Shénzhìlún, or Zhèngdàoxué: Theosophy in China and How to Translate it in Mandarin?

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Theosophy

What would be the translation of Theosophy in Mandarin and what is Xīn Yin?

The closest term phonetically to Dzyan is in Ancient (Middle) Chinese dʑjen, the ʑ sounding like zya, but it is also merely from the Sanskrit jñāna. The pronunciation of dʑjen is where we get the word Zen 禪, and Zen comes from Chan 禅, originating from jñāna and dhyāna. Dzyana, a transliteration, is pronounced without the final a, as common in the Northern speak of India; and though Dzyan sounds exactly like dʑjen, what would be the translation of Theosophy in Mandarin Chinese?

From Gr. theosophia θεοσοφία we get Theosophy. Theosophy in mandarin may be rendered shénzhìxué 證道學 or rather shénzhìlún 神智论 meaning Wisdom Doctrine, or Wisdom Tradition. The tian (heavens) doctrine of Kong Fuzi, or Heaven’s Wisdom is understood as the absolute principle, just as Sophia Σοφíα (wisdom) in the Gnostic doctrine.

Hence, we must keep in mind, by Theosophy is meant principally:

(a) the wisdom of the gods, and dzyan (a transliteration of dhyana pronounced ghyana in Sanskrit using Tibetan letters dzynana)

(b) the meditative awareness of Tiān, the complement of (地), wherein worlds and lives subsist.

A Theosophy in Asia site speaks of the notable Wŭ Tíngfāng 伍廷芳, or Dr. Wu Tingfang, a Chinese diplomat who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs. C. Jinarājadāsa credits him as being the author of the First Chinese Manual on Theosophy; and termed Theosophy zhèngdàoxué given in the pinyin as 證道學. Perhaps what is meant is 正道学?, which would have a meaning akin to Science of the Pure Path, or Daoist Study. The TS was known as zhèngdàoxuéhui 證道學會 until 1972 in China; and is now inactive. Zhèngdàoxué may refer to something like Confucius’s ‘mean doctrine’ or daoic school; and is like another name for the Neo-Confucian Rationalistic School, Lǐxué 理学 (School of Principle) from Song dynasty to mid-Qing times, c. 1000-1750.

Perhaps, it was Wu’s rationale for the designation. The basis of Modern Theosophy in East Asia would perhaps not be seen by scholars as separate from what is known there, such as being called dàoxué 道學 or “Learning of the Way,” as indeed it is. Let us use the generic shénzhìlún 神智论 in Mandarin, only for now. 

H.P.B. related the term Dzyan (Dzan), Wisdom, or Mystic Meditation to Zen but also it simply means Jñāna. Emphasizing the term Dzyan brings recognition to the fact, theosophy, or the ‘great wisdom of heaven’ in a daoic sense, is principally founded on the “heart doctrine” (snying po’i don), or heart’s seal (xīn yin). H.P. Blavatsky describes it in The Secret Doctrine as Ching-fa-yin-Tsang (“the Mystery of the Eye of the Good Doctrine”).

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