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Living with the Dao

Conceptual Issues in Daoist Practice

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Livia Kohn
250 Pages


Daoist practice is often seen as a predominantly physical and meditational activity, where the alignment of the body and harmonization of qi bring about the transformation of the emotions and unfolding of the spirit. While this is entirely plausible, progress along the path in all cases also requires the rethinking and reformulation of one's basic ideas about the world, the adjustment of the mind and sense of identity to the flow of the Dao.

Little has been written on this subject, practitioners focusing largely on the presentation of techniques, while thinkers and scholars tend to concern themselves mainly with cosmological, philosophical, and historical issues. This 250-page collection is designed as a first step to fill this gap, and for this it presents ten papers on difference conceptual issues relevant to Daoist practice.

In conversations with practitioners, often questions arise in regard to the tradition's understanding of the mind, the emotions, and the self, its views on the origins and manifestations of evil and on the role of family, society, deities, and the various levels of the otherworld. The thirteen essays collected here provide some answers to these questions.

The papers divide into three groups. The vast majority are articles written ten to fifteen years ago and published in journals or collections that are difficult to find and often already out of print. Some papers are more recent and appeared in more accessible venues, whose editors kindly agreed to allow this electronic redistribution. A third group has never appeared in English, but was written for presentation and/or publication in German.


1. The Symbolism of Evil in Traditional China
2. Yin and Yang: The Natural Dimension of Evil
3. Selfhood and Spontaneity in Ancient Chinese Thought
4. Transcending Personality: From Ordinary to Immortal Life
5. Mind: Feeling, Thinking, Knowledge
6. Mind and Eyes: Sensory and Spiritual Experience in Daoist Mysticism
7. Daoist Visions of the Body
8. Registered Immortals and Transferred Ancestors: The Otherworld in Medieval Daoism
9. Immortal Parents and Universal Kin:Family Values in Medieval Daoism
10. Quiet Sitting with Master Yinshi: The Beginnings of Qigong in Modern China
11. Levels of Qigong in Daoist Perspective
12. Told You So: Prolongevity and Daoist Realization
13. Healing and the Earth:Daoist Cultivation in Comparative Perspective