Authority versus Authenticity

Authority versus Authenticity

12th International Conference on Daoist Studies

Beijing Normal University, Beijing

1-4 June, 2018

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.

      Keynote speakers will be
Robin Wang, Inner Nature and Destiny: Dynamics and Synergy
Chen Xia, A Daoist View of Ecology: Dao and Beings, Nature and People
James Miller, The Authority of Earth and Heaven: A Planetary Approach to Daoist Cultivation
Beyond the conference itself, we also offer several optional excursions, both before and after.

General: add your information to the list at
In China: send information (name, email, institution) to WeChat,  ID: ssysmall12


To provide scholarships for younger participants, covering a portion of their housing and transportation, we propose a personalized donation system: Adopt a Junior Scholar!!! You tell us how much you would like to donate and we will match you up with an applicant, to whom you give the money directly after you get to Beijing. You take full control over your expenses while getting actively involved in supporting the future of Daoist Studies and making great new friends!



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

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

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
      BNU Committee: Li Shaomeng, Liu Xiaogan, Jiang Limei, Qiang Yu
      Local Assistants: Sharon Small, Calisto Sears, Cui Xiaoqiao, Lokmane Benaicha, TBA


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 fifteen 1¾-hour sessions total, three of which (in the morning) are plenary and include keynote speeches, and four of which (in the late afternoon) are dedicated solely to practical concerns and artistic expressions. The remaining eight 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



Visit to


2. Panels A, B, C

6. Panels A, B, C

10. Panels A, B, C

14. Panels A, B, C

& Dongyue








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 six-day Daoist Pilgrimage Tour, joining the pilgrimage to Bixi yuanjun on Miaofeng shan near Beijing plus other Daoist venues, May 25-31 ($650). For more, see

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


Jingshi Hotel on campus, twin room, RMB 500 (with BF buffet), on BNU campus, near South Gate, main building. Rooms have been reserved through the University. Please send email to <> with your name and the dates you wish to stay there. We reserve your room. You check in with your passport, make a deposit, then pay in RMB at check-out.

Cheaper Alternatives:
Hanting Hotel, RMB 400 (with BF), across the street from South Gate
Elong Hotel, RMB 300 (no BF), two blocks south from South Gate
My Home, north of campus, about 15’ walk
AirBnB, many offerings near BNU (Shifan daxue), $20-50