The goal of the initial phase of the development of the DIP database is to provide scholars with access to the project's growing collections of Daoist images along with a variety of specialized tools for analyzing the content of images. Our work to date has focused on accurately identifying the subjects depicted in Daoist images from a variety of different genres (ritual scrolls, book illustrations, sketchbooks). The database now contains hundreds of images of the deities, deity groups, and departments (e.g., Courts of Hell), depicted in representations of the Daoist pantheon from sources as early as the Song dynasty (960 to 1278) up to the present day. The names of these figures, together with their variant appellations found in Daoist texts, are searchable in Chinese characters, pinyin, and English translation. Deities are further categorized according to their roles in Daoist ritual (e.g., masters, guardians, underworld functionaries), which play an important part in interpreting the meaning, use, and placement of their representations in ritual space.

With the cumulative growth of our collections, it has become possible to compare and contrast different representations of the same deity. Methods for identifying the iconographic features of these deities have also been developed, together with an "iconopedia" that serves as a searchable illustrated reference work for these features, providing their variant names in Chinese and English translation, their citations in Daoist texts, and a brief assessment of their emergence in history. This analysis of iconographic features has shown to be a powerful tool for assessing the characteristics of individual deities and their change over time and in varying traditions, and for identifying hitherto unknown figures.

This image is from the 1527 version of the Yushu jing in our collection, and illustrates chapter 7 of this scripture. It shows the divine functionaries who attend to childbirth as well as examples of the astrological forces that may jeopardize marital union, and the group of fifteen devils who cause problems in the life of infants. Property of the Tenri Central Library.

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