Women in Daoism
|Paperback 27.95 USD|
|Electronic file 15.00 USD|
|Catherine Despeux and Livia Kohn|
Expanding on the authors' previous research, including the 1990 book Les immortelles de la Chine ancienne, this work outlines the status and roles of women in the Daoist tradition from its inception to the present day. It divides into three major parts-"Goddesses," "Immortals and Ordinands," and "Women's Transformation"-detailing the historical development and general role of Daoist women and focusing on the different ideals women stood for as much as on the religious practices they cultivated. Not only a thorough treatment of the tradition itself, the volume also contextualizes the position of women in Daoist in relation to that in Chinese culture and compares it to that in other religions. It emphasizes the degree to which women in Daoism were considered and treated as equal yet separate, matching the worldview of yin and yang in mainstream Chinese culture yet offering a valuable alternative to the family-centered path of women in the Confucian universe. The volume is comprehensive and highly informative; it provides a much needed addition to our understanding of women in traditional cultures and our view of the role and importance of the Daoist religion.
"This book is awesome. It reads clearly and fluently. The topics of the chapters make sense; the arguments are convincing and well-supported. The authors are thoroughly conversant with the fields of Daoist studies, Chinese history, and women's studies. They pull together the best of older and more recent scholarship to make a coherent narrative in a way that has never been done before. What is more, they make major contributions of both new ideas and new information. This book has no rival. It should instantly become a standard." — Suzanne Cahill, University of California, San Diego
"There are no truly rival publications. None has either the scope or the quality of the present book. This is the only solid, up-to-date, booklength presentation of women and the feminine in Daoism. It is comprehensive in its thorough presentation of all pertinent Daoist texts on all pertinent aspects of the subject." — Russell Kirkland, University of Georgia
Daoism in the course of its history has had a multifaceted and complex relationship with women and the feminine. Following mainstream Con-fucian society, it accorded great honor to mothers and matrons and placed high value on fecundity, nurturing, caring, and other aspects as-sociated with motherhood. It also followed the Confucian lead in placing married women secondary to their husbands, barring them from joining convents and allowing their initiation into the registers of the Celestial Masters only with the husband’s consent.
Daughters similarly were treated in traditional ways and could only join a Daoist association or convent with their family’s consent. Since ordination involved not only social changes but financial obligations and pledges, the family was accorded great importance. While daughters of non-Daoist households were known to join the Dao, for the most part young women who developed religious intentions came from a Daoist background and continued the family tradition in their own way. Still, whether of Daoist heritage or not, the religion clearly recognized the possibility that young girls might have spiritual potential and aspirations beyond marriage, and offered them a viable institutional alternative to staying within the confines of male governance. This alternative, moreover, was justified—not unlike in comparable Buddhist arguments (see Cole 1998)—with the notion that the truest and most potent form of filial piety and family service was to care for the otherworldly wellbeing of the ancestors and work for the living through intercession with the gods. Having a daughter join a Daoist institution was thus acceptable and in some cases even desirable
While Daoism had little impact on the lives of wives and mothers and offered limited opportunities for spiritually gifted daughters, it made a substantial difference for widows and divorcees. Often shunned by mainstream society, they found an active role as priests and nuns of the religion, which allowed them to attain ranks equal with those of men and live a life of comparative independence and freedom. Similarly, ex-pelled concubines, former courtesans, and aging entertainers could find refuge and a new lease on life inside the Daoist organization, shifting their focus away from worldly involvement and towards the attainment of inner peace. No longer accountable to either parents or husband, these liminal figures posed a threat to Confucian order but offered great op-portunity for the Dao. Mature, competent, and often with means of their own, they established convents, served as priests and healers, and con-tributed greatly to the shaping of Daoist organizations.
All these Daoist women looked to certain ideals in the shaping of their ideas and practices. Presented in myths, immortals’ tales, historical re-cords, and visions of the female body, these ideals show how Daoist women conceived of themselves and how they continued to grow towards greater harmony and oneness with the Dao.
Table of Contents
PART 1: GODDESSES
1. The Queen of Immortals
|2. The Mother of the Dao||48|
|3. The Dipper Mother||64|
PART 2: IMMORTALS AND ORDINANDS
4. Ancient Immortals
|5. Medieval Renunciants||104|
|6. Founders and Matriarchs||129|
|7. Nuns of Complete Perfection||151|
PART 3: WOMEN'S TRANSFORMATION
8. The Inner Landscape
|9. Women's Inner Alchemy||198|
|10. Stages of Attainment||221|