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Ko Hung's Discourse of Hsien-Immortality: A Taoist Configuration of an Alternate Ideal Self-Identity

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This study seeks to investigate the ideological base underlying Ko Hung's new Taoist discourse of Hsien-immortality in early Six Dynasties China. Our analysis will show the symbolic and discursive complex of Ko Hung's Hsien-immortality, his self-understanding, and his reappropriation of the ancient Chinese religious tradition of physical immortality, in particular in relation to his own emerging historical consciousness. In so doing, it can serve as one of the keys to the understanding of an early Taoist master's religious discourse of Hsien-immortality which functions as an organizing principle that orders the way he experiences the social and cultural world, as an ideological resolution for his feelings of incongruence between outer reality and inner world, and, finally, as a soteriological vision of an alternate ideal self-identity in contrast to the Han idealized Confucian sage. The construction of Taoist discourse of Hsien-identity, instanced in Ko Hung's Pao-p'u tzu nei-p'ien, should, therefore, not be seen as something abstract and arbitrary without the roots in socio-cultural reality, but a new formation and shape for the Six Dynasties literati of an alternate idealized self-identity.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religion Chung Chi CollegeChinese University of Hong KongHong Kong


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