Cover image for Early Daoist scriptures
Early Daoist scriptures
Bokenkamp, Stephen R., 1949-
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
xviii, 502 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
General Note:
"A Philip E. Lilienthal book."

Translation of several Chinese religious texts with extensive analysis, commentary, and notes.

Originally published: Berkeley : University of California Press, c1997.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
B162.7 .E27 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



For centuries Daoism (Taoism) has played a central role in the development of Chinese thought and civilization, yet to this day only a few of its sacred texts have been translated into English. Now Stephen R. Bokenkamp introduces the reader to ancient scriptures never before published in the West, providing a systematic and easily accessible introduction to early Daoism (c. 2nd-6th C.E.). Representative works from each of the principal Daoist traditions comprise the basic structure of the book, with each chapter accompanied by an introduction that places the material within a historical and cultural context. Included are translations of the earliest Daoist commentary to Laozi's Daode jing (Tao Te Ching); historical documents relating the history of the early Daoist church; a petitioning ritual used to free believers from complaints brought against them by the dead; and two complete scriptures, one on individual meditation practice and another designed to rescue humanity from the terrors of hell through recitation of its powerful charms. In addition, Bokenkamp elucidates the connections Daoism holds with other schools of thought, particularly Confucianism and Buddhism.

This book provides a much-needed introduction to Daoism for students of religion and is a welcome addition for scholars wishing to explore Daoist sacred literature. It serves as an overview to every aspect of early Daoist tradition and all the seminal practices which have helped shape the religion as it exists today.

Author Notes

Stephen R. Bokenkamp is Professor of East Asian Languages and Culture at Indiana University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The earliest Daoist (Taoist) canon was compiled during the fifth century. Virtually none of this material is available in English. In this volume, Bokenkamp (East Asian language and literature, Indiana Univ.) translates six representative texts from the wealth of unmined canonical material from the Celestial Masters, Shangqing, and Lingbao schools of Daoism. These range from the earliest commentary to Laozi's (Lao-tzu) Daode jing (Tao Te Ching), to a text consisting of charms to be recited to rescue humanity from hell. Also included are a scripture on meditation practice, canonical documents on the history of the early Daoist "church," and "a petitioning ritual used to free believers from complaints brought against them by the dead." Dating from the second to the sixth centuries CE, these are a sample from among the more important texts of the early period of the religion. The translations are enhanced by an extensive general introduction and introductions to the individual texts, which set them in the broader context of the Daoist religion. At once scholarly and clear, Bokenkamp's work will open new worlds for the specialist but should also be accessible to general readers. A significant and accomplished work, it belongs in any serious collection. Upper-division undergraduate; graduate; faculty. J. P. McDermott; Canisius College