DHFP: The Daoist Search for Heavenly Ascension and Immortality

  • Monday, November 28, 2022
  • 1:30 PM- 3:00 PM
  • PSU Abington 611 & Zoom
Michael Stanley-Baker, Assistant Professor of History and Medical Humanities School of Humanities & Lee Kong-Chian School of Medicine Nanyang Technological University will present on the Daoist Search for Heavenly Ascension and Immortality. Highly educated and literate Daoist sages meditated and ate herbs in the attempt to live forever while communing with visionary beings descended from the stars who guide them on their spiritual journeys. It sounds like the stuff of fantasy and fairy tale. Yet surviving records tell us about the foundations of the most elite Daoist sect, the Supreme Clarity (Shangqing ??) sect, later adopted by the Tang Dynasty imperial family. They tell us how Daoists “situated” or framed mundane concerns like illness, healing and death within religious frameworks that touched upon questions of ultimate meaning. Through organizing local religious competitors into a hierarchy of practice, they defined the religious landscape and established their own position within the field of competition. Local history, family genealogies and the local landscape also play important roles in establishing identity and meaningfulness for this local gentry family. In this way they transformed herbal recipes using local plants into a pathway into the divine.

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Rhonda R. Demchak
Schreyer Scholar Maria Smereka

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