Santa Clara University



1. Brief Introduction
2. Religion and Politics Sections
3. A Short Introductory Course
4. Other Resource Materials
5. Recent Articles

1. Brief Introduction:

Daoism is the only originally indigenous of China’s five approved world religions. The Dao [Tao in the Wade-Gilles Romanization used in Taiwan] is “the Way.”  Religious-cultural phenomena that have been labeled “Daoist” throughout Chinese history constitute an incredibly complicated narrative. Welch (below, p. 88) uses the image of “a river which united four streams.” These streams and others combine and separate, sometimes the same, sometimes different, in an incredibly diverse pattern. The four streams are: philosophical Daoism, for example, the writings of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu; the “Hygiene School,” which cultivated longevity through breathing exercises and gymnastics; alchemy and the theory of the Five Elements; and trips to the Isles of the Blessed seeking immortality. The Daoist canon of writings, according to Welch (p. 88), extends to “a bible in 1,120 volumes—not pages—compiled over a period of fifteen centuries.” There also developed the Interior Gods Hygiene School and a Daoist fighting church organization. At times Daoism attacked both Buddhists and the Confucian state. When Beijing sees a contemporary phenomenon like the Falun Gong, it immediately recalls the history of the sectarian Yellow Turbans, White Lotus, and the Taiping Rebellion (see Hanson below). The importance of qi [breath] exercises in many of the Daoist sects points to the focus on longevity and the union of physical and spiritual health as major themes in this type of thought and organization. For the more strictly religious forms, Welch (below, p. 107) states that, “in all the non-philosophical schools of Taoism, the pantheon was continuously growing and shifting,” and was modeled on the imperial bureaucracy. Local Taoist religious traditions in both China and Taiwan, therefore, can reflect and represent the specifics of the local community. See Saso and Schipper (below) for the more strictly religious forms of Daoism. Both are Westerners who studied the Daoist canon (Tao Tsang) and rituals and became Daoist priests.

2. Religion and Politics Sections:

“China and Japan: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Maoism,” (pp. 111-19)

“The Falun Gong: Religion and Politics Within the Economic and Communication Systems,” (pp. 173-77)

“The Future of East Asia in the EMC Systems,” (pp. 188-97)

3. A Short Introductory Course:

Welch presents the classic short introduction to the tradition. Yang’s book situates Daoism in the Chinese cultural context. The China Quarterly and Weller bring the analysis up to date. Madsen's fifth chapter shows how Daoism has adopted Confucianist values to support democratization and the religious needs of Taiwan's middle classes.

Welch, Holmes. Taoism: The Parting of the Way, rev. ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967).

Yang, C.K. Religion in Chinese Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961).

The China Quarterly 174 (June 2003), Special issue on “Religion in China Today.”

Weller, Robert P. Alternate Civilities: Democracy and Culture in China and Taiwan (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1999).

Madsen, Richard. Democracy's Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), Chapter Five "The Enacting Heaven Temple," pp. 104-29. 

4. Other Resource Materials:

Blakney, Raymond B., trans., The Way of Life Lao Tzu (New York: Mentor, 1955). Translation of great poetic philosophical work of Daoism.

Ivanhoe, Philip J., “The Copncept of De “Virtue” in Early Confucianism and Daoism,” lecture at Santa Clara University, spring 2001. While given different concepts in the two traditions, for both De was a personal kind of power that accrued to spiritually and ethically accomplished individuals.

Küng, Hans, “Chinese Religion” in Tracing the Way: Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions (New York: Continuum, 2002), 78-130.

Merton, Thomas, The Way of Chuang Tzu (New York: New Directions, 1965). Inspired by Chinese scholar John C. H. Wu, the Trappist monk offers this interpretation from Western translations.

Saso, Michael. Taoist Master Chuang (Eldorado Springs, Co.: Sacred Mountain Press, 2000).

Schipper, Kristofer. The Taoist Body (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

5. Recent Articles:

See recent material on the battle between the Chinese State and the Falun Gong and other unapproved sects to appreciate the traditional enmity between the Confucian and/or Marxist State and any independent Daoist organization.

List of other Religions

October 16, 2009.