Daoist Meditations

(364–370)

This set of Daoist Meditations, “The Upper Scripture of Purple Texts Inscribed by the Spirits,” is an obscure mystical text dating from the Dong (Eastern) Jin kingdom (317–420) of China’s Six Dynasties period (222–589), when alchemical purifications, apocalyptic imaginaries, Buddhist soteriology, and strict meditative practices heavily influenced the development of Daoism as both an elite esoteric practice and a popular religion. The document was transcribed by the mystic Yang Xi (330–386?) who presented it to his patrons, the aristocratic Xu family, who in turn preserved it for several generations and distributed it to a circle of associates who also practiced esoteric Daoism. The document is exemplary of the genre of Shangqing, (“Upper Clarity” or “Supreme Clarity”) scriptures, all of which purport to be authentic communications from the highest levels of the divine realms and provide instruction on how to attain spiritual perfection....