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Daozang (Chinese: 道藏; pinyin: Dàozàng; Wade–Giles: Tao Tsang), meaning 'Taoist Canon', consists of around 1,400 texts that were collected c. 400 CE (after the Daodejing and Zhuangzi and Liezi which are the core Taoist texts). They were collected by Taoist monks of the period in an attempt to bring together all of the teachings of Taoism, including all the commentaries and expositions of the various masters from the original teachings found in the Daodejing and Zhuangzi. These three divisions were based on the main focus of Taoism in Southern China during the time it was made, namely; meditation, ritual, and exorcism.

These Three Grottoes were used as levels for the initiation of Taoist masters, from lowest (exorcism) to highest (meditation).

As well as the Three Grottoes there were Four Supplements that were added to the canon c. 500. These were mainly taken from older core Taoist texts (e.g. Daodejing) apart from one which was taken from an already established and separate philosophy known as Tianshi Dao (Way of the Heavenly Masters).

Although the above can give the appearance that the canon is highly organized, this is far from the truth. Although the present-day canon does preserve the core divisions, there are substantial forks in the arrangement due to the later addition of commentaries, revelations and texts elaborating upon the core divisions.


  1. The First Daozang
    • During the era of Northern and Southern dynasties, this was the first time of an effort was made to compile and categorised scriptures and texts from across China by Lu Xiujing and occurred around 471 and consisted of roughly 1,228 scrolls.
  2. The Second Daozang
    • In 748, the Tang emperor Tang Xuan-Zong who was a devoted Taoist (the royal family claimed to be the descendants of Laozi) sent clergy to collect more scriptures and texts that expanded the Taoist Canon.
  3. The Third Daozang
    • Around 1016 of the Song dynasty, the Daozang was revised and many texts collected during the Tang dynasty were removed. This third Daozang consisted of approximately more than 4500 scrolls and was known as Yunji Qiqian.
  4. The Fourth Daozang
    • In 1444 of the Ming dynasty, a final version was produced consisting of approximately 5300 scrolls.

Many new Daozang were published.

Constituent parts

Three Grottoes (sandong) 三洞 400

  1. Authenticity Grotto (Dongzhen) 洞真部: Texts of Supreme Purity (Shangqing) tradition
    • This grotto is concerned mainly with meditation and is the highest phase of initiation for a Taoist master.
  2. Mystery Grotto (Dongxuan) 洞玄部: Texts of Sacred Treasure (Lingbao) tradition
    • This grotto is concerned mainly with rituals and is the middle phase of initiation for a Taoist master.
  3. Spirit Grotto (Dongshen) 洞神部: Texts of Three Sovereigns (Sanhuang) tradition
    • This grotto is concerned mainly with exorcisms and is the lowest phase of initiation for a Taoist master.

Each of the Three Grottoes contains the following 12 chapters

  1. Main texts (Benwen) 本文類
  2. Talismans (Shenfu) 神符類
  3. Commentaries (Yujue) 玉訣類
  4. Diagrams and illustrations (Lingtu) 靈圖類
  5. Histories and genealogies (Pulu) 譜錄類
  6. Precepts (Jielu) 戒律類
  7. Ceremonies (Weiyi) 威儀類
  8. Rituals (Fangfa) 方法類
  9. Practices (Zhongshu) 像術(衆術)類
  10. Biographies (Jizhuan) 記傳類
  11. Hymns (Zansong) 讚頌類
  12. Memorials (Biaozou) 表奏類

Four Supplements 500

  1. Great Mystery (Taixuan) 太玄部: Based on the Dao De Jing
  2. Great Peace (Taiping) 太平部: Based on the Taiping Jing
  3. Great Purity (Taiqing) 太清部: Based on the Taiqing Jing and other alchemical texts
  4. Orthodox One (Zhengyi) 正一(正乙)部: Based on the Way of the Celestial Masters (Tianshi Dao) tradition.