Buddhism Buddho-Daoism
Livia Kohn
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 June 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0220


Buddhism reached China in the early centuries of the Common Era, but it did not have a major impact on Chinese religion and society until the early 5th century, when terminology was standardized because of the translation efforts of Kumārajīva (b. 344–d. 413) and his team. The resulting vast corpus of Buddhist literature inspired the expansion of the religion in all dimensions, creating a vivid Buddhist culture in philosophy, ritual, meditation, and religious organization. This culture had a massive impact on Daoism, beginning with the school of Numinous Treasure (Lingbao), that completely transformed the religion and has pervaded it ever since. The entire institution of monasticism, all Daoist religious sculpture, concepts of hell and reincarnation, and ethical rules and precepts, as well as forms of insight meditation, sacred hand gestures, repentance rituals, and philosophical concepts—including cosmology and psychology—go back to Buddhist influence. At the same time, certain Buddhist notions also received a strong impact from Daoism. Best known among them are the understanding of the ruler as prophesied savior and the practice of oblivion and some of its concomitant concepts.

General Overviews

There are no presentations of Daoism that specifically focus on its relationship to Buddhism. However, every introduction, history, and overview by necessity refers to the Buddhist impact, notably when discussing the middle ages (200–900) in Robinet 1997, Kohn 2001, Kohn 2009, and Kirkland 2004, and specific topics, such as ritual in Komjathy 2013, mind-focused philosophy in Littlejohn 2009, and monasticism in Miller 2003.

  • Kirkland, J. Russell. Taoism: The Enduring Tradition. New York: Routledge, 2004.

    A chronological discussion, focusing on key themes and issues in Daoist history. More analytical and argument-oriented; less of an introductory presentation.

  • Kohn, Livia. Daoism and Chinese Culture. Cambridge, MA: Three Pines, 2001.

    A chronological survey of the development of Daoism, from the early philosophers to the 20th century. Connection to social and historical events.

  • Kohn, Livia. Introducing Daoism. London: Routledge, 2009.

    A chronological survey, beginning with pre-Daoist traces in the Shang and expanding into the late 20th century. Also available as CD-ROM, with links to numerous websites that show gods, rituals, mountains, and more.

  • Komjathy, Louis. The Daoist Tradition: An Introduction. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.

    A thematic survey of Daoism, with special attention to key organizations and practices.

  • Littlejohn, Ronnie. Daoism: An Introduction. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009.

    A thematic survey of the tradition, focusing mainly on key philosophical concepts.

  • Miller, James. Daoism: A Short Introduction. Oxford: One World, 2003.

    A thematic survey of the tradition, centering on major features and notions of the religion.

  • Robinet, Isabelle. Taoism: Growth of a Religion. Translated by Phyllis Brooks. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997.

    A chronological account from the pre-Qin (221–206 BCE) thinkers through the Song dynasty. Emphasis on major schools and cosmology.

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