This book presents for the first time in English a complete translation of the Expository Commentary to the Daode jing, written by the Daoist monk Cheng Xuanying in the 7th century CE. This commentary is a quintessential text of Tang dynasty Daoist philosophy and of Chongxuanxue or Twofold Mystery teachings. Cheng Xuanying proposes a reading of the ancient Daode jing that aligns the text with Daoist practices and beliefs and integrates Buddhist concepts and techniques into the exegesis of the Daode jing.
Building on the philosophical tradition of Xuanxue authors like Wang Bi, Cheng read the Daode jing in light of Daoist religion. Cheng presents Laozi, the presumed author of the Daode jing, as a bodhisattva-like sage and savior, who wrote the Daode jing to compassionately guide human beings to salvation. Salvation is interpreted as a metaphysical form of immortality, reached by overcoming the dichotomy of being and non-being, and thus also life and death. Cheng's philosophical outlook ties together the ancient text of the Daode jing and contemporary developments in Daoist thought which occurred under the influence of an intense interaction with Buddhist ideas. The commentary is a vivid testimony of the integration of Buddhist thought into an exegesis of the ancient classic of the Daode jing, and thereby also into Chinese philosophy.
Friederike Assandri frames this new translation with an extensive introduction, providing crucial context for a new reading of the Daode jing. It includes a biography of Cheng Xuanying, a discussion of the historical and political context of Daoism in early medieval China in the capital Chang'an, and a discussion of Cheng's philosophy in relation to the interaction of Daoism and Buddhism. This commentary is essential reading for students and scholars interested in the history of Chinese philosophy, Daoist thought, and the reception of Buddhism in China.