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Title: Vernacular "fiction" and celestial script : a daoist manual for the use of water margin
Authors: Meulenbeld, M 
Issue Date: 2019
Source: Religions, Sept. 2019, v. 10, no. 9, 518, p. 1-28
Abstract: This article maps out a sphere of ritual practice that recognizably serves as a framework for the famous Ming dynasty (1368-1644) vernacular narrative Water Margin ((sic)& x6ef8;& x50b3; Shuihu zhuan). By establishing a set of primary referents that are ritual in nature, I question the habit of applying the modern category of "literary fiction" in a universalizing, secular way, marginalizing or metaphorizing Daoist elements. I argue that literary analysis can only be fruitful if it is done within the parameters of ritual. Although I tie the story's ritual framework to specific Daoist procedures for imprisoning demonic spirits throughout the article, my initial focus is on a genre of revelatory writing known as "celestial script" ((sic)& x66f8; tianshu). This type of script is given much attention at important moments in the story and it is simultaneously known from Daoist ritual texts. I show a firm link between Water Margin and the uses of "celestial script" by presenting a nineteenth century Daoist ordination manual that contains "celestial script" for each of Water Margin's 108 heroic protagonists.
Keywords: Shuihu zhuan
Celestial script
Literary interpretation
Publisher: Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI)
Journal: Religions 
EISSN: 2077-1444
DOI: 10.3390/rel10090518
Rights: © 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
The following publication Meulenbeld, M. Vernacular “Fiction” and Celestial Script: A Daoist Manual for the Use of Water Margin. Religions 2019, 10, 518, 1-28 is available at
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