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Daoist Studies is a professional field. Members are most often trained in Sinological institutes or departments of East Asian languages and literatures and of religious studies. In addition to proficiency in classical and modern Chinese, graduate study, which usually results in a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), includes developing reading ability in English, French and Japanese as well as more comprehensive interpretative and theoretical knowledge. The translation of Daoist literature (including critical reflection on “translation”) and textual analysis remain the dominant interpretative approach, but more scholars are becoming versed in comparative religious studies, ethnography and material culture studies. Members of the professional guild of Daoist Studies are those educators and researchers committed to understanding the Daoist religious tradition in as accurate, informed and nuanced of a way as possible. For this, knowledge of Chinese culture, history, religion and society as well as of cross-cultural and comparative dimensions of religion as a larger global phenomenon is essential. With respect to modern Western appropriations, adaptations and transmissions, one must understand the relevant cultural and religious histories, including colonialist, missionary, and Orientalist legacies. The principle of self-identification is only sufficient as an initial methodology.


Scholarly Associations


American Academy of Religion (AAR). Founded in 1909, AAR is the world’s largest association of academics who research or teach topics related to religion. Of particular interest for those involved in Daoist Studies is the Daoist Studies Group and the Chinese Religions Group. Emphasis is placed on comparative and theoretically-informed approaches to Daoist Studies.  

Publication: Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR)


American Oriental Society (AOS). Established in 1842, AOS is the oldest learned society in the United States devoted to a particular field of scholarship. Its area of emphasis is Asian culture, history, language, religion, and society. Many prominent scholars of Daoism present at its annual meeting. It has been especially important for first and second-generation scholars.

Publication: Journal of the American Oriental Society (JAOS)


Association for Asian Studies (AAS). Established in 1941, AAS is a scholarly, non-political, non-profit professional association open to all persons interested in Asia. It is the largest society of its kind, with approximately 7,000 members worldwide. Emphasis is placed on Sinological approaches to Daoist Studies.

Publication: Journal of Asian Studies (JAS)


Daoist Studies Website (DSW). Established in 2000 by Professor James Miller, the Daoist Studies Website is a collaborative internet resource for the academic study of Daoism. It contains a directory of self-identified scholars of Daoism. Although overly inclusive, it provides a sense of some members of the field, including their areas of concentration, academic affiliations and publications.


Nihon dôkyô gakkai 日本道教學會 (Japanese Association for the Study of Daoism). This is the preeminent Japanese academic society focusing on the study of Daoism.

Publication: Tôhô shûkyô 東方宗教 (Eastern Religions)


Society for the Study of Chinese Religions (SSCR). SSCR is one of the major academic associations dedicated to the study of Chinese religions. It has an annual meeting in concert with those of the Association for Asian Studies and, beginning in 2007, the American Academy of Religion.

Publication: Journal of Chinese Religions (JCR)


Academic Journals


Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie (CEA). First published in 1985, this is a bilingual (French-English) Sinological publication of the  École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO). In terms of Daoism, it primarily publishes Sinological studies by European scholars.


Daoism: Religion, History and Society. Although yet to publish its inaugural issue, this is a bi-lingual Sinological journal published by the Centre for the Study of Daoist Culture (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and the Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient. It is one of only two Western-language journals focusing solely on Daoism.


Daoxue yanjiu 道學研究 (Research in Daoist Studies).


Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR). First published in 1933, this is an English-language quarterly publication associated with the American Academy of Religion. It emphasizes theory and methodology in the study of religion and publishes few articles on Daoism or Chinese religions. It also rarely reviews publications in Daoist Studies.


Journal of Chinese Religions (JCR). First published in 1982, this is the annual English-language Sinological publication of the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions. In 1998, JCR absorbed the earlier Taoist Resources (1989-1997). In terms of Daoism, it primarily publishes Sinological studies. In recent years, its review section has become increasingly problematic with respect to balance, neutrality and reliability of evaluation.


