Dominic Steavu-Balint

Assistant Professor
Area: Chinese Religions and Chinese Buddhism

Ph.D., Stanford University

Office: HSSB 2253

Email Address

My area of specialization is Chinese Religions, with a focus on the “esoteric” traditions of medieval Buddhism and early medieval Taoism. Broadly speaking, I am interested in how trends or developments in Chinese intellectual history were reflected in the discourse of various religious traditions. More pointedly, I aim to uncover the ways in which soteriological narratives or techniques, particularly those that translate into bio-spiritual disciplines known as “”nourrishing life” (yangsheng), mirror evolving sociopolitical contexts, scientific discoveries, and medical achievements. As these often involve the use of tangible instruments and concrete objects such as talismans, cosmographs, or elixirs, material culture and even iconography are important facets of my work. One of the recurring themes in my research and teaching is the circulation of knowledge across what are often imposed or constructed analytical boundaries, between, for instance, statecraft and religion, science and belief, medicine and ritual, and Taoism and Buddhism. Many of these distinctions are vestiges of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment anti-clericalism, classificatory frenzies, and political theory; as a result, some of my work examines early modern representations of China and the central role of religion in the formulation of Orientalist discourses and their subsequent re-appropriation by East Asian societies.

I am currently preparing a monograph that will deal with the incorporation of elements from medicine, proto-chemistry, astronomy, cosmological sciences, but also bureaucratic and administrative strategies in religious currents between the 4th and 8th centuries. The book will chiefly rely on data from the Taoist Three Sovereigns (Sanhuang) tradition and a selection of esoteric Buddhist texts. I am also preparing a co-edited volume on embryological, gestational and reproductive imageries in East Asian religions in addition to a number of articles on medicine, divination, and therapeutic/self-cultivation techniques in Taoism and Buddhism.

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Chinese Buddhism
  • Introduction to Taoism
  • Science and Religion in Premodern China
  • Western Misrepresentations of Asia (formerly Orientalism and Religion)
  • Sex, Drugs, and Meditation in East Asian Religions
  • Religious Literature in China: Buddhist Texts
  • Religious Literature in China: Taoist Texts