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Dunhuang Taoist Canons

Dunhuang Taoist Canons refers to those canons in the Dunhuang posthumous writings that were found in Dunhuang Grottoes about one hundred years ago. Dunhuang Grottoes, known as one of the most famous grottoes in China, are located in the south of Dunhuang in Gansu Province, and are also called as the Thousand-Buddha Caves. Many writings stored in the No. 17 Grotto are called the Dunhuang posthumous writings.

Taoist Wang Yuanlu, who was the abbot of the Thousand-Buddha Caves, discovered the scriptures-storing cave in the 26th year (1900) of the Guangxu reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). After that the number of cultural relics and scriptures in the cave began to dwindle. Especially, many foreign experts and scholars such as Englishman Marc Aurel Stein and Frenchman Paul Pelliot, etc., took advantage of Taoist Wan Yuanlu's ignorance to gain a lot of literatures via cheating. Many literatures were taken to foreign countries. After that, China government salvaged a batch of literatures at the request of patriotic scholars. In addition, some literatures are in the hands of individuals, and the number is inestimable.

Taoist canons only account for about 2% - 3% of Dunhuang literatures. Though the number is small, they are very significant to Taoism. People found that part of Dunhuang Taoist canons have never been collected into Dao Zang (Taoist Canon). Therefore the discovery of these Taoist canons makes a precious supplementary to Dao Zang. Even though some Dunhuang Taoist canons had been collected into Dao Zang, two different versions were formed due to the big time gap between the two. Since the former canons were written in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and were much earlier than the latter, they are very significant to the emendation of Dao Zang.

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