Skip to Main Content

REL ST 4320/7320: Introduction to Daoism: Syllabus

Draft Syllabus as of January 2011


Description: This course will introduce students to the Daoist tradition, its history, its intellectual and institutional transformations, and its contributions to Chinese thought and culture. The course will also attend to the various ways in which scholars have sought to understand Daoism and its history. Although there are no formal prerequisites for this course, some previous knowledge of or coursework in East Asian culture or history will be helpful.

Format: The course will be discussion driven and encourage student initiative, student research and active learning. Students will attend each session with a printed copy of reactions, critiques and questions covering each of the readings. These papers will be returned each week with comments. Each session a team of two students will act as discussion leaders. These teams will prepare and circulate discussion questions prior to the session. To provide additional context, discussion leaders will also present “something extra“ gleaned from resources on reserve at Ellis Library (see list below). Discussion leaders are not required to submit reaction papers for the session they are charged with. Students wishing to supplement their general participation grade will also have the opportunity to present one or more of the optional readings listed on the syllabus. The optional readings are only optional for undergraduates. Graduate students are expected to read and comment on all optional readings in their reaction papers. Graduate students will also be responsible for a book review, to be presented to the class near the end of the term.

Early in the term students will begin to form research questions that will be the basis of a fifteen to twenty-page research paper (eighteen to twenty-five for graduate students). [Possible topics include: Daoism and the arts/literature; Daoism and imperial institutions; Sex/gender in Daoism; Ritual in Daoism; Daoist funerals; The body in Daoism; Daoism and Chinese medicine; Daoism and popular religion; The uses of the Laozi; Changing concepts of immortality.] Time will be set aside in class for students will discuss their ideas. Students will then circulate a three page prospectus outlining ideas for their paper. These will receive feedback and suggestions during an in-class peer review session. Students will also receive feedback from the professor. A revised proposal will be due two weeks later. A “first edition” of the final paper will be due on the twelfth week of class in order to receive further comments and suggestions from the instructor and from student readers. The final edition of the paper will be due at the end of the term.

Required Texts:

Lau, D.C. trans. Tao Te Ching   (TTC)

Mair, Victor.  Wandering on the Way [translation of the Zhuangzi]  (WW)

Robinet, Isabelle.  Taoism: Growth of a Religion (TGR)

Wong, Eva.  Seven Taoist Masters  (STM)

All other readings will be found on the course Canvas site


Resources on reserve:

Kohn, Livia ed. Daoism Handbook.

Pregadio, Fabrizio ed. The Encyclopedia of Taoism.

Twitchett and Loewe eds. The Cambridge History of China.