Daoist Studies in the U.S.A.

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Daoist Studies before World War II

The United States came to China after the European countries like Holland and the Great Britain opened the door of China with warships and cannons. In this sense it began its studies of Sinology or China much later than the other European countries. In the 19th century there were some American missioners who came to China for their missionary work. Of them Arthur Henderson Smith (1845-1932) the Congregational priest came to Tianjin and Shangdong of China for his missions. In the meanwhile he worked as the correspondent of a newspaper in Shanghai. In 1899 he published in New York his book Country Life of China: a Sociological Study, in which he mentioned about the temples, religions, communities, and religious liturgies in the countryside.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Obed Simon Johnson a doctoral student of University of California came to China, and in 1928 he published his doctoral dissertation A Textual Research on Chinese Alchemy by Shanghai Commercial Publishing House, which was translated into Chinese by Huang Sufeng in 1936. Despite the title "a textual research", the author did not supply many materials in it nor did he analyze Chinese alchemy with chemical knowledge. Of course he pointed out that the European alchemy was transmitted from Chinese alchemy and thought alchemy was closely related to Daoist theories. He also thought Alchemy played an important role in ancient chemistry and medicine.

At the end of 1920s, James Roland Ware (1901- ) came to China as the first postgraduate student of Harvard Peking Academic Society. He went back and got his doctoral degree at Harvard University in 1932. In the 1930s he published his essay A Discourse on Daoism Based on the Chronicle of the Wei and the Chronicle of the Sui. In the 1960s he published Qutations of Zhuangzi ( 《莊子語錄》Zhuangzi ) and Chinese Alchemy, Medicine, and Religions in 320AD: Ge Hong's Inner Book of the Man Who Embraces Simplicity. The latter is the relatively complete English version of the Inner Book of the Man Who Embraces Simplicity in the west at present.

Before and during World War II, Japan and France with the tradition of studying Sinology were involved in the war while the United States was developing its economy at a high speed at the time. The research on China was also developing very rapidly. The Library of Congress of the United States became one of the centers with the most abundant collections of Chinese books in the world. The experts who began their studies of China and Chinese Daoism before World War II had their works come out after the war. Derke Bodde (1909- ), the professor of Chinese in University of Pennsylvania, translated and published the ancient Chinese book Records of Festivals in Peking ( 《燕京歲時記》Yanjing Suishiji ). He had been doing research on Chinese philosophy and popular religions. In the 1960s he took up the post of the chairman of the Association of Oriental Studies and published Two Versions of the Book of Dao and its Virtue, Chinese Cultural Tradition, and Festivals in Ancient China. Herrlee Glessner Greel (1905- ) was once the honored professor of the Chinese history of Martin Nelson Lectures in Chicago University and spent most of his time studying Chinese history and the Chinese history of philosophy. Between 1955 and 1956 he became the chairman of the American Association of Oriental Studies. In 1937 he published his book A Study of Early Chinese Culture. In 1970 he published a collection of his essays Daoism and Other Studies of the History of Chinese Culture. Some of articles in the book had been published in Taiwan and the US, which had great influences at the time.

Daoist Studies in the USA after World War II

After World War II the researches on China were reinforced in the United States, especially after the foundation of the People's Republic of China and the breakout of the Korean War. The Daoist studies in the US developed rapidly under such circumstances. While Greel took up the post of the chairman of the Association of Oriental Studies, Greel's article "What is Philosophical Daoism and Religious Daoism?" appeared on the magazine Journal of the American Association of Oriental Studies. In spite of the fact that he cared more about the studies of Laozi and Zhuangzi, he was the first to study Chinese Daoism in the American academic circle of Daoist studies.

