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On the most basic level, “American Daoism” (a.k.a. “American Taoism”) refers to anything identified as “Daoism” in America. In a more technical sense, it refers to two distinct dimensions of contemporary American society: (1) Adherents and communities associated with the Chinese Daoist religious tradition; and (2) Individuals who embrace a popular construction of “Daoism” rooted in colonialist, missionary, and Orientalist legacies. Only the former is Daoism per se. The latter may be referred to as Popular Western Taoism; it has few connections with the Daoist religious tradition, far fewer than its representatives’ rhetoric suggests.

 

“American Daoism” might also designate an Americanized form of Daoism, that is, Daoism adapted and modified according to American values and concerns. Such innovation has not yet occurred. For “American Daoism” not to be a meaningless name, its adherents will have to actually have a connection with and accurate understanding of the religious tradition which is Daoism.

 

Further Reading: Faces of Buddhism in America/Charles Prebish and Kenneth Tanaka (eds.); The American Encounter with Buddhism/Thomas Tweed; “The Dao of America”/Elijah Siegler; “Tracing the Contours of Daoism in North America”/Louis Komjathy; Westward Dharma/Charles Prebish and Martin Baumann (eds.).

 

See also Daoism, Family Resemblances and Popular Western Taoism.