Is Daoism Green? Engaging Daoist Responses to Environmental Challenges in China
This paper seeks to examine the role that Daoism is playing in environmental activism in China. It analyzes a variety of sources including academic literature, primary source material from Daoist groups and my own research from interviews and visits to Daoist sites. The research demonstrates that Daoism’s interaction with ecology in China can be understood in three specific ways. The first interaction is through Daoism’s relationship with physical space; specifically, the quality of the environment of surrounding temple spaces and the relationship that Daoists have to space and place. The second way to think about the interaction of Daoism and ecology is through the global environmental movement that aims to connect religious issues with environmental issues; we see this aspect most prominently in the CDA’s relationship with ARC. Finally, the third way to think about the relationship of Daoism and ecology is through the concept of the body, and Daoism’s unique understanding of the role the body plays in relationship to the natural world. Analysis of Daoism along these three modes of analysis highlights the complex and varied approach to ecology found throughout the Daoist community in China and emphasizes the multifaceted nature of the Daoist tradition while revealing the limitations of evaluating a religious tradition through the lens of the modern ecological standards. This analysis has implications for both environmentalism in China and Daoism as a living tradition.