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Tao Hongjing and the Reading of Daoist Geography

Jonathan E. E. Pettit


This article studies ways in which Daoist writers in early medieval China represented sacred lands. It goes beyond the descriptions of Daoist sacred geography to analyze ways in which these texts were tools to disseminate new revelations about the ancient history and ownership of temple lands. It begins by looking at Han dynasty conceptions of mountains, in particular the role of individuals who were privy to the hidden, esoteric knowledge of land formations. The second part of the article focuses on the writings of the fifth century polymath Tao Hongjing. These commentaries provide valuable insight into the kinds of social exchanges that underpin the writing of Daoist geography. These writings about religious geography reflect the interests of a new clerical class of individuals who developed and recreated sacred sites on behalf of royal benefactors.

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