Responsable: Frank Muyard

École française d'Extrême-Orient
Institute of History and Philology
Academia Sinica, Nankang 11529
Tel: +886 2 2652 3177 / 2782 9555 #275
Fax: +886 2 2785 2035

Young Scholars Seminar
29 MARCH 17
Speaker: Mr. Jacopo Scarin  (Ph.D. Candidate, Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Title: Imperial Restoration of a Daoist Temple in the 18th century: The Tongbai Palace and Yongzheng’s Patronage of Buddhism

Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 2 pm to 4pm
Venue: Room 701 Research Building, IHP, Academia Sinica, Taipei City

The Qing dynasty has witnessed the development of a characteristic form of Daoism, called “Longmen.” In south-eastern China, it developed an extended network that connected Daoist institutions with different backgrounds and history. Scholars have thoroughly studied the main Daoist temples belonging to this network, such as those of Mount Jin’gai in Huzhou, of Mount Weiyu in Taizhou, of the Jingu Cave in Hangzhou, plus urban altars connected to lay practitioners and spirit-writing activities, demonstrating that the phenomenon known as “Longmen” is the product of the interaction of different traditions and drives.

There are also some temples, considered until today as minor, or less influential for the development of Longmen Daoism between the 18th and 19th centuries, among which figures the Tongbai Palace. In spite of its rich past and prominent role in the history of Daoism since at least the Tang dynasty, this temple fell in disrepair at the end of the Ming dynasty. After its restoration in the Yongzheng era, it became almost suddenly part of the network of Daoist temples linked to the expanding “Longmen” network. It represented not only a foothold for this tradition, but also a crucial node in its expansion southward during the 18th century.

Given this prominent position, it is worth studying the development of the Tongbai Palace during the Qing dynasty, with particular reference to the moment of its renaissance. Its restoration was sponsored by Emperor Shizong (Yongzheng) in the second part of his reign, a unique act of patronage for the manner in which it was carried out. Its significance is related to two aspects: first of all, it was one of the last major imperially-sponsored Daoist institutions before the political downfall of the Heavenly Masters’ tradition during the Qianlong reign; moreover, the uniqueness of the circumstances under which it was restored needs further assessment.

This lecture presents an array of primary sources related to Yongzheng’s restoration of the Tongbai Palace, aiming to explain the cultural and religious background of the initiative. It argues in favour of the theory that the temple was restored not as a Daoist institution per se, but as the place where Zhang Boduan (the Perfected Ziyang) practiced self-cultivation. The reasons why Yongzheng was interested in Zhang Boduan can be demonstrated to be intimately related to his contemporary patronage of Chan Buddhism at court. Finally, it will attempt to provide an original perspective on Yongzheng’s patronage of the Tongbai Palace not as an instance of the “Doctrine of the Three Teachings”, but as the effect of his interest in Buddhism, which integrated Daoism in a paradigm best described as “Doctrine of the Two Teachings.”

- Cultural and Intellectual History Research Center, IHP, Academia Sinica
- EFEO Taipei Center