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Precious Volumes

Precious Volumes

An Introduction to Chinese Sectarian Scriptures from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Daniel L. Overmyer

ISBN 9780674698383

Publication date: 07/01/1999

“Precious volumes,” or pao-chüan, were produced by popular sects in the Ming and early Qing dynasties. These scriptures were believed to have been divinely revealed to sect leaders and contain teachings and ritual instructions that provide valuable information about a lively and widespread religious tradition outside mainstream Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Largely neglected until now, they testify to the imagination and devotion of popular religious leaders.

This book, the most detailed and comprehensive study of pao-chüan in any language, studies 34 early examples of this literature in order to understand the origins and development of this textual tradition. Although the work focuses on content and structure, it also treats the social context of these works as well as their transmission and ritual use.


  • Overmyer is one of the leading scholars who have revolutionized the study of Chinese religions… Although we are introduced to many precious volumes in this book, because he provides generous translations of key passages from the ones he discusses, we come away with clear ideas about their structures and contents. His translation is flawless and elegant… One cannot have a full understanding of Chinese religions without a knowledge of this tradition. Thanks to his dedicated research resulting in this important work, future students interested in this subject now have an indispensable guide.

    —Chun-Fang Yu, Journal of Asian Studies


  • Daniel L. Overmyer is Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of British Columbia and Professor of Religion at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Book Details

  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center