Dominic Steavu

Dominic Steavu

Associate Professor

Ph.D, Stanford University

Specialization: Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Religions

Office: HSSB 2253

My area of specialization is premodern (second to ninth cent.) Chinese Buddhism and Chinese religions. Broadly speaking, I am interested in how trends in material culture and intellectual history were reflected in the discourse of various religious Buddhist and Daoist traditions. More pointedly, I aim to uncover the ways in which soteriological narratives or techniques, especially those of therapeutic or bio-spiritual disciplines, mirror evolving sociopolitical contexts, scientific discoveries, and medical achievements. As these often involve the use of concrete substances or tangible ritual objects such as talismans, cosmographs, or elixirs, materiality is an important facet 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 Daoism 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 in East Asia.


The Writ of the Three Sovereigns: From Local Lore to Institutional Daoism. New Daoist Studies 1. Published by University of Hawaii Press and Chinese University of Hong Kong Press (forthcoming 2019).


Transforming the Void: Embryological Discourse and Reproductive Symbolism in East Asian Religions. Co-editor, with Anna Andreeva. Leiden: Sir Henry Wellcome Asian Series, Brill (2016).


Medieval History Journal 17.2 (October 2014)

Special issue on “The Literary Subversive: Writings of Resistance in East Asian History.” Guest editor.


Selected Articles

  • “Orthodoxie et pluralisme dans la médecine chinoise.” Études chinoises 36.2 (2017) [2018]: 45–81. pdf
  • “The Marvelous Fungus and The Secret of Divine Immortals.” Micrologus 26 (2018): 353–383. pdf
  • “The Allegorical Cosmos: The Shi 式 Board in Medieval Taoist and Buddhist Sources.” In Michael Lackner, ed., The Place of Mantic Practices in the Organization of Knowledge, 196–232. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2018. pdf
  • “Apotropaic Substances as Medicine in Buddhist Healing Methods: Nagarjuna’s Treatise on the Five Sciences.” In Pierce Salguero, ed. Buddhism and Healing in East Asia, 441–453. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. pdf
  • “Buddhism, Medicine, and the Affairs of the Heart: Potency Therapy (Vājīkarana) and the Reappraisal of Aphrodisiacs and Love Philters in Medieval Chinese Sources,” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine (EASTM) 45 (2017): 9–48. pdf
  • “Cosmos, Body, and Meditation in Early Medieval Taoism.” In Anna Andreeva and Dominic Steavu, eds., Transforming the Void: Embryological and Reproductive Symbolism in East Asian Religions, 111–146. Leiden: Sir Henry Wellcome Asian Series, Brill, 2016. pdf
  • “Backdrops and Parallels to Embryological Discourse and Reproductive Imagery in East Asian Religions.” Co-authored with Anna Andreeva. In Anna Andreeva and Dominic Steavu, eds., Transforming the Void: Embryological and Reproductive Symbolism in East Asian Religions, 1–50. Leiden: Sir Henry Wellcome Asian Series, Brill, 2016. pdf
  • “Delocalizing Illness: Healing and the State in Chinese Magical Medicine.” In Helene Basu and William Sax, eds., The Law of Possession: Ritual, Therapy, and the Secular State, 82–113. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. pdf
  • “Cosmogony and the Origin of Inequality. A Utopian Perspective from the Wunengzi.” Special issue on “The Literary Subversive: Writings of Resistance in East Asian History,” Medieval History Journal 17.2 (2014): 295–335.  pdf
  • “A Brief Overview of the Role of Intellectuals in Resistance.” Special issue on “The Literary Subversive” Writings of Resistance in East Asian History,” Medieval History Journal 17.2 (2014): 195–206. pdf
  • “The Many Lives of Lord Wang of the Western Citadel: A Note on the Transmission of the Sanhuang wen (Writ of the Three Sovereigns),” Journal of the International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies 13 (March 2009): 109–161. pdf

Review Articles

  • “Taking Form in Response to Stimulus: Recent Publications in Taoist Studies, A Field in Motion.” Asiatisches Studien/Études asiatiques 63.4 (2013): 1081–1101.
  • “Recent Publications in Daoist Studies,” Cahiers-d’Extrême Asie 17 (2008) [2010]: 341–355.

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Chinese Buddhism
  • Introduction to Taoism
  • Introduction to East Asian Culture (Premodern)
  • Classical Chinese I
  • Classical Chinese II
  • Science and Medicine in Buddhism and Taoism
  • Western Misrepresentations of Asia
  • Sex, Drugs, and Meditation in Taoism and Buddhism
  • Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in China
  • Religious Literature in China: Buddhist Texts
  • Religious Literature in China: Taoist Texts