Search International Institute website.

Female Meditation Techniques in Late Imperial and Modern China

A two-day conference

Sunday, November 09, 2008
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Password protected notes and papers are available online. Click the link in the titles.
The password will be made available to students and scholars. Contact Richard Gunde

Saturday - 8:30 am - 5:30 pm

8:30 am Introduction to the conference
Elena Valussi, Robin Wang and David Schaberg
9:00 Panel 1 – Practicing the Body - Chair: Kelly James Clark (Calvin College)
Discussant: Charlotte Furth (USC)
12:00 Extra presentation
XUN LIU: "Fox Spirits, Licentious Daoists, and Sexual Battles: Literary Imaginaries of Nüdan and Sexual Alchemy in Ming-Qing Novels"
12:30 - 2:00 pm Lunch break
2:00 Panel 2 – A Community of Practitioners - Chair: Robert Campany (USC)
Discussant: Suzanne Cahill (UC San Diego)

Sunday - 9 am - 12:30 pm

9:00 am Panel 3 – Contemporary Practices, East and West - Chair: King Sing Ng (Hong Kong)
LU XICHEN (Zhongnan University), "Nüdan and Contemporary Moral Concerns"
Discussant: Yao Ping (Calif. State University, Los Angeles)
Female Alchemy (nüdan) is a branch of inner alchemy (neidan) that developed in China from the late Ming dynasty onwards. In the prefaces to texts as well as in treatises themselves, much importance is laid upon the “difference” of the female body, in terms of cosmological and physiological setup, from the male body. Male and female bodies are compared and emotions, loci, and fluids are discussed in detail. However, male/female physiological differences had always been widely acknowledged in medical and alchemical treatises. Thus the emergence of nüdan must also be closely tied to social developments, such as tensions about gender balance. As women become more and more active agents in the public space, especially in the religious arena, a safer alternative, one that could be practiced at home and did not require contact with male teachers or fellow practitioners, was offered through nüdan by male intellectuals. This is easily explained if we look at the growing concern for chastity and proper female behavior in the Qing dynasty, and is supported by extensive sections on female behavior in female alchemy treatises. This phenomenon, with its gender and social implications, is just starting to be discussed and the field is slowly growing:
Catherine Despeux was the first to identify it as a phenomenon to Western audiences in her book Les Immortelles de la Chine ancienne and in a subsequent English version, Women in Daoism, authored together with Livia Kohn. Elena Valussi wrote the first Ph.D dissertation on the nüdan tradition, it historical developments and social implication in 2003; Sara Neswald just finished writing a dissertation on nüdan and its relationship with Tantric Buddhism. Xun Liu has done extensive work on early nüdan writings and has written on gender in Daoism. Suzanne Cahill has investigated issues of gender in Daoism her whole career. Charlotte Furth has investigated visions of the female body in Chinese medicine. This workshop is the first attempt to come together and discuss this tradition from multiple angles.

Parking is available (at $9) in Lot 3.

3 Click on map for larger image


This event is sponsored by:
Center for Chinese Studies, UCLA
Asian and Pacific Studies Program, Loyola Marymount University
Hong Kong Taoist Association & Yuan Yuan Institute
Asia Institute, UCLA
Dean of BCLA, Loyola Marymount University
Southern California Consortium for International Studies
Department of Women's Studies, Loyola Marymount University

Search International Institute website.