Of Alchemy and Authenticity:Teaching About Daoism Today
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The authors discuss the complexities and responsibilities of teaching about Daoism in contemporary North American colleges and universities. Expanding and revising the findings of Kirkland (1998), they argue that enough has changed in educational and cultural contexts to warrant new strategies for teaching about Daoism. Textbooks are now available that offer more accurate and responsible presentations of Daoist history, and this enables a richer appreciation of Daoist culture and religion, and its significance within broader areas of Chinese culture such as art, politics, and science. On the other hand, students have a far greater possibility of interacting outside the classroom with North Americans of Chinese and European background who claim affiliation to the Daoist tradition especially through techniques of moving meditation such as Qigong and internal alchemy. This situation poses challenges in the classroom concerning claims of authenticity, tradition, and representation. Rather than shying away from these contemporary North American cultural forms, the authors argue that the skilled teacher can use these interactions to facilitate a deeper inquiry into questions of authenticity and tradition. Moreover, the authors discuss the use of an interactive website designed specifically to assist in reflecting on these issues in the classroom.