Probably Holmes Welch (1921-1981) was the one who made most efforts than any other people to study Daoism in the USA. He obtained his bachelor's degree in 1942 and master's degree in 1956. He was director of the Research Center of the East Asia and vice-chairman of the Research Center of World Religions in Harvard University. In 1956 he published his first essay Syncretism in Early Daoism on Papers on China of Harvard University. In 1957 he published his essay Chinese Daoism and the Celestial Master Zhang on the Journal of Oriental Studies of Hong Kong University. Later he went to Taiwan and Hong Kong many times to make investigations on the situations of Buddhism and Daoism and the Daoist rituals there. In 1957 he published his book Split of Dao: Laozi and Daoism, in which there are four parts altogether: the Question of Laozi, the Book of Dao and its Virtue, the Daoist Movement, and Today's Daoism. The author has given some explanations on the Book of Dao and its Virtue as well as brief introductions about the Daoist history. The new British Encyclopedia claims that it has the most readable detailed explanations on the Book of Dao and its Virtue and the first clear narration of the Daoist movement. Welch was actively involved in organizing the first three international conferences on Daoist studies, and promoting Daoist studies all over the world. After the first international conference on the Daoist studies, he published on History of Religions of Chicago University a survey of the conference: Bellagio Conference on Daoist Studies. After the second conference of Daoist studies, Welch cooperated with Anna Seidel in publishing the book: Facets of Daoism --- A Collection of Essays on Chinese Religion. This book collected nine articles from the scholars of France, the United States, and Japan, which further promoted Daoist studies internationally. After the third international conference of Daoist studies, he returned to the USA and committed suicide probably because of his old age, his marriage and his family, or his work. But his contribution to the development of Daoist studies in the USA and in the world is respectful and worthy of cherishing our memory of him.

Daoist Studies of Michael Saso (1930- )

Michael Saso obtained his bachelor's degree of literature in St. Clara University in 1952, master's degree of philosophy in 1955 and another master's degree of Chinese Studies (history and literature) in Yale University in 1964, and doctoral degree of Chinese literature and religion in London University of UK in 1971. He taught first in London University and then in State University of Washington. Since 1974 he had been professor of Chinese Religions in Department of Religions of Hawaii University until his retirement.

In 1964 Saso made investigations on Daoism and the folk customs and worked as a professor at the College of Foreign Languages in a university in Taiwan. His investigations in Taiwan mainly focused on the Hsinchu area in the north of Taiwan. He learned the Daoist rituals from the local Daoists Chen Dengyun and Qian Zhicai and collected a number of the Daoist ritual scriptures that spread widely in the north of Taiwan. In 1975 Chuang-Lin Hsu TAo-tsang: A Collection of Daoist Manuals (Supplementary Daoist Canon of the Zhuang and Lin Lineages) ( 《莊林續道藏》Zhuanglin Xu Daozang ) which he edited was printed in Taiwan. It fills 25 volumes with 104 kinds of the Daoist ritual scriptures collected by the Daoist families. Saso classified them intofour different types as the Golden Register ( 金籙 Jinlu ) ---- Morning Ritual Offerings ( 午朝醮事wuchao Jiaoshi ), the Yellow Register ( 黃籙 Huanglu ) ---- Funerals at Midnight ( 午夜喪事 Wuye Sangshi ), the Ritual Document Review ( 文檢wenjian ) ----- Secret Formulas of Talismans and Incantations ( 符咒秘訣fuzhou Mijue ), and Lesser Techniques ( 小法 Xiaofa ) ---- Lesser Techniques of the Divine Empyrean of Mt.Lv ( 閭山神霄小法 Lushan Shenxiao Xiaofa ). It is said that the local Daoists at Hsinchu are not satisfied with Saso because he made the scriptures of the Daoist rituals kept in the Daoist homes known to the public. The publication of the ritual scriptures provides the valuable new information for the research on Daoist rituals and also suggests the necessity and possibility to add more scriptures to the Daoist Canon. In 1979 he published Integration of Daoist Secret Formula s in Tokyo, which annoyed the Hsinchu Daoists greatly and spoiled his fame as well. Saso's research on Daoism was deeply influenced by the tradition of American sociology and anthropology and he paid great attention to studying the rituals and making on-the-spot investigations. His major works on the Daoist rituals are Daoism and the Rite of Cosmic Renewal, The Daoist Masters' Rite of the Bestowal of Registers ( 給籙儀式 Geilu Yishi ), Nocturnal Invocation Ritual ( 宿啓科儀 Suqi Keyi ) and Daoist Music, and the Structure of Daoist Liturgy in Taiwan. And his books about the investigations on the present situation of Daoism are Religious Festivals in Taiwan, Daoist Competition in the North of Taiwan, Chinese Families, Registration of Population in Taiwan, Daoism in Northern Taiwan, and Religions in Taiwan. His studying of the Daoist books is mainly based on the Daoist scriptures of Daoist rituals he obtained when he learned from the Daoists in Hsinchu. His research on the Daoist doctrine is also based on what he learned from the Daoist Chen Dengyun instead of studying the Daoist books. It can be imagined that he was censured because of his studying Daoism from the perspectives of sociology and anthropology, but his new point of views and unique approach are certainly worthy of our notice.

