Sacralising Jiangnan: Constructing Daoist geography in medieval China, or Sima Chengzhen and his fudi system in the Jiangnan area

PhD Mid-Term Review


Chen Jingjing


Seminar Room A, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU


Wednesday, 17 January, 2018 - 15:00 to 16:30

In 711, after the Daoist Cavern Mystery ordination for two princesses, Emperor Ruizong planned to establish two Daoist observatories in Chang’an for his two daughters. When the emperor sought to requisition residences for temples, three eminent ministers presented memorials to the emperor expressing their vehement objections.

As state preceptor, Sima Chengzhen司馬承禎 (647-735) sought to balance the interests of Confucian ministers and Daoist clergy. He eventually managed to avoid direct conflict by designating more Daoist sacred sites outside the capital region. In his Chart of Heavenly Palaces and Earthly Bureaus 天地宮府圖 more than half of the official Daoist fudi sacred sites were clustered in Jiangnan Circuit. This paper will explore the advantages of Jiangnan over other regions for the fudi system. There are a number of possible motivations.

First, to locate sacred sites in Jiangnan would ease the conflict with ministers at court over monastic land around the capital. In addition, as the homeland of Shangqing Daoism, Jiangnan provided a friendly and supportive environment for Daoist clergy to resume and strengthen connections with local powerful households and families of Daoist lineage. Furthermore, population growth and economic development in Jiangnan brought substantial financial benefits to religious institutions including Daoist monasteries.

About the speaker

Chen Jingjing is a PhD candidate at the Australian Centre on China in the World. Her project is on 'Grotto-heavens and early Supreme Clarity Daoism'.



Australian Centre on China in the World
02 6125 9060

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