Journal of Daoist Studies (JDS). With the inaugural edition published in 2008, this is an English-language journal published by Three Pines Press. It is one of only two Western-language journals focusing solely on Daoism. Taking the earlier Taoist Resources (1989-1997) as its model, it includes both academic and popular articles. JDS has three main parts: academic articles; forum on contemporary practice, and news of the field. Academic articles approach Daoism from a variety of interpretative and theoretical approaches.


Monumenta Serica (MS). First published in 1935, this is the annual English-German Sinological publication of the Monumenta Serica Institute. In terms of Daoism, it primarily publishes Sinological studies by European scholars.


Religious Studies Review (RSR). First published in 1975, this is a quarterly review of publications related to the academic study of religion. It is published by the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion. Although it published few full-length review essays on publications related to Daoism, it does provide helpful review notes on relevant books.


Shijie zongjiao yanjiu 世界宗教研究 (Studies in World Religions). First published in 1994, this is a Chinese-language journal published by the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). In terms of Daoism, it primarily publishes Sinological studies by mainland Chinese scholars.


Tôhô shûkyô 東方宗教 (Eastern Religions). First published in 1951, this is the semi-annual Japanese-language publication of the Nihon dôkyô gakkai 日本道教學會 (Japanese Association for the Study of Daoism). It primarily publishes Sinological studies of Daoism by Japanese scholars. The fall issue (even numbers) includes bibliographies of recent publications in Daoist Studies, though it is often fragmentary and evidences a particular construction of the field.


T’oung Pao (TP). First published in 1890, this is an English-language Sinological journal published by Brill Academic Publishers (Netherlands). In terms of Daoism, it primarily publishes Sinological studies by European scholars.


Zhongguo daojiao 中國道教 (Chinese Daoism). First published in 1998, this is a Chinese-language journal focusing on Daoism. It is published quarterly by the Chinese Daoist Association. Although more popular in nature, Zhongguo daojiao does provide glimpses into contemporary Chinese Daoism.  




E.J. Brill. One of the foremost academic publishers of Sinological reference works. Although often prohibitively expensive and highly Sinological, Brill publishes scholarly monographs of high erudition. Recently published relevant titles include Wu Yun’s Way (2006) and Cultivating Perfection: Mysticism and Self-transformation in Early Quanzhen Daoism (2007).


Harvard University Press (HUP). Although historically publishing relatively few books on Daoism, HUP has begun to remedy this omission. Recently published relevant titles include Daoism and Ecology (2001), To Become a God (2002), and The Taoists of Peking (2007).   


Routledge. Routledge has recently initiated a Studies in Taoism series. Recently published relevant titles include Taoism: The Enduring Tradition (2004), Daoism in History (2006), Explorations in Daoism (2006), and The Encyclopedia of Taoism (2007).


State University of New York Press (SUNY). For over a decade, SUNY Press has been at the forefront of publishing books on Daoism. Although earlier works tended to overemphasize “philosophical” aspects of Daoism, many of the most important works in the field have appeared in SUNY Press’ Chinese Philosophy and Culture series. Recently published relevant titles include A Chinese Reading of the Daode jing (2003), Teachings and Practices of the Early Quanzhen Taoist Masters (2004), and The Pristine Dao (2005),  


Three Pines Press (TPP). TPP is the only press specializing in publications in Daoist Studies. Although some recent publications are more popular in scope, TPP continues to publish books of enduring academic value. Recently published relevant titles include Women in Daoism (2003), Cosmos and Community (2004), Daoist Body Cultivation (2006), and Divine Traces of the Daoist Sisterhood (2006).


University of California Press (UCP). In addition to its Daoist Classics series, which currently includes three titles, UC Press also publishes a variety of books on Daoism. Recently published relevant titles include To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth (2002), The Victorian Translation of China (2002), The Scripture on Great Peace (2007), and Ancestors and Anxiety (2007).


University of Hawaii Press (UHP). UHP is one of the foremost publishers of academic studies of Daoism. Recently published relevant titles include Daoist Identity (2002), Monastic Life in Medieval China (2003), Buddhism and Taoism Face to Face (2008), and Chinese Healing Exercises (2008).