Taoist Mystical Philosophy

The Scripture of Western Ascension

By Livia Kohn

Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791405437, 345 pages, April 1991
Hardcover : 9780791405420, 345 pages, April 1991

Table of contents





1. Mystical Philosophy in the Taoist Tradition


Part I: The Text


2. The Xisheng Jing in History

3. Structure and Contents of the Text

4. The Mythological Framework Narrative


Part II: The Worldview


5. The Physical Universe

6. Mind, Knowledge, Language

7. The Way of the Sage


Part III: The Thinkers


8. The Life and Thought of Wei Jie

9. Li Rong and the Chongxuan School




10. Taoist Mystical Philosophy




The Xisheng Jing: Scripture of Western Ascension
Citations of the Xisheng Jing





Chinese Text



The Scripture of Western Ascension is a central text of medieval Taoist mysticism. Written by an unknown author in the fifth century A. D., it closely resembles the Tao te ching in structure and contents. Edited and commented on several times until the twelfth century, the text played an important role in Taoist religious thought.

Kohn presents the first Western introduction to this aspect of traditional Chinese religion and culture. Through her careful textual study and fully annotated translation of the Scripture of Western Ascension, she delineates the history, structure, and contents of what mystical thought meant within the Taoist religion. She also discusses the religious background of the text and provides detailed analyses of the philosophical concepts of "The Physical Universe," "Mind, Knowledge, Language," and "The Way of the Sage. "

Livia Kohn is Assistant Professor of Religion at Boston University. She has also written Seven Steps to the Tao, Sima Chengzhen's Zuowanglun, and Taoist Meditation and Longevity Techniques.


"What I like best about this book is its comprehensiveness and solidity. The topic is significant for the study of Chinese religion and philosophy because it presents a detailed discussion of Taoist philosophy by practitioners of Taoist religion. It moves our understanding of later Taoist philosophy to a new level. It clearly defines its terms and topics, traces the historical background, and discusses the author and the history of the text in its various versions. All the salient themes of the text are dealt with in detail, and in the end a complete, annotated translation is provided. It is well-written and based on sound scholarship. " — Daniel L. Overmyer, University of British Columbia

"Livia Kohn's work is impressive in that she combines the best aspects of technical sinological scholarship (drawing upon both French and Japanese scholarship) with a deft interpretive facility for elucidating an important Taoist text. Kohn's technical abilities and analytic skills are brilliantly in evidence in this work. " — Norman Girardot, Lehigh University