At the end of June I had the privilege of speaking at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. The topic for the week was the film Journey of the Universe, by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker. If you haven’t seen it, you can read all about it on the website at http://www.journeyoftheuniverse.org. The…
In an online report on Religious Innovation for Sustainable Future (no longer available), Nina Witoszek (Oslo University) surveys a “pastoral renaissance” taking place across the globe. This renaissance, she declares, is “not just a tide of projects and conferences, but a new-old mindset which aspires to reclaiming nature, culture and spirituality, influencing green architecture and…
For the past six months I’ve been working with Dan Smyer Yu from the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity on a conference which is finally taking place next week at Minzu University in Beijing. The title of the conference is Religious Diversity and Ecological Sustainability in China. Here’s the conference rationale that…
Should environmentalists support conservation projects that also serve to bolster right wing nationalist agendas? This was one of the questions that was discussed last month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, in San Francisco. I spoke on a panel organized by the Religion and Ecology section which featured a vibrant discussion on…
As China overtakes Japan to be recognized as the world’s second largest economy, it is inevitable that Chinese religions will undergo change and transformation. But since Marx infamously compared the social function of religion to that of a narcotic, religion has consistently been framed in the modern imagination as backwards, anti-modern, and anti-science. China’s modernizers, likewise, have viewed religion as a problem to be overcome in the quest to build the new China, and their view has become part of the mainstream amongst Chinese youth.
I was in Beijing and Tianjin recently for a week of conferences related to “ecological civilization” (shengtai wenming 生态文明) an important new buzzword, the precise meaning of which thought leaders and government officials are vying to define. The first conference I attended was one on “Traditional Culture and Ecological Civilization”, held in conjunction with the Beijing branch of the Chinese society for the study of the Yijing. The conference was a curious mix of academics, Daoists, fengshui practitioners and Yijing enthusiasts.
The Way of Poetry, by John Leonard (65 pages)
This concise, potent essay presents a first comprehensive theory of what “Daoist” poetry might involve. Beginning with the vision of the ancient classics and informed by Daoist practice, John Leonard searches through poetry from different cultures to find a class of putatively Daoist poetry outside the Chinese tradition. He then suggests ways to recognise its following of the Way and outlines basic principles and guidelines, also including a number of his own poems.
In May this year I had the opportunity to visit Maoshan (Mt. Mao) a Daoist mountain sacred to the Shangqing (Highest Clarity) tradition of Daoism that I studied in my most recent book. Located in Jiangsu province, it is about an hour’s bus ride south of Zhenjiang, a stop on the main high speed railway from Shanghai to Nanjing. I was interested to visit Maoshan not only because of my historical research, but because it was the site of the Maoshan declaration, which in 2008 committed China’s Daoist Association to a ten year program of ecological protection.
I was in LA last weekend to attend the Sixth Annual Conference on Daoist Studies which was organized by my former teacher, Livia Kohn, and LMU Professor Robin Wang. The conference drew the usual mix of academics and practitioners (which was itself the subject of an interesting meta-analysis by Elijah Siegler). My rationale for attending the conference, however, was that one of its focus themes was religion and ecology.