Time in Daoist Practice: Cultivation and Calculation

Daoists pay close attention to all different modes and dimensions of time as defined by planetary movements in nature and various man-made calendar divisions, including also the hexagrams of the Yijing. Beyond this, they also work with time in the human body, linking certain features to stages of life and creating temporal rhythms by their own physical actions. They revert the flow of entropy within the body, establishing mastery over time, and transfigure their very physical constitution to subtler levels, opening ways to transcend time altogether.

This volume brings together senior and junior scholars as well as practitioners to explore planetary, calendar, and body time. They cover the entire history of Daoism, from its precursors in the Han to its monastic and popular activation in the 21st century, as well as a plethora of different methods—social predictions, personal horoscopes, physigonomy, healing modalities, qigong, self-cultivation, internal alchemy, and more. Opening new ways of looking at time and expressing uniquely Daoist features, the volume is path-breaking and highly relevant today. A must for anyone interested in time studies, religious practice, and Chinese culture.

Contents and Introduction

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Livia Kohn, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita of Religion and East Asian Studies at Boston University. The author or editor of close to sixty books (including the annual Journal of Daoist Studies), she spent ten years in Kyoto doing research. She currently serves as the executive editor of Three Pines Press as well as the Journal of Daoist Studies, runs international conferences, and guides study tours to Japan.


Time in Daoist Practice assembles an exceptional group of contributors, drawing from the ranks of world-renowned scholars and established practitioners to create a sophisticated and careful examination of time, one of the most pivotal notions in Daoist ritual and self-cultivation. After Dao and Time and Taming Time,Livia Kohn here presents a deep foray into the rich ways, in which China’s indigenous religion conceives of, measures, and deploys time in the context of practice. The volume features a skillfully balanced blend of cutting-edge academic meticulousness and perceptive insights from those who live the tradition. Replete with eye-opening perspectives, it is sure to fascinate seasoned researchers, inquisitive students, earnest adepts, and casual readers alike.

– Dominic Steavu, University of California Santa Barbara

It is a real pleasure to discover Time in Daoist Practice: it is one of the best syntheses I know of the various modalities of time in China as well as the tools used to define, structure, and qualify it. Livia Kohn brings together thirteen authors from nine different countries: senior scholars, young researchers, and practitioners. With time as its guiding thread, the work invites the reader on a beautiful journey through multiple aspects of Daoism: myths, funeral practices, hagiography, music in rituals, daily temple life, destiny calculations through horoscopes or physiognomy, health and the arts of long life, predictions of epidemics, stages of mystical journeys, and specific practices such as internal alchemy that allow the manipulation of cosmic energy to optimize life and accelerate the process of inner transformation through mystical flights to the stars and the transcendence of time and space. Engaging with all this, the work is truly an enchantment, opening the gateway to perfect timelessness.

—Catherine Despeux, INALCO, Paris