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Origins

Beginning early in the 2000s, a series of yearly international conferences brought together researchers and Taoist practitioners from North America, Europe, and Asia.  In 2005 the first Taoist Studies group was established within the American Academy of Religion.  Several excellent websites (daoiststudies.org and Taoism at stanford.edu) have been created by scholars, thus making invaluable information readily accessible to a wide audience.

Despite this remarkable academic progress, a considerable gap still remains between popular perceptions of Taoism in the West and scholarly work on Taoism.  The current trend in scholarship has not captured popular interest in the way that western philosophical interpretations of the Taode jing and Zhuangzi have.   One reason for this may be the disdain some influential scholars have shown for western philosophical interpretations, sometimes expressed in colorful and denigrating language — calling them "Pooh Bear Taoism," for example, after the very popular book, The Tao of Pooh.  While it is important to educate, this disdainful attitude may have diminished interest in Taoism in general, instead of fostering interest in the exciting new perspectives on and wealth of new information about Taoism that has emerged as a result of a surge of new scholarship in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


Study Questions:
1.      How has the Western construct of religion negatively influenced Taoism?
2.     What are some of the repercussions of the Taoist philosophical/religious divide?
3.     How has publication of Taoist texts shaped the Taoist discourse?

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