Authority versus Authenticity

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12th International Conference on Daoist Studies

1-4 June, 2018

Beijing Normal University, June 1-2

Other Venue, June 3-4

This year’s theme is the relationship of inner truth in contrast (and conflict) with outer circumstances, an issue that pervades Daoist history and culture, since Daoists highly value naturalness and integrity that often crosses or even runs in opposition to mainstream values, notions, and practices—both without and within the religion itself.

        Authority versus authenticity plays out in many different dimensions of Daoism. In philosophy, it appears in notions of destiny versus inner nature, seclusion versus political engagement, individuality versus conformity, and more. In terms of self-cultivation, it manifests in personal inclinations versus the requirements of a particular curriculum or preferences of a master and finds expression in numerous instances of innovation and restructuring. Socially, it plays a role whenever a dynastic or major economic change alters the culture and political landscape, requiring adjustment from the institution and/or efforts at legitimation. It also manifests in reforms and sectarian division within the religion itself, giving rise to multiple facets and new developments.

      Our keynote speakers will be Robin Wang, Chen Xia, and TBA. Beyond the conference itself, we also offer several optional excursions, both before and after.



To provide scholarships for younger participants, covering a portion of their housing and transportation, we ask everyone who is not a student to donate US $10 or 60 RMB at on-side registration. If you can give more, that would be great! It will help quite a few younger scholars!

Chairs: Thomas Michael, Beijing Normal University; Livia Kohn, Boston University

Sponsors: BNU School of Philosophy, BNU International Center for Daoist Culture and Study, Three Pines Press

Assistants: Sharon Small, Calisto Sears, Cui Xiaoqiao, Mehdi Arronis, Lokmane Benaicha

Standing Committee:

      USA: Liu Xun, Steve Jackowicz

      China: Chen Xia, Liou Tong-Miin

      France: Adeline Herrou, Georges Favraud, Karine Martin

      Germany: Friederike Assandri, Elisabeth Friedrichs


After arrival in Beijing, the conference begins on Friday, June 1, at 9 am with a fully translated opening ceremony and roundtable discussion on the state of the field. It ends at 6:30 pm on Monday, June 4, after a closing plenary session. There are fourteen 1¾-hour sessions total, three of which (in the morning) are plenary and include keynote speeches, and some of which (in the late afternoon) are dedicated solely to practical concerns and artistic expressions. All other sessions present parallel panels of academic presentations and forums. Languages are Chinese and English.

      Plenary: Paper presentations of 20 minutes each, including those by keynote speakers, followed by open discussion—divided into three sessions focusing on authority versus authenticity in philosophy, self-cultivation, and social/ ritual organization. Submit presentations under “Panels,” marking them “Plenary.”

      Panels: Three 25-minute or four 20-minute individual paper presentations on the panel theme, followed by the discussant’s 5-minute comments and 20 minutes of open discussion (1¾ hours). In all cases, an effort will be made to join Chinese and Western representatives. PPTs should be bilingual. Some translation will be provided.

      Forums: An opportunity to read a particular text or discuss a particular issue with a group of learned scholars. Presenters post their text or issue on the web a month ahead of time for participants to prepare.

      Artistic: Showing of videos or documentaries on Daoist issues or related topics. Also, performances of Daoist music, traditional or pop, live or recorded, as well as exhibitions of Daoist art work and readings of Daoist fiction.

      Workshop: Emphasis on the experience of Daoist cultivation, martial arts (taiji quan), and forms of Daoist medicine (1¾ hours). The room will not have tables, chairs, or PPT equipment. It is specifically for practical experience.

      Note: It is possible to do both an exploration, artistic presentation, or forum PLUS one other contribution. Slots are limited, acceptance is not guaranteed. Plenary contributions will be evaluated by outside readers.




Fri, 6/1

Sat, 6/2

Sun, 6/3

Mon, 6/4

Tue, 6/5


1. Opening Ceremony


5. Plenary: Keynote


9. Plenary: Keynote


13. Plenary: Keynote





2. Panels A, B, C

6. Panels A, B, C

10. Panels A, B, C

14. Panels A, B, C

City Temples








3. Panels A, B, C

7. Panels A, B, C

11. Panels A, B, C

15. Panels A, B, C



4. Artistic, Workshop

8. Artistic, Worksh

12. Artistic, Workshop

16. Artistic, Workshop

Great Wall




Optional Banquet

Closing Discussion




The conference is free of charge. The Philosophy Deparment at BNU has generously provided funds to pay for program printing, refreshments, and lunches for all four days. The banquet will be US $10 (drinks extra). You can register (and pay) for it after arrival.



Scholarship applications: March 1, 2018

Registration closes: April 15, 2018

Abstract submission: April 15, 2018

Program on website: May 10, 2018



Some scholarships will be provided. Recipients will receive a contribution to the cost of their hotel as well as a share of travel expenses (air, train). Applicants should be within three years of completing the Ph. D. (before or after). To apply, first register for the conference, including paper title and abstract, then send a formal letter of application (with personal information, university, years in program, name of advisor, dissertation title), to If approved, we will match you up with your own personal sponsor.



There will be a limited number of tables available to distribute flyers or pamphlets and sell books, CDs, and other materials. This service is free of charge, but needs to be requested. Please contact




Thomas Michael is arranging two possible excursions on Tuesday, June 5: A. local Daoist temples, notably Baiyunguan and Dongyuemiao; B. the Great Wall. If you are interested in either, please write to him at



Livia Kohn is running a two-week Daoist China Tour, May 16-31, covering Shanghai, Nanjing (Maoshan), Xi’an (Louguantai), and participation in the Miaofengshan pilgrimage to the Goddess of the Morning Clouds. For more, see or contact


Karine Martin, an ordained Daoist nun, is organizing a 3-week tour for FRENCH speakers from Yunnan to Beijing, May 13-June 1, focusing on practical studies with Daoist nuns. Check it out: or contact


If you come to Beijing a week early, you can also join in the Miaofengshan pilgrimage to the Goddess of the Morning Clouds, May 26-28, as described in Ian Johnson's new book, The Souls of China. To inquire, contact