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Chinese Literature
Shenxianzhuan 神仙傳 "Biographies of Immortals"


The Shenxianzhuan 神仙傳 "Biographies of immortals" is a collection of phantastic stories compiled by the Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420) Daoist writer Ge Hong 葛洪. Ge Hong has written a preface to his 10 juan "scrolls" long collection in which he says that the book should serve his disciples' as a prove that immortality can really be acheived. Ruan Cang 阮倉, for instance, a noble of Qin 秦, listed the stories of several hundred immortals, and Liu Xiang's 劉向 book Liexianzhuan 列仙傳 includes the stories of 71 immortals. Using many different, even historiographical books as his sources, Ge Hong compiled a 10 juan "scrolls" long book, selecting a few dozen biographies out of a "possible thousand". Two of the biographies he delivers are also included in the Liexianzhuan, namely that of Rongcheng gong 容成公 and that of Pengzu 彭祖, yet all other biographies are not included in the Liexianzhuan. Mao Jin's 毛晉 version from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) includes 84 biographies, the version in the collectaneum Guang Han-Wei congshu 廣漢魏叢書 edition there are 92 biographies. There are some biographies extracted from the encyclopedia Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (like Lu Ao Ruotu 盧敖若土). Liang Su's 梁肅 treatise Shenxianzhuan lun 神仙傳論, which is recorded in the Wenyuan yinghua 文苑英華 from the Song period 宋 (960-1279), speaks of 190 biographies. It can thus be seen that the original shape of the book is not preserved and the received versions are only extracts. The stories about Guangchengzi 廣成子 and the Yellow Emperor 黃帝 were taken from the book Zhuangzi 莊子, others are also mentioned in histories like the Shiji 史記 or the Hanshu 漢書, except the part, for instance, describing Liu An's 劉安 ascension to Heaven. The biographies of Hu Gong 壺公, Jizi Xun 薊子訓, Liu Gen 劉根, Zuo Ci 左慈, Gan Shi 甘始 or Feng Jun 封君 are largerly identical to the biographies of magicians in the official dynastic history Houhanshu 後漢書. The Daoist encyclopedia Yunji qiqian 雲笈七籤 only includes the biographies of 21 persons, the anthology Daozang jinghua lu 道藏精華錄 94 persons.
Another argument for the compilation of the Shenxianzhuan was that the Liexianzhuan was too short and did not stress enough the methods of becoming an immortal. Ge Hong describes that the Daoist adept became immortal by ingesting cinnabar potions, and thus were able to ascend to Heaven. The phantastic stories of the various immortans and their bodily transformations (like Miss Magu 麻姑 who produced claws on her hands) influened the compilation of similar book by later authors. A lot of these stories were not only spread among Daoist believers but were also known by many other persons.
The Shenxianzhuan is included in the collectanea Guang Han-Wei congshu, the Longwei mishu 龍威秘書, Shuofu 說郛, the Daoist Canon Daozang 道藏, the Daoist collectaneum Daozang jinghua lu 道藏精華錄, and the Siku quanshu 四庫全書.


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 Shaoyong 李少雍 (1986). "Shenxianzhuan 神仙傳", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學, vol. 2, p. 712. 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. 2306. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.


Contents
廣成子 Guangchengzi
若士 Ruoshi
沈文泰 Shen Wentai
彭祖 Pengzu
白石生 Baishisheng
黃山君 Huangshanjun
皇初平 Huang Chuping
呂恭 Lü Gong
沈建 Shen Jian
華子期 Huazi Qi
樂子長 Luanzi Chang
衛叔卿 Wei Shuqing
巍伯陽 Wei Boyang
沈羲 Shen Xi
陳安世 Chen Anshi
李八伯 Li Babo
李阿 Li A
王遠 Wang Yuan
伯山甫 Bo Shanfu
墨子 Mozi
劉政 Liu You
孫博 Sun Bo
班孟 Ban Meng
玉子 Yuzi
天門子 Tianmenzi
九靈子 Jiulingzi
北極子 Beijizi
絶洞子 Juedongzi
太陽子 Taiyangzi
太陽女 Taiyangnü
太陰女 Taiyinnü
太玄女 Taixuannü
南極子 Nanjizi
黃盧子 Huang Luzi
馬鳴生 Ma Mingsheng
陰長生 Yin Zhangsheng
茅君 Maojun
張道陵 Zhang Daoling
欒巴 Luan Ba
淮南王 Huainanwang
李少君 Li Shaojun
王眞 Wang Zhen
陳長 Chen Chang
劉綱 Liu Gang
樊夫人 Fan Furen
東陵聖母 Dongling Shengmu
孔元 Kong Yuan
王烈 Wang Lie
涉正 She Zheng
焦先 Jiao Xian
孫登 Sun Deng
東郭延 Dong Guoyan
靈壽光 Ling Shouguang
劉京 Liu Jing
嚴靑 Yan Qing
帛和 Bo He
趙瞿 Zhao Ju
宫嵩 Gong Song
容成公 Rongcheng Gong
董仲君 Dong Zhongjun
倩平吉 Qian Pingji
王仲都 Wang Zhongdu
程偉妻 Cheng Weiqi
薊子訓 Su Zixun
葛玄 Ge Xuan
左慈 Zuo Ci
王遙 Wang Yao
陳永伯 Chen Yongbo
太山老父 Taishan Laofu
巫炎 Wu Yan
河上公 Heshanggong
劉根 Liu Gen
壺公 Hugong
尹軌 Yin Gui
介象 Jie Xiang
董奉 Dong Feng
李根 Li Gen
李意期 Li Yiqi
王興 Wang Xing
黃敬 Huang Jing
魯女生 Lu Nüsheng
甘始 Gan Shi
封君達 Feng Junda
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

July 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail