Reading the Female Body in Late Tang Daoism

Stephen R. Bokenkamp, Visiting Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University,Arizona State University

RSVP REQUIRED. Space limited: contact if wishing to attend.

In this talk, I explore the literary remains of a group of remarkable Daoists of the late eighth and early ninth centuries. Tracing their origin to Xie Ziran 謝自然 (d. 794) and Han Ziming 韓自明 (764-831), a group of women developed their own lineage and practices within the imperial court that was quite distinct from those of contemporary Daoist nuns. In addition to Daoist meditation and ritual practice, these women were involved in the consumption of alchemical elixirs.  Eventually, this group of priestesses came to occupy a Belvedere within the imperial palace and attracted the patronage of the capital’s elite. The literary image made by and for them included much that was uncharacteristic of Daoism — stigmata, holy bleeding, and early death — and perhaps for this very reason was of intense interest to the court and literati of the time.

A graduate of U.C. Berkeley, Stephen Bokenkamp now teaches in the School of International Letters and Cultures, Arizona State University. Professor Bokenkamp is the author of Early Daoist Scriptures (1997) and Ancestors and Anxiety: Daoism and the Birth of Rebirth in China (2007), as well as many other works on medieval Chinese religions. During the autumn term, he is offering an undergraduate course on the Daoist body and a graduate seminar on Chinese religious texts in the Department of Religious Studies.


Thursday, November 11, 2010 | 12:15 pm — 1:30 pm
Building 70 - Room 72A1, Main Quad

Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford
Department of Religious Studies