Translated Texts from Ancient China
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Long before and after Buddhism arrived in China, parallel cultivation teachings and practices flourished in native Chinese forms, such as those taught in Daoism and Confucianism. Several of these works have been translated and are available below.
Daoist work from the Tang Dynasty, entitled Qingjing Jing (清靜經), or the “Classic of Purity and Stillness.” This is an important and central text in the Daoist religion. It builds upon the Laozi (老子) and uses the literary style of the Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra to explain the method of attaining the Dao in systematic, cascading logic with few adornments. The text has been commented upon extensively, is universally praised, and is commonly studied and recited to this day. Nan Huai-Chin has also regarded the Classic of Purity and Stillness as being the single greatest work of the Daoist religion (道教).
Daoist work from the Tang Dynasty, entitled Lüzu Bai Zi Bei (呂祖百字碑), the “Hundred Character Tablet.” This is a short work attributed to the Daoist immortal Lü Dongbin (呂洞賓). It consists of twenty lines of verse, teaching the essential methods of becoming a spiritual immortal (神仙). The general practice includes tempering the vital breath in the silence of meditation, and practicing non-action to tame the mind. In this work, the first six lines describe the essential practice in terms of the vital breath and the mind, while the last fourteen lines describe subsequent progression.
Confucian work from the Eastern Han Dynasty, entitled Jie Zi Shu (戒子書), “Admonition to My Son.” This is a translation of famous advice attributed to Zhuge Liang (諸葛亮) to his son Zhuge Qiao (諸葛喬). It has since been widely esteemed as a guide for self-cultivation and personal development. Zhuge Liang is traditionally regarded as the most brilliant military strategist of the Three Kingdoms period. He was also known for being quiet and reclusive, even living in a thatched cottage, earning him the nickname “Crouching Dragon” (臥龍).
Confucian work from the Zhou Dynasty, entitled Da Xue (大學), or the “Great Learning.” This is an important work derived from the Liji (禮記), the Book of Rites. The basic teaching of the Great Learning is the importance of self-cultivation, explaining how it establishes the proper basis for every endeavor, and how it naturally leads to a peaceful society. This general view of cultivation, as well as the relationship between man and Heaven, belongs to an earlier stratum of Chinese culture in which the leader of a state was ideally also a sage. Like the Heart Sūtra of Buddhism, the Great Learning has been regarded as the essence of all Confucian teachings, and so it has remained an important text to this day.