Guest Lecture: Transcending Turmoil: The Tang – Five Dynasties Transition in the Daoist Testimony of Du Guangting (850-933)


Speaker: Franciscus Verellen

Date & Time: May 6, 20244:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Venue: Jones Hall, Princeton University

In-person (pre-registration required):


Co-sponsored by the Glorisun Global Buddhist Network

Co-sponsored by the Department of Religion

Co-sponsored by the Program in East Asian Studies


Abstract: The Daoist court divine and author Du Guangting 杜光庭 (850-933) lived through the breakup of the Tang empire (618-907), a cataclysmic event with wide repercussions in China and beyond. Because the Tang ruling family stood under the protection of Laozi as their adopted ancestor, the breakdown of central authority, loss of territorial integrity, and a population traumatized by civil war, epidemics, and famine raised no less serious questions for Daoism.

This talk examines how Daoists envisaged the dynastic crisis and projected their future across the chasm that opened before them. The testimony of Du Guangting, an attentive observer of society and creative religious thinker, juxtaposes apocalyptic chronicles of dislocation with visionary tales of transcendence surmounting the chaos and afflictions of the temporal world.

Taking refuge in Shu (Sichuan), the historical cradle of Daoism, Du assisted a rising local potentate in establishing the regional kingdom of Shu (907-65) after the fall of the Tang. Besides preserving and transmitting the legacy of medieval Daoism, Du introduced major innovations in book printing, literature, astronomy, and state ritual, contributing to the ascent of Shu within the emerging multipolar power structure of the Five Dynasties.

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