Daoist Studies in Canada

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The Society of Chinese Religious Studies and the Journal of Chinese Religions

There were not many scholars who were devoted to Chinese religious studies and Daoist studies until the 1970s while such studies were already very popular in other parts of the world. Daniel Lee Overmyer, professor of the University of British Colombia in Canada, suggested in 1974 during a meeting of the Chinese religion section of the American Society of Religious Studies that the Society of Chinese Religious Studies be established. In 1975 Canadian scholars completed the preparation for it. The Society of Chinese Religious Studies was not only admitted by experts of Chinese studies in many related fields, but also approved by the American Society of Religious Studies and the Association of Asian Studies. At its founding, there were only six members and 44 members the following year. Ten years later (1987) it had 200 members, and presently, over 300. In addition to the members from Canada, there are also scholars from the United States, Germany, Belgium, the Great Britain, France, Sweden, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, China, Korea, and Chinese Hong Kong and Taiwan. Apart from the own activities they organized themselves, the members of the Society also take part in the activities launched by the American Society of Religious Studies and those of the research group of Chinese religions of the Association of Asian Studies.

The Society of Chinese Religious Studies publishes its own journals. In 1976 and 1977 it published three issues of the News of the Society of Chinese Religious Studies. Between 1977 and 1981 the title was named The Information of the Society of Chinese Religious Studies and there were six issues altogether. Since 1982 the journal has been entitled The Journal of Chinese Religions and publishes one issue annually. It contains chiefly the essays concerning the researches on Chinese religions, followed by some book reviews (primarily on the non-English works). In addition, the Society publishes two issues of The News of the Society each year with academic information in which the members of the Society are interested.

Daniel Lee Overmeyer has made one of the greatest contributions to initiating the activities of the Society of Chinese Religious Studies. He graduated from Westman College in 1957 with a BA and received his MA in 1966. In 1971 he obtained his Ph.D from Chicago University. He devoted himself to the Chinese religious studies, especially popular beliefs of the Ming and Qing. His books and essays are as follows:

  1. Popular Buddhism: Heterodoxy Sects of the Late Period of Traditional China
  2. Chinese Religion
  3. Dualism and Conflicts: Chinese Popular Beliefs
  4. Alternative: the Popular Religious Sects in Chinese Society
  5. My View on the Role and Position of the Pao-chuan in Popular Religious Literature of China during the 16th and 17th Centuries
  6. Values in Chinese Religious Literature: Ming and Ch'ing Pao-chuan
  7. Scriptures of the Oldest Sect in China: Precious Scroll on the Great Destiny Told by the Buddha, 1943

Daoist Studies of Julian Pas

Pas has also made great contributions to promoting the activities of the Society of Chinese Religious Studies in Canada and The Journal of Chinese Religions. He was born in Belgium and presently is professor of Department of Religious Studies at Sathcachewan University. He once was a Catholic priest and when he devoted himself to God, both his family and the residents of the village where he grew up were very proud of him and very much pleased. In 1959 he was sent to Taiwan by the Vatican to do missionary work. He spent two years learning Chinese at the College of Chinese Language in Hsinchu, taught at the Seminary of Taizhong, and did his missionary work in that area. This experience put him in close contact with the religious life of the masses of Taiwan. Julian Pas loves traditional Chinese culture and enjoys studying Chinese history and philosophy. Recalling this period of his life, he remarked that he began feeling doubt about some of the basic Catholic doctrines that he formerly considered the absolute truth, as well as about some of the regulations and principles of the Church. At the same time his ideas about the possibility of salvation and eternal life none other than Catholicism also began to change. He began to feel that thousands of kind Chinese people must have their own religion and that it is impossible for all of them to be thrown into the hell. In order to obtain the peace of mind, he devoted himself entirely to his work and prayer, hoping in vain he could rid his trouble. However he found that his ideal and struggle was not practical and he enjoyed very much working together with the Chinese people of Taiwan. So when he returned to Belgium in 1966, he decided not to be a Catholic missioner. After some time of waiting, he was approved to quit by the Vatican. Then he got married with his fiancee of Taiwan and immigrated to Canada where he pursued his doctor's degree of the Comparative Studies of Religions and began his career of education in the city of Saskatoon that is located in the mid-west of Canada. In 1975 he was invited to work at the East Sea University of Taiwan and he acknowledged Lin Zhengqi as his teacher in Taizhong to study the Daoist scriptures and rituals. In 1978 Zhang Xianyuan of Taiwan held the ritual for him at the City God Temple ( 城隍廟 Chenghuang Miao ) of Taizhong to confer him as the Inspector of Merits of Three and Five ( 三五都功 Sanwu Dugong ) so that he became a foreign Daoist formally after receiving his register and his post. In 1984 he came to the mainland of China for investigations. In 1985 he attended the International Conference of Daoist Rituals and Music held by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 1994 and 1995 he made investigations on the development of the Chinese religions in Taiwan and he thought that Taiwan is part of China, and the cultural background of Taiwan is accord with China. His major works are

