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By Thomas Michael

A brand new analyzing of Daoism, arguing that it originated in a specific textual culture unique from Confucianism and different philosophical traditions of early China.

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Additional resources for The Pristine Dao: Metaphysics In Early Daoist Discourse (S U N Y Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture)

Sample text

For these writers, this watery realm was understood as the manifestation of the breath of the Dao or the wind caused by its motions. Qi, a word meaning “breath,” “vapor,” and “wind,” is used to designate this first-generation offspring. It is the cosmogonic “stuff ” that gives birth to yin-yang. In its associations with breath and vapor, the watery associations of the qi become apparent, vapor being the steam of any heated liquid substance. The qi itself is the watery mass that defines the absolute limits of what there is.

What the Dao uses for a name is provisional for the purpose of action or function. 12 Zhuangzi 25 asserts a nominalist or functionalist designation of the Dao, and this view of naming accords well with the general nominalist views of both the Taiyi Sheng Shui and the Laozi. According to each of these writings, one relies on (tuo or qiang ) operative terms, such as round-off figures or provisional names, in order to gain either a nominalist or functionalist grasp of the Dao and its projects, thereby allowing the Sage to initiate the cosmological completion.

Like an abyss! It seems to be the ancestor of the ten thousand things . . Submerged! It seems perhaps to exist. ”28 This cluster of cosmogonic images (Dao as the original source of all things, qi as the life-giving stuff received by all things, and the abyssal waters of chaos) informs these passages from the Laozi. In two closely related passages from the Zhuangzi and the Liezi, the watery environment preceding the formation of the world is given a more complete depiction. The Zhuangzi passage is especially noteworthy not only in that it regards these watery worlds as in some sense cosmologically prior to the formation of Heaven and Earth, but also because it makes clear that these prior realms continue to be accessible to certain human beings.

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