Research Guide to Daoist Studies

Submitted by LvKohn on Thu, 02/12/2009 - 20:47
LvKohn's picture

Livia Kohn, Boston University


DAOZANG (Daoist Canon; 1921/34): developed from medieval collections, various Song editions (lost), current edition printed in 1445, under reign Zhengtong, thus also called Zhengtong daozang. Reprinted in Shanghai 1923-25, together with Xu Daozang of 1610, in traditional Chinese style (wrappers and fascicles), then in Taiwan in the 1960s in 60-vol. reduced editions, recently in Shanghai in a 30-vol. even more reduced version, which cuts off the tops of the pages, eliminating traditional page numbers. For background read:

Thompson, Laurence. 1985. "Taoism: Classic and Canon." In The Holy Book in Comparative Perspective, edited by Frederick M. Denny and Rodney F. Taylor, 204-23. Columbus: University of South Carolina Press.

Reference Works

Weng Dujian. 1935. Combined Indices to the Authors and Titles of Books in Two Collections of Daoist Literature. Beijing: Harvard-Yenching Sinological Index Series no. 25. Reprinted by Chinese Materials Center, 1966.

Commonly used under the abbreviation "HY;" useful because it indexes titles, author's names, and major biographies in separate parts; not so easy to use because of HY five-corner system and only has texts under full-length titles.

Schipper, Kristofer M. 1975. Concordance du Tao Tsang: Titres des ouvrages. Paris: Publications de l'Ecole Française d'Extrême-Orient.

Commonly used under the abbreviation "DZ," "TT," or "CT;" the numbers here are identical with the Taiwan 60-vol. edition. Easy to use because arranged by radical and stroke number, and titles listed under every possible word, not just first character. But only indexes titles, no authors or biographies.

Numbers in the two indexes differ slightly, the HY acknowledging about fourteen texts less than the CT. This is due to the way of counting texts (two texts under same major heading, are they one or two?), not straightforward addition either, but goes back and forth. For a comparative list of numbers, see Boltz 1987, 247-50; Noguchi et al. 1994.

Ren Jiyu and Zhong Zhaopeng, eds. 1991. Daozang tiyao. Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe.

Comprehensive description (occasionally even dating) of texts in the canon; very useful; uses yet another numbering system, about five behind the DZ.

Schipper, Kristofer, and Franciscus Verellen, eds. 2008. The Taoist Canon: A Study of Taoist Literature in the Daozang of the Ming Dynasty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Magnum opus, result of the European "Project Tao-tsang," evaluates and summarizes every single text in the canon.

Ôfuchi Ninji and Ishii Masako. 1988. Dôkyô tenseki mokuroku, sakuin. Tokyo: Kokusho kankôkai.

Index to all texts cited in the major encyclopedias and collections of the canon; arranged by Japanese kana system, but has stroke number index to it.

Chen Guofu. 1975. Daozang yuanliu kao. Taipei: Guting. —historical analysis of the canon, arranged by Daoist schools.

Yoshioka Yoshitoyo. 1955. Dôkyô kyôten shiron. Tokyo: Dokyo kankôkai.

Same, with slightly different focus, includes description, dating, and examination of various scriptures.

Louis Komjathy. 2003. Title Index to Daoist Collections. Cambridge: Three Pines Press.

Comprehensive index of the Ming Zhengtong Daozang, Dunhuang manuscripts, Daozang jiyao, Daozang jinghua lu, Daozang jinghua, Zangwai daoshu, and Qigong yangsheng congshu


DAOZANG JIYAO (Collected Essentials of the Daoist Canon; not in HY), compiled by Jiang Yupu in 1796-1820, contains 173 titles, most of which are taken straight from the Daozang. For a list of texts, see

Chen William Y. 1987. A Guide to Tao Tsang chi yao. Stony Brook, NY: Institute for the Advanced Study of World Religions.

