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The Huahujing (formerly written Hua Hu Ching) (Chinese: 化胡經/化胡经; pinyin: Huàhújīng; Wade–Giles: Hua Hu Ching; literally: "Classic on Converting the Barbarians") is a Taoist book. The work is traditionally attributed to Laozi (formerly written Lao Tzu).

Some scholars believe it is a forgery because there are no historical references to the text until the early 4th century CE. It has been suggested that the Taoist Wang Fu (王浮) may have originally compiled the Huahujing circa 300 CE.[1]

Two unrelated versions are claimed to exist, one from oral tradition and the other a partial manuscript discovered in a cave in China.

Destruction of copies

Emperors of China occasionally organized debates between Buddhists and Taoists, and granted political favor to the winners. The Taoists are sometimes claimed to have developed the Huahujing to support one of their favorite arguments against the Buddhists, which was that after leaving China to the West, Laozi had travelled as far as India, where he had converted—or even become—the Buddha. Buddhism was therefore created as a somewhat distorted offshoot of Taoism.[2] In 705, Emperor Zhongzong of Tang prohibited distribution of the text.[3] An emperor ordered all copies to be destroyed in the 13th century after Taoists lost a debate with Buddhists.[4]

Oral tradition

The work is said to have survived in oral tradition. A full translation into English by the Taoist priest Hua-Ching Ni was published in 1979.

Hua-Ching Ni claimed to have derived his translation from the preservation of the Huahujing through oral tradition, having been handed down through generations of Taoist priests. It contains exactly the same number of chapters, 81, as his translation of the Tao Te Ching although it is slightly longer.

Hua-Ching Ni's translation takes the form of a narrative question-and-answer dialogue between a disciple Prince and his learned Master. It was suggested in ancient times that the master is Laozi and the Prince is Siddharta Gautama who would later become the Buddha. This suggestion has been the cause of much contention between Buddhists and Taoists, and was the cause of the original banning of the work.

Thematically the text covers much of the same ground as the Tao Te Ching elucidating on the concept of the Tao - the ineffable universality, often described as a force, principle or path, that pervades everything and everyone. However it goes much further in elaborating the relationship of Taoism to other aspects of traditional Chinese culture such as holistic medicine, feng shui, tai chi and the I Ching. It also gives more detailed advice on Taoist philosophy, meditation and other practices. His Chapter 79 concludes with a summary of Taoist practice: " not embrace the Tao. Be the Tao."[5]

Hua-Ching Ni's translation includes some interpretation for the modern world, for example he refers to the four fundamental forces of modern physics giving their individual modern names and relates them to the four fundamental forces identified in Taoist philosophy.[6]

Based on the teachings of Hua-Ching Ni, the Huahujing has also been translated into English by Brian Walker. His translation is in a spare, poetic form reminiscent of many translations of the Tao Te Ching. (Hua-Ching Ni's translation of the Tao Te Ching is also longer than most).

Dunhuang manuscript

Parts of chapters 1, 2, 8 and 10 have been discovered among the Dunhuang manuscripts, recovered from the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang. These are preserved in the Taisho Tripitaka, manuscript 2139. Their contents have no relation to the oral texts available in English.

The original text of these may date from around the late 4th or early 5th century.[7] It has also been suggested that this version of the Huahujing may date from the 6th century Northern Celestial Masters.[1]

The text is honorifically known as the Taishang lingbao Laozi huahu miaojing (太上靈寶老子化胡妙經, "The Supreme Numinous Treasure's Sublime Classic on Laozi's Conversion of the Barbarians").



  1. 1.0 1.1 Louis Komjathy (2004:48)
  2. Homes Welch (1957:152)
  3. Weinstein (1987:47–48)
  4. 辯偽錄
  5. Ni Hua-Ching (1979) Page 207.
  6. Ni Hua-Ching (1979) Page 170.
  7. Liu Yu (1977)


External links