  1. A Select Bibliography on Daoism
  2. A Further Research on Chinese Religion
  3. Articles of Zhuangzi
  4. Symbolism of the New Light: Further Researches into Daoist Liturgy, Suggested by A Comparison Between the Daoist Fen-Deng Ritual and the Christian Consecration of the Easter Candle.
  5. Rituals of Cancellation of Evil
  6. The Turning of the Tide: Religion in China Today
  7. Revival of Daoist Rituals and Popular Religion
  8. A Journey to the Hell: A New Report of a Mysterious Journey to the Court in the Hell
  9. Religion in New Year Cards of China

In addition, he edited a collection of essays: Religion in China Today and worked together with other scholar in translation of Prof. Robinet's book The Daoist Meditation.

In recent years, as the vice-chairman of the Society of Chinese Religious Studies and the chief editor of the Journal of Chinese Religion, Julian Pas has made great efforts to organize the academic activities and publish and circulate books on Daoist studies. He has contributed a lot to Sinology and Daoist studies in Canada.

Julian Pas is versatile in his academic his research, involved in many fields of Chinese religious culture. His guests often say that his residence is like a museum of Chinese popular religious culture. It is just as he says that he loves Chinese culture. His masterpieces are Symbolism of the New Light: Further Researches into Daoist Liturgy, Suggested by A Comparison Between the Daoist Fen-Deng Ritual and the Christian Consecration of the Easter Candle, and Rituals of Cancellation of Evil. The former was published on the Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Societ y and the latter was the essay presented at the International Conference of Daoist Rituals and Music held in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The former essay mentioned above has four parts: the Daoist ritual of Fen - Deng, Christian fire consecration and Easter candles, essentials of comparison and contrasts, and hypothesis and conclusion. In his description of the Daoist ritual of Fen-Deng, Julian Pas analyzed the significance and the formation of the Feng-Deng ritual by adopting the findings of Prof. Saso and Prof. Schipper. In the second part of his essay, he analyzed the process of the Christian liturgy of fire consecration and Easter candles based on the Christian classics and the descriptions of the theologians. In the third part he made comparisons between the Daoist and Christian rituals in five respects: the label of the ritual, the means of getting the new light, the procedure of the trinity, and the parade of light and the structure of the ritual. As for his use of comparison, Julian Pas mentioned that the symbol of light is a model in all aspects. Like the symbol of light, the symbol of water is one of the motifs that often appear in religious and literary documents. In the dualistic system, light and darkness are entirely different from each other. Light is regarded as the sacred radiation and light is the symbol of the sacred, purity, and life while darkness is the symbol of evil, demons, filth, and death. Julian Pas chose to make comparison between the Daoist ritual of Feng-deng and the Christian Consecration of Easter candles because both of them use the new fire and the new light, both of which are the symbolic models of light. Julian Pas thinks that the symbol of light can be discussed in many respects and he likes to find a special motif from the two traditional rituals that seems to have no connection to each other. In fact they not only appear to be similar, but exactly similar to each other in meaning and accurate expression. The first example is the Daoist ritual of Fen-Deng and another is the liturgy of the Catholic Easter candles as the new fire consecration on Sunday at the eve of Easter. We should say that both his ways of comparison and the choice of the point of tangency of comparison are meaningful and rational as far as the things to be compared are concerned. The author sums up the result of his comparison in the last part of his essay. The ritual itself in its original sense is the ceremony to celebrate the Sun's giving the vigorous power to human beings and the returning to the process of growth on the special day of the Spring Equinox. This ritual should be regarded as an initial model and interpreted as something independent in every major tradition. With the symbol of light as a model, in Mediterranean and the Yellow River civilizations there are two similar but independent ritual traditions with similar meanings and processes, the phenomena itself has added something valuable to the world religious anthropology. Nevertheless Julian Pas put forward a historical hypothesis that Christianity once influenced the Daoist ritual of Fen-Deng. It is bound to be too venturous to be responded. Both Saso and Schipper did research on the ritual of Fen-Deng and both of them are from Christian families, and they are quite formilar with the liturgy at the Easter and the Mediterranean cultural tradition. I guess they won't agree on Pas' opinion that the Daoist ritual of Fen-Deng has influenced by Christianity. According to archeological and documentary information, Christianity was indeed transmitted into China in the Tang dynasty, but it did not have much influence on the religious life of Chinese people. And there is nothing that can be applied as the evidence or witness to suggest that Christianity once influenced the Daoist rituals. Therefore, his "historical hypothesis" is just a venturesome hypothesis instead of a historical fact. After all, people will have interest in his comparason and analysis since he described the people in different traditions of human civilization who put their wish for light into their religious beliefs so that they formed their unique symbolic systems and rituals of pursuing light that are passed down from generation to generation, in which their ideal for light is placed on the execration of darkness.