DAOZANG JINGHUA (Essential Blossoms of the Daoist Canon; not in HY), dated 1920, contains more recent texts otherwise not found, printed in paperback edition by Jiyou in Taipei. No guide to date, neglected work.

ZANGWAI DAOSHU (Daoist Books Outside the Canon; ), recent (1991) mainlaind collection of Daoist texts printed in non-canon editions. Repeats a certain amount of material that is already found in the canon, but is also a useful supplement, especially for Ming and later materials.

DUNHUANG TEXTS. Quite a number of Daoist mss. were recovered from Dunhuang. Numbers given after finder (P = Pelliot; S = Stein), reprinted in order of schools and topics, best found in

Ôfuchi Ninji. 1979. Tonkô dôkei: Zuroku hen. Tokyo: Kokubu shoten.

A collated edition of all fragments of the Shengxuan jing is found in Yamada Takashi. 1992. Kohon Shôgenkyô. Sendai: Tôhoku daigaku.


Only very few Daoist texts have been systematically indexed so far. Among those we have are, in order of the texts' date:

Xiang'er zhu (Xiang'er Commentary to the Daode jing), a third-century religious exegesis of the ancient classic, recovered from Dunhuang and edited conveniently in

—Rao Zongyi. 1956. Laozi xianger zhu jiaoqian. Hongkong: Tong Nam Printers. Reprinted Shanghai: Wenyin, 1992.

The index is Japanese:

—Mugitani Kunio. 1985. Rôshi sôjichu sakuin. Kyoto: Hôyû shoten.

Huangting jing (Yellow Court Scripture), a fourth-century meditational text, in both its nei and wai versions:

—Schipper, Kristofer M. 1975. Concordance du Houang-t'ing king. Paris: Publications de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extrême-Orient.

Baopuzi (Book of the Master Who Embraces Simplicity), Ge Hong's 320 classic on the practice of alchemy, again indexed in both the nei and wai parts in

—Schipper, Kristofer M. 1975. Concordance du Pao-p'u-tzu nei/wai-p'ien. Paris: Publications de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extrême-Orient.

Shenzhou jing (Scripture of Divine Incantations), fifth-century apocalyptic work of south China, in

—Yamada Yoshiaki and Yusa Noboru, eds. 1984. Taijô dôgen shinshukyô goi sakuin. Tokyo: Sôundô.

Zhen'gao (Declarations of the Perfected), Tao Hongjing's (456-536) tremendous compendium on the Highest Clarity (Shangqing) revelations, in

—Mugitani Kunio. 1991. Shinkô sakuin. Kyoto: Dôhôsha.

Yunji qiqian (Seven Tablets in a Cloudy Satchel), eleventh-century encyclopedia giving a gist of the Daoist canon then compiled. Big index, but does not really cover every single word in the work. Found in

—Schipper, Kristofer M. 1980. Concordance du Yun ki ki kian. 2 vols. Paris: Publications de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extrême-Orient.


Li Yuanguo. 1991. Zhongguo daojiao qigong yangsheng daquan. Chengdu: Sichuan cishu chubanshe.

—dictionary on inner alchemy, Song and modern practices, based largely on Song/Yuan sources; consists of 2,000 pages and arranges items by stroke order under different headings.

Noguchi Tetsurô, Sakade Yoshinobu, Fukui Fumimasa, and Yamada Toshiaki, eds. 1994. Dôkyô jiten. Tokyo: Hirakawa.

—general dictionary, arranged in short items using the Japanese kana system, but with extensive indexes that make the work very accessible; also has a comparative chart of HY and CT numbers.

Sakade Yoshinobu, ed. 1994. Dôkyô no daijiten. Tokyo: Shin jimbutsu ôrai sha.

—comprehensive encyclopedia, written in longer articles, because based on a series published in a local newspaper; focuses more on practical aspects, includes much information of divination, longevity, and other related practices.

