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Revised Dao Zang in the Ming Dynasty

Though Taoism gradually lost its dominant status in the society and government during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Ming Dynasty is the most important period in terms of the revision and arrangement of Taoist canons. The largest-scale and most complete version of Dao Zang (Taoist Canon) we see today was finished during that period.

Dao Zang had been revised and compiled several times during the previous dynasties, but they were lost due to historical reasons. So Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty ordered to compile Dao Zang again in the early 15th century. The first Dao Zang of the Ming Dynasty, Orthodox Dao Zang, was finally finished with several decades of efforts. This version of Dao Zang has 5,305 volumes.

Some 150 years later, Emperor Wanli, a famous Taoist emperor of the Ming Dynasty, ordered again to recompile Dao Zang. Many contents were therefore added into the original version and Wanli Continued Dao Zang was finally formed.

The two versions of Dao Zang of the Ming Dynasty have total 5,485 volumes. Dao Zang can be divided into Sandong (three grottos) and Sifu (four supplements). Sandong refers to Dongzhen (Pervasive Perfection), Dongxuan (Pervasive Mystery) and Dongshen (Pervasive Divinity); they are used to explain the methods cultivating oneself according to Taoism. Sifu includes Taixuan (Great Mystery), Taiping (Great Peace), Taiqing (Great Purity) and Zhengyi (Orthodox Oneness), and are used to explain the Sandong.

Dao Zang revised in the Ming Dynasty has very complex contents, covering knowledge in various fields. It includes the Taoist thoughts, history, and doctrine, commandments and magic arts, as well as many famous writings in China's history. Especially, the recordation on the medicine and the alchemy has considerable value for the research on subsequent science, technology, culture and history.

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