Saso's research on the Daoist rituals begins also with historical literature as well as the present situation of Daoism in Taiwan so that his research is both historical and close to reality. For example, he thinks that there are three types of Daoist rituals in Taiwan, which can be compared to a grand symphony with its three movements played simultaneously. The first type of rituals is popular for praying to the spirits for happiness and benefit. The second type is the tediously singing of scriptures and usually ends in the praying for releasing from suffering. The third type is the traditional Daoist ritual performed by the black-headed Daoists. The first and second type is closely related to each other. In the eyes of Chinese people, the microscopic and macroscopic world, that is, the inner and outer world must be seen as a united system. What is going on outside the human body is bound to take place in correspondence within man himself. There is a worldly hell because man's anger and selfishness lie in his inner world. Favorable weather, abundant financial resources, and man's mutual amities between each other result from man's awareness of the Dao and cherishing of the virtue. One must save the ghosts in the hell before the Heaven blesses him according to the world outlook of Chinese people. It indicates that the Buddhist ideas of mercy, forgiveness, and universal salvation have been absorbed in the Daoist system of religious beliefs, which has become the means of obtaining the blessing of Heaven. The third type is the integrated theme of the first two types. Such rituals start with consecrating the incense burner and end up returning the incense burner. Saso thinks that in such a tradition the rituals are the outer presentations of visualization of the inner alchemy. ‘The Book of Dao and its Virtue is regarded as the guide to refine the essential matter as well as the vital breath and the spirit, and to perfect one's spiritual world of great Daoists. That Daoists perform such rituals at the Daoist temples or at the Daoist altar are to present what they visualize. After analyzing in detail the ritual master's process of visualization during the ritual offerings, he points out that only after the integration with the Dao, the ritual master is able to help people's praying in accord with the Dao, which can bring about the revival of the nature. To pray for happiness, fortune, and longevity and to experience the integration of oneself with the nature are the objectives of the ritual offerings of orthodox Daoism.

Although people may have different ideas about hia analysis of the structure of the Daoist rituals and take various attitudes towards it, Saso's opinions are quite instructive for promoting the research on Daoist rituals as well as on the history of Daoism.

Daoist Studies of Michel Strickman and Other Scholars

Michel Strickman is from Germany and has studied in France for many years, and he is proficient in German, French, English, and Chinese. He once worked as a professor of Department of Oriental and Asian Studies in Berkeley College of California University. His Daoist study has focused on the Six-dynasty period and published a series of works.

  1. The Mao Shan Revelations: Daoism and the Aristocracy
  2. Tao Hongjing's Alchemy
  3. Daoism
  4. The Daoist History
  5. The Daoist Literature
  6. A Daoist Confirmation of Liang Wu Di's Suppression of Daoism
  7. The Longest Daoist Scripture ----- the Book of Salvation ( 〈度人經〉 Duren Jing )
  8. Chinese Religion, History and Anthropology
  9. The Revelation of the Highest Clarity Tradition: the Mao Shan Sect
  10. The Therapy Ritual as the Therapy and the Ideas of Evils in Early Daoism

Strickman took charge of editing the book Collection of Essays on Japanese Religion and Philosophy in honor of Prof. Steininger as well as the four volumes of collections of essays on Tantric and Daoist Studies in Honour of R.A. Stein: Papers on China and Buddhism.

