Rebirth of a lineage: the hereditary household of the Han Celestial Master and Celestial Masters Daoism at Dragon and Tiger Mountain

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This dissertation is a study and translation of the Hereditary Household of the Han Celestial Master (Han tianshi shijia 漢天師世家), a hagiographical account of successive generations of the Zhang family

This dissertation is a study and translation of the Hereditary Household of the Han Celestial Master (Han tianshi shijia 漢天師世家), a hagiographical account of successive generations of the Zhang family patriarchs of Celestial Masters Daoism (Tianshi dao 天師道) at Dragon and Tiger Mountain (Longhu shan 龍虎山) in Jiangxi province that was compiled in stages between the late fourteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The Zhang family emerged in the late Tang or early Five dynasties period and rose to great prominence and power through the Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties on the basis of the claim of direct and unbroken lineal descent from Zhang Daoling 張道陵 the ancestral Celestial Master whose covenant with the deified Laozi in 142 C.E. is a founding event of the Daoist religion. In this study I trace the lineal history of the Zhang family as presented in the Hereditary Household in chronological parallel to contrasting narratives found in official histories, epigraphy, and the literary record. This approach affords insight into the polemical nature of the text as an assertion of legitimacy and allows for a demonstration of how the work represents an attempt to create in writing an idealized past in order to win prestige in the present. It also affords the opportunity to scour the historical record in an attempt to ascertain a plausible timeframe for the origin of the movement and to explore the relationship of the Hereditary Household to earlier hagiographic works that may have informed it. This study also contextualizes the Hereditary Household in the post-Tang religious climate of China. In that period the establishment of lineal authenticity and institutional charisma through narratives of descent became a widespread tool of legitimation employed by Buddhists, Daoists, and Confucians in hopes of obtaining imperial recognition and patronage.