To Ransom Destiny: The Daoist Search for Deliverance in Medieval China
A Daoist destiny was mortgaged from birth – by guilt inherited from the past, debts owed to one’s parents, and the initial endowment of vitality. To live meant to inexorably augment the original burden. Accumulated liabilities accounted for suffering, disease, and ill fortune met with in this world. They presaged a diminished life span and an adverse afterlife. To ransom destiny was to make amends for liabilities incurred through a person’s own fault or by exposure to external malignant forces. The questions this talk addresses are: what was the nature of the liabilities weighing in the balance of human destiny? Which measures were envisaged to obtain deliverance or improve an unfavorable outcome? How did constituencies of collective destiny form? Who were the agents of the redemptive process and what were their roles?
Franciscus Verellen is professor in the History of Daoism, Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), and head of the EFEO Hong Kong Center. Prof. Verellen was Stewart Lecturer in the Humanities at Princeton University in 2005, member and Edwin C. and Elisabeth A. Whitehead Fellow in the School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, in 2009-2010.