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Palpable Access to the Divine: Daoist Medieval Massage, Visualisation and Internal Sensation1

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AbstractThis paper examines convergent discourses of cure, health and transcendence in fourth century Daoist scriptures. The therapeutic massages, inner awareness and visualisation practices described here are from a collection of revelations which became the founding documents for Shangqing (Upper Clarity) Daoism, one of the most influential sects of its time. Although formal theories organised these practices so that salvation superseded curing, in practice they were used together. This blending was achieved through a series of textual features and synæsthesic practices intended to address existential and bodily crises simultaneously. This paper shows how therapeutic interests were fundamental to soteriology, and how salvation informed therapy, thus drawing attention to the entanglements of religion and medicine in early medieval China.


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