For a review of both, see Journal of Chinese Religions 23 (1995), 155-62.

Zhang Zhizhi, ed. 1994. Daojiao wenhua cidian. Jiangsu: Guji.

--cooperative project, presents Daoism in all its different dimensions and contains a useful chronology that includes Western dates and a calendar of annual holy days and festivals.

Wu Feng and Song Yifu, eds. 1994. Zhonghua daoxue tongdian. Shanghai: Nanhai.

--involves over 200 scholars from all parts of China; covers Daoist scriptures, personages and organizations (851 figures, 38 groups,many temples and institutions), and Daoist worldview and practices.

Li Yangzheng, ed. 1994. Daojiao da cidian. Beijing: Huaxia.

--based on cooperation with local Daoist organizations, collects information from Suzhou, Maoshan, Wudang shan, Sichuan, and other major Daoist centers; covers Daoist doctrines, terminology, scriptures, major figures, rules and taboos, practices, arts, etc., summarizes current state of Daoism and the most important academic trends. Reprinted Taipei,1996.

Hu Fuchen, ed. 1995. Zhongguo daojiao da cidian. Beijing: Xinhua

--sub-editors Wang Ka and Chen Yaoting, plus over a hundred Daoist scholars, also from Japan; largest Daoist dictionary published to date; includes bibliographies of Chinese Daoist studies (1990-1993), chronology, and indexes.

Pas, Julian. 1998. Historical Dictionary of Taoism. In cooperation with Man Kam Leung. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press.

—Itemized dictionary, with extensive historical introduction, strong on ancient (philosophical) Daoism, little reliance on Chinese and Japanese work.

Livia Kohn, ed. 2000. Daoism Handbook. Leiden: E. Brill.

—Handbook, contains 29 papers by 28 scholars from ten different countries, arranged in semi-chronological order, interspersing articles on historical periods with those centered on topics (alchemy, art, women, etc.). Extensive bibliography and index.

Fabrizio Pregadio, ed. 2002. Encyclopedia of Taoism. London: Curzon Press.

—Encyclopedia, has over 800 entries on all different aspects of Daoism, written by scholars from all over the world.


Several works in the canon or even entire parts of its collection have been critically surveyed in secondary sources. In alphabetical order by author:

Andersen, Poul. 1991. "Taoist Ritual Texts and Traditions with Special Reference to Bugang, the Cosmic Dance." Ph.D. diss. University of Copenhagen.

—Analysis of Song dynasty materials of the Sanhuang tradition and its ritual expression at the time. Summarizes and evaluates texts and places them into a larger, historical context.

Bokenkamp, Stephen R. 1997. Early Daoist Scriptures. With a contribution by Peter Nickerson. Berkeley: University of California Press.

—Complete translation (with extensive annotation) of six important Daoist scriptures of the early middle ages, i.e., from the third to the fifth centuries C.E., covering all major schools, arranged in chronological order.

Boltz, Judith M. 1987. A Survey of Taoist Literature: Tenth to Seventeenth Centuries. Berkeley: University of California, China Research Monograph 32.

—Analytical description of numerous Daoist texts from the Song onwards, arranged by types of literature (biographies, geographical works, anthologies), then by schools. Detailed indexes.

Drexler, Monika. 1994. Daoistische Schriftmagie: Interpretationen zu den fu im Daozang. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, Muenchener Ostasiatische Studien, 68.

—Analysis of texts of the Tianxin (Heart of Heaven) tradition of the Song, focusing specially on the role and creation of talismans.

Kamitsuka Yoshiko. 1999. Rikuchô dôkyô shisô no kenkyû. Tokyo: Sôbunsha.

—Comprehesive discussion of major aspects of medieval Daoist thought of the Shangqing and Lingbao schools, the Taiping jing, and popular (Buddho-Daoist) practices

Kobayashi Masayoshi. 1990. Rikuchô dôkyôshi kenkyû. Tokyo: Sôbunsha.

