Heshang Gong

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Heshang Gong (also Ho-Shang Kung ) was a reclusive hermit from the 1st century CE who wrote a commentary on Laozi's Dao De Jing. Little is known about the life of Heshang Gong; however the impact of his writing is extensive in regards to the understanding and translation of the Dao De Jing, and is considered one of the earliest proponents of Daoist meditative practices which cultivate the “three treasures” of vitality, energy, and spirit, and the "dual cultivation" of spiritual nature (Chinese: ; pinyin: xìng) and life-and-destiny (Chinese: ; pinyin: mìng).


Heshang Gong's name is only known as the epithet Riverside Elder (Chinese: 河上公; pinyin: héshàng gōng), being an early form of anshang 岸上, meaning on the bank or shore.[1]

Commentary on the Daodejing

Dan G. Reid says, "Heshang Gong’s insights into Daoist wisdom, history, cosmogony, and meditative practices, have been an essential aid to understanding the meaning, applicability, and cultural context of the Dao De Jing throughout Chinese history. He was the first to explain, in written form, its many paradoxical idioms and place them in context of the time and culture in which they were written. Every subsequent commentary, re-editing, and translation of the Dao De Jing has absorbed some degree of influence from his work."[1]

Heshang Gong provides what Kohn calls the "first evidence for Taoist meditation" and "proposes a concentrative focus on the breath for harmonization with the Dao."[2] Eduard Erkes says the purpose of the Heshang Gong commentary was not only to explicate the Daodejing, but chiefly to enable "the reader to make practical use of the book and in teaching him to use it as a guide to meditation and to a life becoming a Taoist skilled in meditative training."[3]

See also



  1. ^ a b Reid 2015, p. ii.
  2. ^ Kohn 2008, p. 118.
  3. ^ Erkes 1945, p. 127–128.


  • Reid, Dan G (2015). The Ho-Shang Kung Commentary on Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, translated by Dan G. Reid. Montreal: Center Ring Publications.
  • Kohn, Livia (2008). Fabrizio Pregadio, ed. Meditation and visualization. pp. 118–120.
  • Erkes, Eduard (1945). ""Ho-Shang-Kung's Commentary on Lao-tse" Part I". Artibus Asiae. 8 (2/4): 121–196.
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