Dominic Steavu

Dominic Steavu
Ph.D, Stanford University

Associate Professor

Specialization: Daoism and Chinese Buddhism

Office: HSSB 2253

My area of specialization is the history of Daoism and Chinese Buddhism, with a focus on the history of medicine. Broadly speaking, I am interested in how trends in material culture and intellectual history were reflected in the practices of various Daoist and Buddhist traditions. More pointedly, I aim to uncover the ways in which 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, my work thus far has focused on talismans, elixirs, cosmographs (divination boards), and mushrooms.

More recently, as an extension of my interest in the relationship between ideas and their embodiments, I have been looking at utopian narratives or idealized representations and their relationship to material realities. In this context, I am preparing a critical annotated translation of The Incapable Master (Wunengzi), a utopian medieval Daoist treatise on political philosophy that supplies concrete suggestions for implementing its vision. I am also working on a project that examines largely Jesuit-derived Enlightenment-period representations of Daoism and Buddhism, and how these, through a series of intriguing distortions, resulted in unexpected yet familiar elements of globalized contemporary life such as postural yoga, the ouija board, or the free market system.

Research Fields

  • Daoist Studies
  • Buddhist Studies
  • History of Ideas/Intellectual History
  • History of Medicine
  • World/Global History
  • Material Culture


The Writ of the Three Sovereigns: From Local Lore to Institutional Daoism. New Daoist Studies 1. Honolulu HI: University of Hawaii Press, Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 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

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