Guest Lecture | Barbara Hendrischke: "Prohibition of Infanticide in the Scripture on Great Peace"

FNO 02/ 40-46


The Scripture on Great Peace (Taiping jing 太平經) goes back to the second century C.E. and has been transmitted in the Daoist canon of texts. The Scripture documents ideas on social and cultural change that were propagated in popular regional movements and local communities at a time when the centralised Han dynasty state began to fall apart. The authors of the text saw the widespread practice of infanticide as a major obstacle for the arrival of the era of “great peace” that they predicted. Therefore, arguments against the practice provide a good introduction to the world view and argumentative methods of the authors of the Scripture. The authors start with strong religious convictions on the value of life and the need to obey the laws of heaven. However, their approach is integrative and pragmatic. While they propose that for religious and moral reasons parents must be prepared to raise all children, they acknowledge that parents cannot be expected to do so unless they derive some practical benefit from raising their daughters. The talk will outline this argument in some detail. It will be concluded that despite their novelty the authors’ suggestions were well geared to late Han dynasty social and economic reality and were in part accepted into the ritual of early Daoist congregations.


Photograph of Dr. Licia Di Giacinto

Dr. Licia Di Giacinto

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