—Detailed discussion of fifth-century Daoist texts, especially of Celestial Masters (Tianshi) and Numinous Treasure (Lingbao) provenance.

Kohn, Livia. 1995. Laughing at the Tao: Debates among Buddhists and Taoists in Medieval China. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

—Translation of anti-Daoist polemic Xiaodao lun (Laughing at the Tao) by Buddhist convert and official Zhen Luan, dated 570. Appendix 2 contains analytical descriptions of Daoist texts cited.

Kohn, Livia. 1998. God of the Dao: Lord Lao in History and Myth. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Center for Chinese Studies.

—Presentation of the different roles of Laojun in Daoist history as well as a myth-studies analysis of his Song hagiography Youlong zhuan; uses and discusses most of the texts contained in the Dongshen section of the canon.

Lagerwey, John. 1981. Wu-shang pi-yao: Somme taoiste du VIe siecle. Paris: Publications de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extrême-Orient.

—Analysis and summary of the first Daoist encyclopedia, the Wushang biyao (Esoteric Essentials of the Most High, DZ 1138), dated to 574.

Ôfuchi Ninji. 1997. Dôkyô to sono kyôten. Tokyo: Sôbunsha.

—Description and analysis of texts associated with the early Daoist movements, especially the Celestial Masters. Summary of decades of scholarly studies.

Reiter, Florian C. 1990. Der Perlenbeutel aus den drei Höhlen: Arbeitsmaterialien zum Taoismus der frühen T'ang-Zeit. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.

—Description of the seventh-century encyclopedia Sandong zhunang; summary of texts, identification of citations (not always correct or complete).

Reiter, Florian. 1992. Kategorien und Realien im Shang-ch'ing Taoismus: Arbeitsmaterialien zum Taoismus der frühen T'ang-Zeit. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

—Same for seventh century Highest Clarity collection Shangqing daolei shixiang.

Robinet, Isabelle. 1984. La révélation du Shangqing dans l'histoire du taoïsme. 2 vols. Paris: Publications de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extrême-Orient.

—Second volume contains an annotated catalog of the texts of the original Highest Clarity (Shangqing) revelation of 364-70, plus a plethora of later Shangqing texts. The first volume offers a historical introduction and analysis.

Van der Loon, Piet. 1984. Taoist Books in the Libraries of the Sung Period. London: Oxford Oriental Institute.

—Analytical index of Daoist materials listed in Song catalogs, both private and imperial. Gives detailed historical survey and contains bibliographic descriptions of texts in the original.

Yoshikawa Tadao, ed. 1992. Chûgoku ko dôkyô shi kenkyû. Kyoto: Dôhôsha.

Yoshikawa Tadao, ed. 1998. Rikuchô dôkyô no kenkyû. Kyoto: Shunjusha.

—Two volumes from the Daoism research seminar at Kyoto Univ.'s Institute for Research in Humanities, dicussing medieval Daoist texts and ideas. The second focuses exclusively on Tao Hongjing and the Zhen'gao.


For a comprehensive state-of-the-art survey of Daoist studies in the West, see

Seidel, Anna. 1990. "Chronicle of Taoist Studies in the West 1950-1990." Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie 5: 223-347.

For listings of works on Daoism in the larger context of Chinese religion, see the bibliography series by Laurence Thompson:

—Chinese Religion in Western Languages. Phoenix: University of Arizona Press, 1980.

—Chinese Religions: Publications in Western Languages 1981 through 1990. Los Angeles: AAS, 1993.

An account of the current Japanese situation is found in a collection of essays published in Acta Asiatica 68 (1995).

Also, the Japanese Society for Daoist Studies (Nihon Dôkyô Gakkai) publishes listings of recent studies in all sorts of languages in the fall issue (even numbers) of their journal Tôhô shûkyô. Active since 1951, this is a key organ and primary resource for Daoist studies.