Yunji Qiqian

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Yunji Qiqian
Traditional Chinese雲笈七籤
Simplified Chinese云笈七签
Literal meaningCloudy Bookbag Seven Slips

The Yunji qiqian is a (c. 1029) anthology of the (1016) Daoist Canon, which the scholar-official Zhang Junfang compiled for Emperor Zhenzong of Song. The Yunji qiqian records many early Daoist texts that have been lost since the 11th century, and is an important resource for understanding medieval Daoism.


The Yunji qiqian compendium was a "byproduct" of editing the 1016 edition Daozang "Daoist Canon" – the Da Song tiangong baozang 大宋天宮寳藏 "Great Song Celestial Palace Precious Canon".[1] In 1012, the Northern Song Emperor Zhenzong (r. 997-1022) ordered the compilation of a revised and enlarged Canon. He put Chancellor Wang Qinruo in charge of the project, selected ten Daoist masters, and ordered Perfect Qi Guan 戚綸 to oversee the compilation of the Daozang. In 1016, the scholar-official Zhang Junfang (961?-1042?), who had replaced Qi Guan, completed the revised Da Song tiangong baozang edition, which comprised 4,565 juan "scrolls; volumes". In 1019, Zhang presented emperor Zhenzong with seven manuscript sets of the new Daoist Canon.

Zhang Junfang subsequently selected Canonical texts for the Yunji qiqian anthology, which he dedicated to Zhenzong, and presented to Emperor Renzong of Song (r. 1022-1063). Zhang's preface, dated circa 1028-1029, explains "[After having completed the Canon, I hence] selected the essentials of the seven sections of Taoist literature, in order to provide an imperfect treasury of the profound writings of various Taoist masters."[2] Zhang submits the book to Zhenzong as a "bedside companion" (literally yiye zhi lan 乙夜之覽, "[for] perusal during the second watch [around 10 PM]").[3]


The title uses the common Chinese words yun "cloud" and qi "seven" with the Classical Chinese terms ji "bamboo box used for travelling (esp. to carry books); book box; satchel" and qian "bamboo slip; book marker; lot (used for divination); oracle" (both made from bamboo and written with the "bamboo radical" ).

Zhang's preface explains that he chose among yunji qibu zhi ying 雲笈七部之英 "outstanding [books] from the seven components in the cloudy bookbag". Boltz (2008, p. 1203) explains that yunji is a "well-established poetic trope for a bagful of Taoist writings" and qibu refers to the sandong 三洞 "Three Caverns" and sibu 四部 "Four Supplements" into which the Canon was organized.

Translating the opaque Yunji qiqian title into English is difficult.

  • "The Seven Bamboo Tablets of the Cloudy Satchel" (Sivin 1976)
  • "The Bookcase of the Clouds with the Seven Labels" (Schipper 1986)
  • "The Essentials or Outlines of the Seven Sections of the Taoist Canon" (Lin 1995)
  • "Seven Lots from the Bookbag of the Clouds" (Boltz 2008)
  • "The Seven Tablets in a Cloudy Satchel" (Theobald 2010)

An alternative name for the Yunji qiqian is xiao Daozang 小道藏 "little Daoist Canon".


The received Yunji qiqian has 37 bu sections, 122 juan chapters (several of which are divided into two parts), and quotes more than 700 early Daoist texts. Zhang's preface mentions 120 juan; one explanation for the discrepancy is if the 122-chapter Ming edition came from compiling various 120-chapter Song editions.[2]

In Chinese bibliographic terminology, the Yunji qiqian is classified as a leishu (reference work arranged by category; encyclopedia). English descriptions of the text include anthology (Boltz 2008), encyclopedia (Schipper 1986), handbook (Schipper 1981), and encyclopedic anthology (Lin 1995).

Source materials come almost exclusively from Six Dynasties (220-589) and Tang Dynasty (618-907) Daoist works. Many texts are quoted extensively, some are abridged, and others are made into new compositions (Schipper 1986, p. 967). Lin (1995, p. 100) suggests the text represents the "crystallization" of religious Daoism from the late Han to early Song periods.

(Schipper 1986, p. 968) describes the Yunji qiqian as a handbook to the mystical and yangsheng 養生 "nourishing life" Daoism of the Tang, and the religion of the poets Li Bai, Li Shangyin, and Han Yu, which "provides a key to the understanding of the arts and the literature of this period."


