Structure and Meaning in the Interpretation of the Laozi: Cheng Xuanying's Hermeneutic Toolkit and His Interpretation of Dao as a Compassionate Savior

Friederike Assandri
2022 Religions  
Cheng Xuanying's Expository Commentary to the Daode jing presents the Laozi as the origin of Daoism—a Daoism which, by his time in the seventh century, included many beliefs and concepts coopted from Buddhism. The commentary is representative of chongxuan xue (Twofold Mystery philosophy), which is characterized by the integration of Buddhist concepts and methods into the interpretation of the Laozi. Taking the integration of the Buddhist concept of the bodhisattva as universal savior of
more » ... s compassion, this paper investigates the "why" and "how" of this cooption. The question of why Cheng Xuanying wanted to read the Daode jing as a testimony to Laozi and Dao being a compassionate, universal savior is addressed with a contextualization of the commentary in its time and location: early Tang Chang'an. Next, the paper discusses, in detail, the hermeneutic tools Cheng Xuanying used to achieve his reading. Cheng Xuanying integrated his commentary and the original text of the Laozi in a complex structure, combining the kepan technique, interlinear interpretation, and added structuring comments, in addition to what might be termed "strategic citations". This paper analyzes how he worked with these means to construct arguments and specific readings of the Laozi.
doi:10.3390/rel13040347 fatcat:uu566qtnpngjbayzffznxkpzo4