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Traces of the Way: Memory and Transformation in Daoist Jataka Tales 道跡:道教本生故事中的記憶與變化


School of Chinese Seminar


Traces of the Way: Memory and Transformation in Daoist Jataka Tales



Speaker: Dr. Gil Raz 李福博士


Date: Thursday, 23 November 2023

Time: 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM


Venue: Room 7.30, Run Run Shaw Tower, HKU


Language: English



The Wondrous Scripture of Original Deeds from the Cavern of Darkness (Dongxuan benxing miaojing 洞玄本行妙經), is a medieval Daoist scripture, consists of a story cycle of the prior lives of Daoist gods. Inspired by Buddhist jataka tales, these stories exemplify how Daoist authors used and elaborated Buddhist ideas to creatively fit into Daoist cosmology. Thus, rather than awakening, the Daoist tales focus on bodily transformation and appointment as deities. Indeed, the Daoist tales are not really about the karma of the deities but about the efficacy of the True Writs 真文. Another key difference is that while Buddhist jataka tales the memory of past lives is a basic assumption, in Daoist narratives this premise is replaced by “traces” 跡, some form of visual inscription (textual, talismanic, archaeological) that verifies the past. In this talk, I focus on “traces” 跡 , a key notion in medieval Daoist discourse. I discuss the development of the discourse of “traces” from early China to the medieval period, as well as to our modern ideas of tracing Daoist sources.  Alongside transformation, the notion of “trace” is fundamental to our understanding of medieval Daoism.


《洞玄本行妙經》是一部中古時期的道教經典,由一系列道教諸神的本生故事所組成。這些受到佛教本生故事啟發的道教故事,成為了解道教作者如何利用、闡釋佛教思想,將其創造性融入道教宇宙觀的絕佳案例。因此,道教故事的重點不在覺悟,而是強調身體的變化以及被任命為神靈。事實上,道教故事並不專門講述神靈的行業,而是關於真文的功效。另一個關鍵的差異是,佛教本生故事的基本假定是講述前世的記憶,但在道教故事之中,這個前提卻被「跡」所取代了,即是以某種視覺化的銘刻 (文字、符篆、古蹟)來證實過去的經歷。這次的講演,我將集中討論「跡」,一個中古時期道教話語中的關鍵概念。我將討論先秦到中古時期「跡」的話語及其發展,以及我們循跡追尋道教根源的現代觀點。除了變化之外,「跡」的概念對於我們理解中古道教也是至關重要的。



Gil Raz is Associate Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College, specializing in Daoism. His research interests include Daoist ritual, notions of the body, visual and material culture, and religious interactions in medieval China. His book The Emergence of Daoism (2012) examines the development of Daoism in early medieval China. His recent research focuses on Daoist archaeological and epigraphic materials as sources for Daoist lived religion.