In a Wall Street Journal blog today, Christopher Carothers asks, “Is Daoism is losing its way?” He writes: Today, Buddhism is regaining its traditional place as the largest religion in Chinese society. Islam is expanding through the growth of Muslim families in the Hui and Uyghur minority ethnic groups. Protestantism and Catholicism are winning new converts all over China and shaking off the old label of “foreign religion.” Daoism, on the other hand, seems to be standing still.
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.
I’m at the First Summit on Laozi and Daoist Culture, which is taking place this week in Beijing. The Summit is the work of Prof. Hu Fuchen, one of the leading scholars of Daoism, and a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This morning, we had the opening ceremony, which was held in the Great Hall of the People. It was my first time in this magnificent building. The purpose of the conference is basically to promote Daoism throughout China and the World. It is being funded by a wealthy donor, and has received backing at a high level from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.