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The Graph of the White Marsh and its Dunhuang “Anomaly”: The Multifunctionality of Dunhuang Manuscripts P.2682 and S.6261

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This study investigates the ancient Graph of the White Marsh (Baize tu 白澤圖, hereafter the White Marsh) and medieval Dunhuang manuscripts P.2682 and S.6261, titled “Graph of Spirits and Monsters of the White Marsh” (Baize jingguai tu 白澤精恠圖, hereafter “Spirits and Monsters”). The White Marsh is an anomalous creature anthology attributed to the fantastic animal Baize (白澤, lit. White Marsh), the text-product of a mythological encounter between Baize and the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi 黃帝). Although the ancient text was lost by the medieval period, Jin dynasty (266–420) sources show that the White Marsh has evolved from its early function as an anomalous creature anthology to a Daoist graphic register (tulu 圖錄). More importantly, the White Marsh potentially functioned as a model for a corpus of texts attributed to Baize, with the Dunhuang manuscripts as one of the cases. Based on this model-case relationship between the White Marsh and “Spirits and Monsters,” this study examines the multifunctionality of the latter. Paratextual and textual features of the manuscripts show that the author-compiler and editors were consciously thinking about balancing the original graphic-register function with two new functions: divination manual and household apotropaion. The greater emphasis on “useful” functions in the manuscripts were perhaps the results of an intentional strategy to shift the Baize corpus away from the realm of esoteric, occult knowledge into one of common and accessible vernacular religion.

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This item is under embargo until August 19, 2024.