Transfiguration, Spirituality and Embodiment: Perspectives from Christian and Daoist Scriptures

变容、属灵与体认: 基督教及道教经典的观点

James Miller. 2016. “Transfiguration, Spirituality and Embodiment: Perspectives from Christian and Daoist Scriptures.” Bijiao jingxue 比较经学 (Journal of Comparative Scripture), 7:9-33.


Biblical and Daoist narratives bear witness a tradition of transfiguration, in which spiritual transformation is revealed through the appearance of the religious practitioner. In the Biblical tradition this occurs in the context of encounters with God, especially on mountains, in which the change in physical appearance appears to be a reflection of the proximity of the practitioner to divine power. In the case of Jesus this transformation prefigures his final apotheosis and ascension into heaven. In the case of the Esoteric Biography of Perfected Purple Yang (紫阳真人内传,Ziyang zhenren neizhuan), his spiritual life is marked by moments of physical transfiguration that culminate in his vision of three resplendent immortal beings who pave the way for his final ascension into heaven in a dragon-pulled chariot. Comparative theological reflection on these narratives involves a discussion of the role of the physical body in the religious life, and invites discussion of themes such as disability and transgender identity.

Keywords: Comparative theology, narratives, transfiguration, Bible, Daoist, physical role, religious life

圣经与道教的叙事均见证了一种变容的传统,在其中,属灵转 化能够通过宗教践行者之外貌的变化而体现出来。在圣经传统中, 其发生在与上帝相遇的语境中,特别是在山上,身体外貌的变化成 为宗教践行者与神圣力量接近的反映。在耶稣的例子中,这种转化 预示了他的神化以及升天。而在《紫阳真人内传》中,他的属灵生 活则以身体变容的时刻为特征,这些时刻在他关于三位永生者驾着 龙拉的战车为他最终成仙而开路的异象中而达到顶点。比较神学对 这些叙事的反思包含了一种对身体在宗教生活中之角色的讨论,并 且引发了对诸如残疾及跨性别身份等主题的讨论。

关键词:比较神学、叙事、变容、圣经、道教、身体角色、宗 教生活

《比较经学》二〇一六年 第七辑 Journal of Comparative Scripture, 7 (2016) 9-33

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China in climate driver’s seat after Trump rejects Paris

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Protesters gather outside the White House in Washington D.C. after President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris climate change accord.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

James Miller, Queen’s University, Ontario

With President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate change accords, it’s now clear to the world that action on climate change will rest increasingly in the hands of China, not America or the European Union.

Given the global nature of the climate crisis, the decisions that China’s leaders make over the next decade will have a profound impact around the world. Shockingly, as sea levels rise, the fate of America’s coastal cities, from Palm Beach to Boston, will increasingly be determined in Beijing, not Washington, D.C. One can only imagine Trump sitting like King Canute on a lawn chair at Mar-A-Lago as it slowly disappears beneath the sea.

Since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, global trade liberalization has made China the factory of the world, bringing wealth to corporate America and lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. But as China rode the trade winds of globalization to become the world’s second largest economy, its coal-fired power stations and lower environmental standards combined to produce searing smog that now reduces life expectancy by up to 5.5 years in the country’s industrial north. The rapid increase in fossil fuels also propelled China to become the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, the chief cause of global warming.

China morphing into clean energy champ

The good news is that China is in the midst of engineering a massive transition to an “ecological civilization,” one that transcends Western industrial modernity and emphasizes clean energy, sustainable cities and circular economies. China’s 13th five-year plan (2015-2020) envisions bringing the country’s installed solar capacity to 140 gigawatts to help cut greenhouse gas emissions. Its plan for rapid urbanization is also being accompanied by the development of over 200 new eco-cities that are already functioning as test labs for urban planners.

China’s economic rise and its environmental challenges are also being accompanied by an equally important third factor: the increasing significance of China’s traditional culture and religion in its social and political discourse. Most significant here is the positioning of Confucius as the patriarch par excellence of Chinese culture, and a bulwark against liberal Western values.

A Chinese migrant worker listens to radio on his tricycle cart parked next to a Beijing billboard promoting environmental protection. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Confucian values emphasize filial piety, deference to authority and the priority of family relationships over the individual. President Xi Jinping has deftly deployed these values in his anti-corruption drive. As China assumes the leadership of the global environmental movement, the question that arises now is how future climate change language and policy will be increasingly shaped by Chinese, not Western, values.

Over 2,000 years ago, China’s rulers embarked on two spectacular engineering projects. The better known of the two is the Great Wall, a vast and costly fortification against the barbarians of the north.

Walls or water? China opting for water

The second, lesser known, is the Dujiangyan irrigation system in Sichuan province, a UNESCO world heritage site. Still in use today, it uses a system of weirs and levees to regulate the spring floods along the Min river and provide water to over 5,300 square kilometres of land, producing some of China’s most fertile agricultural land. When I interviewed local officials during my fieldwork in China, they lauded it as a marvel of Daoist engineering for harnessing nature’s power instead of working against it.

The choice between walls and water is an apt metaphor for the decisions facing world leaders today. Trump campaigned on a wall with Mexico. President Xi, meantime, has strengthened China’s great firewall, which limits the choices and freedoms of Chinese citizens. While China’s leaders feared America’s power, it was only natural that they should seek to limit its influence.

But in the end, as China’s rulers discovered, walls ultimately crumble, while the power of water is eternal. The Dujiangyan irrigation system continues to this day and is an essential component in China’s food security system. As China’s Daoist philosophers wrote more than 2,000 years ago: “Nothing in the world is as soft and weak as water. But when attacking the hard and strong nothing can conquer so easily.” In the end, nature wins.

The ConversationJames Miller is the author of China’s Green Religion: Daoism and the Quest for a Sustainable Future (New York: Columbia University Press)

James Miller, Professor of Chinese Religions, Queen’s University, Ontario

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Daoism: China’s green religion

From ABC Radio National

With the US shrinking from the Paris Agreement, all eyes are on China to become the world leader on climate change. How China balances economic growth with environmental responsibility, could change the environmental trajectory of the entire planet.

Academic James Miller argues there is just one stumbling block: Western ideas on how to save the planet don’t resonate deeply in China. But he says, that the ancient Chinese religion of Daosim might fill the gap.

Listen to the broadcast (10 minutes).