Judging by his works we can see that his study of Daoism focuses on the Daoist history in the six dynasties as well as the Daosit scriptures and the Daoist figures, especially the Highest Clarity Tradition of Mt.Maoshan. Strickmann thinks that Daoism is not only the most progressive religion that appeared in the Chinese territory but also one of the largest in the world. Many people, however, neglect it and did no research on it. It is a serious mistake. Such an attitude might be caused by the missioners' disgust against the complicated local traditions or by the Manchu repellence against Daoism due to the Manchu invasion into the central plains. He insists that the first step is to study the Daoist doctrines such as the Declarations of the Perfected ( 《真誥》 Zhengao ). Studying it we can not only be aware of Daoism but also get an overall idea of the religions in Medieval China as well as the development of Chinese religions during the fifth and sixth centuries. Anyone who has a little understanding of the Declarations of the Perfected is clearly aware that it is rather difficult to read or comprehend and even more difficult to do research on, so much so that it is thought that it is not worth studying. But Strickmann does not think so and he argues that the Declarations of the Perfected is such a great book with large quantity of information as to the society, culture, literature, and history that we must admit that it is a reliable chronicle of the Daoist development. He thinks that before Tao Hongjing there were a lot of works by Yang Xi and Xu's family and it is Tao Hongjing who rearranged their works into books. He says that we can feel that each article in the Declarations of the Perfected is interrelated to each other and we can get something of the process and methods of the foundation of Daoism if we study the relations between them. In this sense the Declarations of the Perfected is the beginning of the Daoist study. As a scholar who studies Daoism, he takes such an active attitude towards this book and clearly expounds his views on it. He is really commendable.

In the early 1990s, Strickman left Berkeley of California University for France to teach and do his research in a university in the south of France. Unfortunately he died young like Anna Seidel.

At the end of 1920s the American academic circle was quite interested in the Daoist alchemy of China, but it was Nathan Sivin who did serious research scientifically and systematically on it in the 1960s. He was professor of History of Science and History of Chinese Culture in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He obtained his MA in 1960 and Ph.D of the history of science at Harvard University in 1966. Since 1973 he has worked as a professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since the Chinese history of science and technology is closely related to the history of Daoism, his research is directed into Daoism. Sivin was the first to study the Daoists of the Tang dynasty and his book Chinese Alchemy: Preliminary Studies deals with Sun Simiao's life and thought as well as the activities in which Sun was involved. He translated part of the Essential Formula of Golden Alchemy ( 《金丹要訣》 Jindan Yaojue ) with a textual research on it. In its appendix there is the index of the books on the Chinese alchemy written in English and some other languages, and the index of their different versions. It can be considered as a summery of the research on the Chinese alchemy in the west during the past fifty years. Apart from this, Sivin published some other essays on Daoism in 1960s and 1970s.

  1. Life of Ge Hong and the Inner Book of the Man Who Embraces Simplicity
  2. On Reconstructing Chinese Alchemy
  3. Chinese Alchemy as Science
  4. On the Word Taoist as a Source of Perplexity ( With Special Reference to the Relations of Science and Religion in Traditional China.)
  5. Report on the Third International Conference on Daoist Studies

Since the end of 1970s, Sivin's interest in his research has shifted, so we can hardly find his essays or books on Daoism now.

Traditionally the American academic circle has been attaching great importance in their studies to the approaches of anthropology and sociology. Since the 1970s the American scholars have published a number of findings of their investigations on Chinese religions. Let's take David Jordan's Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors ---- Popular Religion in Rural Taiwan as an example. David Jordan has obtained his doctoral degree of anthropology at Chicago University and works as a researcher of anthropology in California University. Between 1966 and 1968, he made investigations on the people's life and religion in the Bao'an village near the City of Tainan. Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors was a report of his investigation, in which he narrated the Taiwanese religion, the village gods, the technique of divination, the family gods and so on. Jordan thinks that the religion in rural Taiwan is a mixture of three supernatural beings like gods, ancestors, and the ghosts' souls that is integrated with the social relationship between people in this world. And the villagers attach more importance to their worship of ghosts than gods or ancestors. Emily M. Ahern, the assistant professor of Yale University, made investigations on the worship of ancestors at the Nanxi village in the north of Taiwan from 1969 to 1970. In 1973 Stanford University published her book Rite for the Dead in Rural China. Daoism is not directly discussed in the two books mentioned above, but it is presented more than Buddhism, Confucianism, and popular beliefs. There are some other investigations similar to what is mentioned above and their authors are usually the young scholars. But the date, location, or investigation procedure is not mentioned often in their reports and the background information such as the name, age, occupation, interpreter is not recorded either, which may affect the importance of their investigations to some extent.