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Daoist Ecology workshop hugely oversubscribed

May 31 2007:

The first Daoist ecology temple

The first full-scale Daoist ecology workshop at ARC’s new Daoist Ecology Temple at Taibaishan this weekend is massively oversubscribed.

There were many more applicants than places for the three-day meeting entitled “Taking care of Nature: building up the Daoist Ecology Temple by our own hands”. The meeting was initially planned for around 10 monks and nuns. There are now 18 taking part, with the room filled to capacity and dozens others turned away for lack of space.

“The accommodation on Taibaishan is completely full up for the opening, with many people agreeing to share rooms to allow more people to attend,” said Martin Palmer, ARC’s Secretary General.

As well as the teaching and discussions it is hoped that a workshop like this will create informal networks of environmentally engaged Daoists which will have an impact for many years.

Attendees include Master Wei Yalan, head of the Tongbogong Daoist nunnery of Tiantai county, Zhejiang province, and Master Liu Shijing, head of the Mountain Wuyunshan Daoist Temple nunnery in Shaanxi province - meaning that this is the first time that the Ecology project has had powerful female representation on the Daoist side. In China, "Master" is a formal term of address for senior nuns as well as senior monks.

An education pack has been developed for delegates to take home, showing them how to conserve energy in their own temples.

The workshop is designed for Daoists, with some academics attending as observers. But it has also already had very positive feedback from local and national government.

“Suddenly religion has become to be seen as important and positive in the fight to reduce pollution and address climate change,” said Palmer, who has been invited to high level meetings with Shaanxi government officials this week to discuss the issues raised during the workshop.

The new Tiejieshu Ecological Daoist Temple is built at the foot of one of Daoism’s sacred mountains in China, at the beginning of an ancient pilgrimage trail and beside a sacred tree (called in Chinese the "armour" tree because it is as hard as metal) where pilgrims have traditionally left offerings.

The original temple at the base of Taibei Mountain was, like so many other thousands of temples, destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

Both the new temple and the workshop series were made possible through an unprecedented collaboration between the Daoist monks of Louguantai Temple (where Lao Zi is said to have written the Daodeijing), local government, ARC, WWF-International, and our generous Dutch sponsors including the Ecological Management Foundation (EMF).

Local materials, techniques and builders were used to ensure the temple itself was built to high ethical standards.

It had a soft opening last year, with a much smaller workshop – but since then the word has spread among the Daoist community, and many people want to come and learn how to be true to the Dao through looking after nature.

During that first workshop Daoist monks and nuns representing ten temples in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces signed a commitment, known as the Qinling Declaration, to protect the environment around their sacred lands and buildings. It is hoped that this will be a model for future declarations by both Daoists and Buddhists in China, to preserve some of the country’s most sacred landscapes, which are currently under severe threat from pollution, development and uncontrolled tourism.

More details on the most recent workshop, as well as photographs and copies of presentations, will be published on our website after the event.

For details of the next workshop, conducted in Mandarin Chinese and open to senior Daoist practitioners only, please contact

Link here details of a speech given by ARC at the Daodejing Conference in Xian in April, describing how Daoists have very special things to teach about preserving nature.

Link here for Chinese version.

Link here for the Daodejing Forum website.

Link here for a story about the Daodejing Forum from the South China Morning Post - with a spectacular photograph.

Further links

Link to the July 2006 Workshop on Daoism and Conservation.

Link to the Qinling Declaration, July 26 2006

Link to the Daoist Statement on the Environment, made in 1995.

Link to further information about Daoist beliefs.

Link to presentation in Chinese in August 2006 about Daoism and the Environment by Professor Fan Guiching: 西北道教生态保护实例展示

Link to presentation in Chinese in August 2006 about ARC's projects by Dr He Xiaoxing: 环境保护的意念和项目

Link to presentation in Chinese in August 2006 by Dr He Xiaoxing about the potential for Daoists to help the environment: 古老智慧和新角色:道教和环境保护

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