The (1445) Ming Dynasty edition Zhengtong daozang 正統道藏 "Zhengtong Emperor's Daoist Canon" contains the earliest known complete copy of the Yunji qiqian, which subsequent Canon editions reproduced. This Ming edition inconsistently uses alternate Chinese characters to avoid Song Dynasty (960-1279) naming taboos, which "suggests that the editors of the Canon drew from a combination of editions in print or manuscript form".[4] Such taboos were not observed in fragments of pages from the Yuan Canon of 1244.

Zhang Xuan 張萱 published a copy of the Yunji qiqian in 1609, and it was reproduced by the (1773-1782) Siku quanshu and (1919-1922) Sibu Congkan collections. The (1929) edition Sibu Congkan reproduced the superior copy in the Ming Canon, which was not marred by lacuna.

In the modern era, Kristofer Schipper compiled an index to the Yunji qiqian (Schipper 1981), and linguistic scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences produced a definitive edition (Linguistic Research Institute 1988).


Schipper (1986, p. 967) claimed the Yunji qiqian text had four problems, all of which Lin (1995, pp. 98–100) dismisses.

First, Schipper says Zhang's preface "surprisingly mentions Manichean works among those that entered into the compilation of the Canon," which has drawn the attentions of historians studying Manichaeism, but the present text "contains no identifiable Manichean material."[page needed] Lin notes the preface "only mentioned that [Zhang] had "received" some Manichean scriptures when he was editing the Canon. He did not tell us whether those Manichean scriptures had been compiled into the Canon or not."[page needed]

Second, Schipper notes that despite the title and preface, the Yunji qiqian "is not divided into seven parts; it does not even contain the slightest trace of such an arrangement."[page needed] Lin cites Chen Guofu 陳國符 that the titular qiqian means "seven sections" of the Daoist Canon and not sections of the Yunji qiqian.[page needed]

Third, Schipper says the most remarkable problem "is the total absence of the liturgical forms of Taoism"[page needed], which are abundant in the 1016 Daoist Canon edited by Zhang. Since the Yunji qiqian does not contain any Daoist rituals for retreats, petitions, or memorials, and "it contains only the merest handful of talismans, charts, and diagrams", the present text "cannot be considered as an anthology of the Sung Canon."[page needed] Comparing contents of the text's 37 bu "sections" with the 12 bu of the Daoist Canon, Lin concludes that except for weiyi 威儀 "public rituals" and zhangbiao 章表 "petitions and memorials", the topics of the Yunji qiqian represent all the major features of Daoist literature.[page needed]

Fourth, Schipper concludes that the received text, despite having underdone changes such as 120 to 122 juan, is probably descended from the original Yuynji qiqian. "It appears therefore impossible, at the present stage, to explain the discrepancies between the preface and the actual encyclopedia. But there are strong indications that the latter corresponds, by and large, to Chang's work."



  1. ^ Lin 1995, p. 97.
  2. ^ a b Lin 1995, p. 99.
  3. ^ Schipper 1986, p. 968.
  4. ^ Boltz 2008, p. 1204.


  • Boltz, Judith M. (2008). "Yunji qiqian" 雲笈七籤 [Seven Lots from the Bookbag of the Clouds]. In Pregadio, Fabrizio (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Taoism. p. 1203–1206.
  • Chavannes, Édouard; Pelliot, Paul (1911). "Un traité manichéen retrouvé en Chine". Journal Asiatique (in French): 499–617.
  • Linguistic Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (中國社會科院語言所) (1988). Yunji qiqian 云笈七签. Qi Lu press 齊魯書社. ISBN 9787533301019.
  • Lin, Fu-shih (1995). "Religious Taoism and Dreams: An Analysis of the Dream-Data Collected in the Yün-chi ch'i-ch'ien". Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie. 8: 95–112. doi:10.3406/asie.1995.1090.
  • Schipper, Kristofer (1981). Index du Yunji qiqian: Projet Tao-tsang (in French and Chinese). Publications de l'Ecole francaise d'Extreme-Orient. ISBN 9782855397313.
  • Schipper, Kristofer (1986). "Yün-chi ch'i-ch'ien". In Nienhauser, Jr., William H. (ed.). The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature. Indiana University Press. pp. 966–968.
  • Sivin, Nathan (1976). "Chinese Alchemy and the Manipulation of Time". Isis. 67 (4): 513–526. doi:10.1086/351666. PMID 1002425. S2CID 10134850.
  • Theobald, Ulrich (2010). "Yunji qiqian" 雲笈七籤 [The Seven Tablets in a Cloudy Satchel]. Chinaknowledge.

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