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The Fragments of the «Daoxue zhuan»

Critical Edition, Translation and Analysis of a Medieval Collection of Daoist Biographies


Stephan P. Bumbacher

The Daoxue zhuan (Biographies of students of the dao) of the last quarter of the sixth century AD, is a collection of Lives of persons of various Daoist traditions most of whom are said to have lived between the fourth and sixth centuries AD. It is the earliest compilation of Daoist biographies whose protagonists for the most part were mortal beings; some of them even have entries in the standard dynastic histories.
The extant fragments, translated here for the first time, are a mine of information on various aspects of social and religious life in medieval China: In contrast to earlier collections, they show evidence of an early Daoist monasticism, thus reflecting a change in the religious life of some Daoists in Southern China. Also, it is the first collection of Daoist biographies which devotes a whole chapter exclusively to the Lives of female Daoists and thus may help elucidating the nuns’ position within the society in this early time.
Contents: Textual studies: Text and authorship, the sources of the fragments – Critical edition of the fragments and complete and annotated translation – Analysis: The place of the Daoxue zhuan within the literary tradition, scheme of composition, Daoist monasticism, female Daoists.