Daoist Studies of Other Canadian Scholars

Julia Ching (1934 - )

Shw was born in Shanghai. As a professor of Chinese philosophy of Toronto University, Julia does her research on Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming. Her major works are:

  1. Christianity and Chinese Religions
  2. The Virtue of Wang Yang-ming's Four-Sentence Teaching ( 四句教 Sijujiao )
  3. Zhu Xi and Daoism

Zhu Xi and Daoism is an essay presented at the Academic Conference of Zhu Xi's Thought. In this article the author discusses Zhu Xi's understanding and evaluation of Daoism as well as the influence of Daoism on Zhu Xi. Julia thinks that Zhu's criticism of Laozi and Zhuangzi is less serious than his rebuke on Buddhism, especially the Chan Sect. On the one hand, Zhu Xi admitted that the orthodox spirits be worshiped officially by the royal and official families. On the other hand, she objected to the excessive or unofficial sacrifice offerings and to the heterodoxy spirits unofficially worshiped. Zhu Xi did not oppose to all the arts for longevity despite his different ideas about them. The author thinks Zhu Xi did not deny Daoism in all aspects. Instead she points out that Zhu Xi did not mean to hurt Daoism as he criticized Daoism in that Daoist priests did not read books of Laozi and Zhuangzi. Zhu Xi thought the Daoists constructed the Three Pristine Ones ( 三清 Sanqing ) by imitating the Buddhist Three Bodies, and put Laozi above the Highest Emperor of the Heaven, because he sincerely hoped Daoism could be better than Buddhism. As for the Daoist influence on Zhu Xi, Julia thinks that there was something in Zhu Xi's cosmology brought from both philosophical and religious Daoism even if Zhu integrated it with his own theory after his refroms of Daoist cosmoloy, and thus increased the philosophical implication of Daoism. In addition, Julia rearranged two books wrapped up in the Daoist Canon, contributing to Daoist studies (a Textual Criticism of "the Three Ways United and Normalized of the Book of Change" and a Textual Criticism of "the Book of Secret Correspondence"). Interestingly, Zhu Xi used a penname "Kong Tong Daoist" for his book a Textual Criticism of the Three Ways United and Normalized of the Book of Change. Julian thinks that Kong Tong may imply the author was not a registered true Daoist. Of course, it is just one of the interpretations to Kong Tong.

Jan Yun-hua (1923 - )

Jan Yun-hua was born in Sichuan Province of China. He graduated from Sichuan University with BA in 1948 and obtained his Ph.D at a university in India in 1964. He had worked as a teaching assistant, an associate professor, and a professor in Department of Religious Studies in a university of Canada for over 20 years. Jan was once Dean of Department of Religious Studies, and was awarded the title Honored Retired Professor as he retired. After 1979 he visited the mainland China for many times for academic exchanges with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing University, Sichuan University, and so on. Jan Yun-hua loves Chinese culture, friendly as he treats Chinese people, and objective and impartial as he makes evaluations. On Dec. 21,1991 Jan Yun-hua delivered a speech on the religious culture and the present academic exchanges between the scholars of mainland China and those of Chinese Taiwan at the Academic Conference of Religion and Culture across the Taiwan Strait. In his talk, he mentions that the scholars in mainland China have done a lot of fundamental work, which is not only a good foundation for the future academic research in mainland China but also in Taiwan and other countries in the world. Jan refers to the compiling of reference books and printing collections of religious documents such as the History of Chinese Buddhism edited by Ren Ji-yu and the History of Chinese Daoism edited by Prof. Qing Xi-tai, and some investigations on the religions of minority nationalities. He highly evaluates such basic work and thinks that some of them are superior to what has been done in Taiwan or Japan. He criticizes that the academic circle of Taiwan is pursuing creating what is new or trying to please the public with claptrap as he says that people can learn something from what the scholars of the Mainland China have done and the research work done in the Mainland China is a mirror for people to see themselves.

