Tagged Daoism

From Polythetic to Synthesized: Definitions of “Religious Daoism”

Carving a well-defined image of religious Daoism out of the block of ancient and medieval Chinese thought and tradition is a laborious task. The development of Daoist concepts from the Warring States period to the fall of the Han dynasty is amorphous—an ephemeral composite of figures, beliefs, scriptures, traditions, and communities. Reflecting this problematic and multivocal nature of Daoism, academia surrounding the religion is equally as variegated. Some academics propound a relatively boundless survey of the general concepts of Daoism, but ultimately fail to provide an efficacious definition by which to capture the religion’s distinguishing features. On the other hand,…

Shangqing: Individual’s Community

Community remains a central concept in religion and religious studies. Daoism is no exception to this rule. Many scholars of Daoism associate the religion’s birth with the emergence of the Celestial Masters (est. 142 C.E.), a hierarchically arranged community—or institution—that consisted of priests, libationers, and clerical members. Using the Celestial Masters as a comparative tool, one cannot ignore a conspicuous lack of community in the Shangqing (Supreme Purity) Daoist tradition. The materialism indicative of Ge Hong’s (ca. 280 – ca. 343) alchemy, adopted and internalized by the Shangqing school, renders the latter primarily individualistic and, therefore, problematically defined as an…