Between the Canon and the Field: Daoist manuscripts collection from Qing China in the Harvard-Yenching Library

Visiting Scholar Talks

Mar 10, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Norifumi Sakai | Associate Professor, Keio University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2022-23


James Robson | James C. Kralik and Yunli Lou Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Seating is limited. Masks are required for all in-person audience members.

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

The Harvard-Yenching Library has a collection of Daoist manuscripts copied in Qing China, mainly from the Kangxi and Qianlong eras (c. 17th-18th centuries). These manuscripts are highly valuable yet understudied primary sources of Daoism from Qing China. They are precious examples of Daoist materials from several hundred years after the publication of the Ming Daoist Canon which is the main source for Daoist studies on pre-modern Daoism. And through a study of these materials, we can also explore the roots of modern Daoist manuscripts that some scholars have collected in the process of their fieldwork.

This talk will focus on a few Daoist liturgical manuals from the collection of the Harvard-Yenching Library. The primary activities of Daoist center on various rituals. Daoists ask their deities to fulfill particular requests in daily life through the performance of their rituals. We can reveal Daoist activities in Qing China by referring to these liturgical manuals. In addition, these manuals contain information about the place and the Daoist priests who copied them. They also provide a social and cultural milieu for us to understand local and regional contexts of Daoist activities. I will explain that Daoist manuscripts in the collection of the Harvard-Yenching Library have high value as sources of Daoist study.