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Creative Daoism

Monica Esposito

Born in Italy’s port city of Genova, Dr Esposito (1962-2011) studied Chinese at the Università Ca’Foscari in Venice, Fudan University in Shanghai, and the University of Paris. Her Ph.D. thesis on the Longmen tradition of Daoism (La Porte du Dragon, 1993), a pioneering deconstruction of a dominant foundation myth of modern Daoism, has become a classic in the field.

From 1997 to 2011, pursued her research in Japan, first as a postdoctoral fellow at Kansai University and then as Associate Professor at Kyoto University’s Institute for Research in Humanities. In addition to six documentary films she published groundbreaking books and articles in Italian, English, Japanese, and Chinese that established her reputation as one of the world’s foremost scholars of Daoism. She founded and directed the International Daozang jiyao Project with over sixty scientific collaborators studying this most important and voluminous canon of Daoist texts of the Qing dynasty.

Creative Daoism 

by Monica Esposito

Wil (Switzerland) / Paris: UniversityMedia, 2013 / 2016. 400 pages. ISBN 978-3-906000-04-6 (hardcover); 978-3-906000-05-3 (paperback)

Just as Christianity has its Vatican in Rome, modern Daoism boasts of a unique center of religious authority and administration: the Temple of the White Clouds (Baiyun guan) in Beijing, seat of the general headquarters of the Chinese Daoist Association. This temple complex in Beijing, called by Dr Esposito “modern Daoism’s Vatican,” houses the grave of the mythical founder of Daoism’s Quanzhen tradition and celebrates the patriarchs of its Longmen (”Dragon Gate”) branch as his legitimate heirs.

Monica Esposito describes in this book how Daoist masters and historiographers in China, much like their Catholic counterparts in Europe, invented a glorious patriarchal lineage as well as a system of ordination designed to perpetuate orthodox transmission and central control. They also created a kind of New Testament: a new canonical collection of scriptures entitled “The Gist of the Daoist Canon” (Daozang jiyao). It contains hundreds of texts including the Daoist classic The Secret of the Golden Flower which achieved fame through the commentary by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.

In this book Dr. Esposito presents the gist of twenty-five years of research on pre-modern and modern Daoism. Its four parts throw new light on the history, historiography, scriptures, and doctrines of Qing Daoism:

  1. Creation of Lineage
  2. Creation of Ordination
  3. Creation of Canon
  4. Creation of Salvation

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