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Elena Valussi (Loyola University, Chicago) donnera une conférence à l’EPHE, au France (190, av. de France, Paris 13), salle 116 le mercredi 19 juin 2013, de 10:30 à 12:30

Daoist Master Xiao Tianshi 蕭天石 and the transmission of alchemical knowledge from China to Taiwan in the 20th century

This talk discusses the life and work of Daoist Master Xiao Tianshi; specifically, I will discuss the development of his interests in Daoism during his time in Sichuan during the Sino-Japanese war (1937-1948). Xiao had been an editor who worked for military newspapers. In Sichuan. he was exposed to a multiplicity of religious beliefs and practices, from Confucianism to Buddhism and Daoism, from spirit writing and the cult of Lü Dongbin, to sanjiao 三教 teachings. His years in Sichuan, and especially the last three years, spent as a governor of Guanxian 灌縣, where Qingcheng shan 青城山 is located, and his close connection to the local Daoist abbott Yi Xinying 易心瑩, were seminal for his development as an intellectual and editor and were to inspire his life-work. Once in Taiwan, he dedicated the rest of his life to explain, catalogue and make widely available the writings he had been exposed to while in Sichuan. This desire was fueled not only by his deep interest in Daoism and specifically neidan 內丹, but also, given the political situation in mainland China, by his concern for the survival of Chinese culture as a whole, and of Daoism in particular. Therefore he set off to publish the books he had been able to rescue in China, but also, exploiting his wide network of connections with other recently emigrated fellow intellectuals and Daoists, to publish a wide selection of scriptures on late imperial neidan in his opus, the Daozang Jinghua 道藏精華. This work, started in 1952, would keep him occupied for the rest of his life until his death in 1987. Xiao Tianshi and the Daozang Jinghua have not yet received the scholarly attention they deserve. Through a close study of the texts published in the Daozang Jinghua, and through a careful reading of Xiao’s detailed introductions, it is possible to understand the complex web of relations of friendship and trust that Xiao developed in China and in Taiwan with fellow practitioners, as well as his deep understanding of the different lineages and currents of 20th century Daoism. The collection is not only valuable because of the texts it reproduces, that might have otherwise been lost, but also because it represents a picture of Daoism in the 20th century, at a moment of great instability and uncertainty. Also, Xiao’s compendium widely distributed texts not readily available to the Daoist community of Taiwan, thereby helping Daoism and neidan to develop and flourish in new directions there.