Daoism is an ancient Chinese tradition that reaches back more than 2,500 years and is in the process of being transmitted and adapted to the global context. Represented in the well-known philosophy of Dao as first expressed in Laoziís Daode jing, it has also been the indigenous higher religion of traditional China and has played an active role in promoting a large variety of methods that enhance health and increase longevity.
The Daoist tradition is a veritable treasure trove of integrated visions of cosmic and social harmony, of health practices and longevity techniques, as well as of meditation methods for spiritual cultivation. Its overarching goal has been the creation of empowered and healthy individuals, social cohesion, environmental peace, and universal harmony. Yet little of this knowledge is available to modern audiences because it is written in an ancient form of Chinese.
Many in the West are familiar with Daoist informed practices without being aware of their Daoist roots. These practices have in common the search for harmony with nature and society and the cultivation of a universal energy known as qi. For example, Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and massage (Anmo, Tuina) share the same fundamental worldview as traditional Daoism; they are widely used as complementary medicine in the West and have been acknowledged for their effectiveness in treating many diverse illnesses. Qigong and Taiji quan (Tai Chi)–gentle exercises that include deep breathing and clear mental focus–are practiced widely all over the world to promote health and increase longevity.
Feng Shui, the art of designing buildings and placing furniture in homes and offices, is helping businesses and individuals to create peaceful and prosperous environments. Similarly, Chinese and Japanese gardens achieve their unique creation of natural harmony and environmental peace by shaping energetic flows. Concepts of Dao and qi-energy, moreover, are being increasingly validated by contemporary research in physics, biology, and medicine, leading to new health practices, such as energy medicine and energy psychology. Yet despite the strong influence of Daoist beliefs and practices, few Westerners are aware that what they are doing is Daoist in origin. They remain ignorant of the ancient Daoist ground in which these practices are rooted.
With all this happening under Daoist auspices and despite growing interest, only a small portion of the Daoist tradition is accessible in the modern world. In fact, there are about 2,500 Daoist texts recorded in various sources, from the Daoist canon through its various supplements to collections of manuscripts and inscriptions. Less than ten percent of this rich material has been translated into Western languages! An even smaller portion is available in English. Limiting accessibility further is the fact that many translated texts are not widely available or out of print. Other translations are difficult to understand due to lack of annotation and commentary or because of use of strange nomenclature and terminology.
As a result of this, our understanding of Daoism is minimal. An entire new world remains to be discovered. Priceless tools for improving life can be available to modern audiences once translated into Western languages. Traditional Daoist texts are an invaluable treasure that should be shared widely to address the ills and concerns of modern life.
The fact that Daoist texts have remained inaccessible in Western languages has to do with the history of their transmission in and beyond China. Rediscovered only in the early twentieth century, the Daoist canon was only reprinted in Chinese in 1925. Soon after first copies made their way into the capitals of France and Japan, colonial powers with a active interest in matters Chinese. The academic field of Daoist studies grew slowly in those countries for several decades and emerged fully in the 1960s, after which it spread to other places, so that serious translations and studies have only been undertaken for about fifty years. At the same time, practitioners of Daoist arts have immigrated to Western countries, especially since the 1960s, and there is a small but growing number of dedicated followers among Westerners who are gradually spreading their methods.
Legacy of Dao serves to make Daoist knowledge and health practices accessible to a wide Western audience. Our first priority is to provide grants to qualified scholars for the translation of Daoist texts to be published in an integrated series. We also intend to give grants to scholars and practitioners for the completion of specific research or learning projects that increase our understanding of the Daoist way of life and enhance the practical accessibility of methods and health practices.
Beyond this, we intend to sponsor conferences and workshops to facilitate the exchange of ideas and practices, focusing especially on projects that bring scholars and practitioners together and that go beyond the boundaries of isolated fields to bring the application of Daoist knowledge and health practices to daily life for everyone. We support publication and broad dissemination of all matters Daoist in print and electronic media and encourage the open and free exchange of ideas.