At first Jan Yun-hua focused on Buddhism in his research. Since 1970s, his essays on Daoism have published. His major works are

  1. Chronicle of Buddhist Studies in China 581-960
  2. The Change of Buddhism in China
  3. Indian Buddhism of the Tang
  4. Problems of Dao and Dao De Jing
  5. Simplified Contents of Silk Manuscripts on Daoism
  6. The Silk Manuscripts on Daoism
  7. Dao Yuan or Dao: The Origin
  8. Dao, Principle and Law: The Three Key Concepts in the Yellow Emperor Daoism
  9. Thoughts as Buddhata: Complete and Pure Concepts in the Chan Sect of Buddhism
  10. The Religious Situation and the Studies of Buddhism and Daoism in China Supplementary on Buddhist Books of the North Lineage of the Chan Sect ---- the Hymn of the Monk Jiji
  11. Dunhuang Manuscripts on No-Thought ( 無念 Wunian )
  12. Cultural Borrowing and Religious Identity: A Case Study of the Daoist Religious Codes
  13. The Bridge between Man and Cosmos: The Philosophical Foundation of Music in the Tai-ping ching
  14. Recent Works of Religious Studies in China
  15. Human Nature and its Cosmic Roots in Huang-Lao Daoism

Most of Jan Yun-hua's works are written in English. Of his works on Daoism, the most representative one might be The Bridge between Man and Cosmos: The Philosophical Foundation of Music in the Tai-ping ching It is prsented at the International Conference of Daoist Rituals and Music in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. At the very beginning of his article Jan Yun-hua says that compared to the other part of Chinese culture, Daoist music is almost neglected and its philosophical implication is not mentioned at all. It is partly because scholars only pay their attention to the philosophical works such as Laozi and Zhuangzi instead of Daoist music, which is considered something non-cultural when they discuss Daoist philosophy. Moreover, in the famous works of Daoist studies, the authors do not mention the philosophical meaning of music though they regard music as part of the complete rituals. Jan Yun-hua thinks that the text of Tai-ping Jiing, but never noticed by scholars. No one has ever studied them yet until now although it has been published. It is reasonable for him to think so, for there are not many new or special sourses of information in his article, and what he quoted comes from Proofread Edition of the Book of Supreme Peace ( 《太平經合校》Taiping Jing Hejiao ) that published over 20 years ago. He points out that No. 240 of Some Formula ( 某訣第二百四 Moujue Di Erbaisi ) in the 116th volume of the book implies that music can reach the mind of Heaven, Earth, and Man and dispel the evil as it starts, and form the harmonious atmosphere to attain the great peace as music goes on. Jan concludes that the Book of Supreme Peace thinks music is the expression of happiness and music in its nature is the art of voice and virtue. And happiness is the natural and healthy life, because it does not only exist in the world and universe, but also imbued in everything. Voice and melody is the language of music and harmony is the key to music. Harmonious melody is the power to move and inspire man. When happiness is embodied or expressed in the sound of music, such music has the power to start life in other analogous world, and thus inspire the living things to be happy in their world. When a man in the world or in the universe is happy, the world will share his happiness and join in it. The bridge between Man and cosmos is formed through the sound of music and its power. Religious music has something in common with other analogous music in the magic and entertainment. At the same time it is different from other types of music, for knowledge of religion is essential for building of the bridge except for the skillful techniques. In construction of such a bridge between man and cosmos, one may succeed or fail, for individual's ability is decisive. Such knowledge of religion includes distinguishing, promoting, and stopping the growth of different types of life. Any misunderstanding and changing of them will not only cause the failure in building the bridge to the spirits, but also may very well bring about disasters to man and the world. Nevertheless the world is likely to gain peace and prosperity with happiness and good luck if competent musicians play the harmonious music full of magic power at the right time. As a result, man can attain the communication with cosmos. It is the aim of music mentioned in the Book of Supreme Peace. Jan Yun-hua points out that most of scholars of Chinese culture know that music has the power to influence nature and social phenomena. The power of music is able to regulate heaven and earth, including societies, which is the same in both ancient and modern philosophy. The Book of Supreme Peace shares the ideas with other Chinese philosophies. The peaceful life itself and its position are demonstrated in the universe. The conditions for life's existence, the religious knowledge of music, and species of life and their different appearances are stressed as well. All this is the important characteristic of the philosophy of music in the Book of Supreme Peace. Jan sums up at the end of his article that music has the power to build a bridge between man and cosmos, which is beneficial and helpful for man. Tranquility, peace, longevity, and prosperity are the object of Daoist music. If man hopes it is to be true, man will build such a bridge, for it is full of hope and optimistic anticipation, and it is the whole of Daoist religious philosophy.