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Chinese Literature
Xuanzhenzi 玄真子 "The Master of the Mysterious Perfection"


The Xuanzhenzi 玄真子 "Master of the Mysterious Perfection", also called Yuanzhenzi 元真子 (in order to avoid the personal name of the Kangxi Emperor 康熙, Xuanye 玄燁, r. 1661-1722), is a Daoist book written by the Tang period 唐 (618-907) scholar Zhang Zhihe 張志和. He lived during the reign of Emperor Suzong 唐肅宗 (r. 756-762) and was a member of the Hanlin Academy and administrative supervisor of the Left Imperial Insignia Guard (zuo jinwuwei lushi canjun 左金吾衛錄事參軍). Because of an unknown offense he was demoted and left the government service. Zhang devoted himself to a life in reclusion as a fisherman and adopted the name of Master of the Mysterious Perfection. Zhang Zhihe was a friend of the scholar Yan Zhenqing 顔真卿 and was famous for his talent in poetry, calligraphy, painting and music. Except the book Xuanzhenzi, only a few poems of Zhang are preserved. The book, also known as Xuanzhenzi waipian 玄真子外篇 "The outer chapters of Master Xuanzhen" was originally 12 juan "scrolls" long, or probably 12 chapters. At the time of the Song period 宋 (960-1279) commentator Chen Zhensun 陳振孫, only 3 juan were left. While the version in the Daoist Canon Daozang 道藏 is 3 juan long, each chapter corresponding to 1 juan, yet that in the Siku quanshu 四庫全書 has been unified into 1 juan. The style of the book imitates that of other Daoist books, like the Zhuangzi 莊子 or Liezi 列子, with many parables and question-and-answer passages. The Xuanzhenzi speaks of the nature, the creation of the cosm, the mysterious perfection (the dao 道 "Way") and the problem of existance and being. "Mysterious being" (xuanran 玄然), for example, is an existance coming out of a spontaneous unvoluntariness (wu zi er ran 無自而然). Coming into being without a process of creation (wu zao er hua 無造而化) is the "perfect transformation" (zhen hua 真化). The "true mystery" (zhenxuan 真玄) is that which is a mystery although it has no mysterious character (wu xuan er xuan 無玄而玄). The compilers of the Siku quanshu have called the Xuanzhenzi a minor version of what is said in the book Baopuzi 抱朴子, but of minor quality.
The Xuanzhenzi is included in the Daoist Canon Daozang (section of the Taixuan tradition 太玄部), where it is called Xuanzhenzi waipian "Outer chapters of the Master of the Mysterious Perfection", with a size of 3 juan. There is an edition inclued in the two books Tianyinzi 天隱子 and Sulüzi 素履子. In the Siku quanshu, where the Xuanzhenzi is called Yuanzhenzi "Master of the Primary Perfection", the Tianyinzi is added as an appendix.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 2309. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

Contents
碧虛 Bixu
鸑鷟 Yuezhuo
濤之靈 Tao zhi ling
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

March 22, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail