relevant to an understanding of medieval China, Kohn's work greatly enhances the study of medieval Buddhist and Daoist myth, rhetoric, and ideology.