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Chinese Literature
Liexianzhuan 列仙傳 "Biographies of Immortals"


The Liexianzhuan 列仙傳 "Biographies of immortals" is a collection of biographies of Daoist personalities allegedly compiled by the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) scholar Liu Xiang 劉向. The term liezhuan 列傳 is derived from the biographic-thematic type of historiography (jizhuanti 紀傳體) and designates collective biographies of "normal" persons (not emperors). Liu Xiang is also credited with the compilation of the Lienüzhuan 列女傳, a collection of biographies of outstanding women, which is qualitatively better than the Liexianzhuan. The Liexianzhuan includes 71 persons from the times of mythology, like Master Red Pine (Chisongzi 赤松子), to the physician Xuan Su 玄俗 who lived during the Han period. Similar to the Lienüzhuan, each biography is concluded with a short laudatory statement (zanyu 贊語), and each chapter is finished with a general praise (zongzan 縂贊). All biographies describe how the Daoist practicioners became immortals by abstaining from the normal ways of live and dedicating themselves to the support of the helpless and the poor. The intention of all these stories is that becoming an immortal was not the result of sorcery but that of a life of certain moral virtues.
The time of the compilation and the identity of the compiler were subject to a long and intense discussion. It is clear the the Liexianzhuan was not a product of Liu Xiang. It is not listed among his books in the imperial bibliography Yiwenzhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 but the earliest catalogue listing it is the Jingjizhi 經籍志 in the history Suishu 隋書. The Song period 宋 (960-1279) bibliographer Chen Zhensun 陳振孫 identified the language as that of post-Han times, an opinion not shared by Huang Bosi 黄伯思. The compilers of the annotations to the collectaneum Siku quanshu 四庫全書, the Siku tiyao 四庫提要, attributed some of the praises to the Jin period 晉 (265-420) scholar Guo Yuanzu 郭元祖. The book itself seemed to have existed during the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220). It is not recorded in the imperial bibliography Yiwenzhi 藝文志 of the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 that was written during the Later Han, but the Jin period books Baopuzi 抱朴子 and Shenxianzhuan 神仙傳 mention the Liexianzhuan. The name of Liu Xiang might have been borrowed in order to obtain a higher value and credibility.
There are many different editions of the Liexianzhuan with differences in many parts of the text. Some editions include 71 biographies, some 72, and some editions do not include the praises. The Daoist encyclopedia Yunji qiqian 雲笈七籤 only includes 48 biographies. The encyclopedias Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚 and Taiping yulan 太平御覽 extensively quote from the Liexianzhuan. The Liexianzhuan is included in the Daoist Canon Daozang 道藏 and the Siku quanshu.


Sources:
Gu Cunyun 古存云 (1988). "Shenxian zhuanji 神仙傳記", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zongjiao 宗教, pp. 350-351. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 2301. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.


Contents
赤松子 Chisongzi
甯封子 Ningfengzi
馬師皇 Mashi huang
赤將子輿 Chijiang Ziyu
黃帝 Huangdi
偓佺 Woquan
容成公 Rongcheng gong
方囘 Fang Hui
老子 Laozi
關令尹 Guanling yin
涓子 Juanzi
呂尙 Lü Shang
嘯父 Xiaofu
師門 Shimen
務光 Wu Guang
仇生 Chou Sheng
彭祖 Pengzu
卭疎 Qiong Su
介子推 Jiezi Tui
馬丹 Ma Dan
平常生 Pingchang sheng
陸通 Lu Tong
葛由 Ge You
江妃二女 Jiang fei er nü
范蠡 Fan Li
琴高 Qin Gao
冦先 Kou Xian
王子喬 Wang Ziqiao
幼伯子 Youbozi
安期先生 Anqi xiansheng
桂父 Guifu
瑕丘仲 Xiaqiu Zhong
酒客 Jiuke
任光 Ren Guang
蕭史 Xiao Shi
祝鷄翁 Zhuji weng
朱仲 Zhu Zhong
修羊公 Xiuyang gong
稷丘君 Jiqiu jun
崔文子 Cui Wenzi
赤須子 Chixuzi
東方朔 Dongfang Shuo
鉤翼夫人 Gouyi furen
犢子 Muzi
騎龍鳴 Qilongming
主柱 Zhuzhu
園客 Yuanke
鹿皮公 Lupi gong
昌容 Changrong
豀父 Gufu
山圖 Shantu
谷春 Guchun
陰生 Yinsheng
毛女 Maonü
子英 Ziying
服閭 Fu Lü
文賓 Wen Bin
商丘子胥 Shangqiu Zixu
子主 Zizhu
陶安公 Taoan gong
赤斧 Chifu
呼子先 Huzi Xian
負局先生 Fuju xiansheng
朱璜 Zhu Huang
黃阮丘 Huang Ruanqiu
女几 Nüji
陵陽子明 Lingyang Ziming
邗子 Hanzi
木羽 Mu Yu
玄俗 Xuan Su
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

July 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail