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PRESS RELEASE: First UK visit for top Chinese Daoist environmentalists

September 25, 2013:

Old Master Ren and UNDP Deputy Secretary General Olav Kjorven at the 3rd Daoist Ecology Conference at Maoshan, China, 2008

Leading figures from China’s ancient indigenous religion, Daoism, are visiting Britain October 3 and 4. The three Daoist Masters and two leading secular Daoists will meet with WWF and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) to discuss the progress of a long-term Daoist environmental plan, which includes long-term collaborative work against the illegal global trade in endangered species.

In the visit, organised by the Chinese Daoist Association (CDA), Master Meng Zhiling and Master Zhang Xueling will accompany the Association’s Secretary General, Wang Zheyi, and its President, Master Ren Farong, now in his late 80s and one of the most powerful advocates of Daoism’s environmental policy. (Brief biographies are below.)

Martin Palmer, Secretary General of ARC and a leading expert in Britain on Daoism, has been working with Master Ren for over a decade and welcomes the visit enthusiastically: “This is a tremendous honour to receive a visit from this Master, affectionately known as Old Master Ren. His wisdom, spirituality and huge personal standing in China have enabled many controversial issues relating to ecology in China to not only be heard but also be taken seriously.”

The visit of these religious authorities is part of a major touring cultural programme organised by the CDA that will visit Belgium, France and the UK, aiming to help people learn more about this ancient religion and its history as well as the contemporary culture of Daoism. This will include an exhibition of Daoist artefacts and photographs running from October 4-26 at Asia House in London. The exhibition is called ‘Harmonious Co-existence - Sharing Taoist Culture’. One aspect of the exhibition will be the Daoists’ emerging role in green activity, especially species conservation.

Daoist monks and nuns at Windsor 2009
Among other environmental initiatives, the Daoists are challenging the use of body parts from endangered species including tigers and rhinos, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Although this system of healing was originally derived from Daoist principles it has been corrupted by commercialisation, leading to a profitable market in the illegal trade in animals. The Daoists have been speaking in public forums, writing articles and teaching that using endangered species in TCM destroys the efficacy of the medicine as it disturbs the balance of yin and yang.

They teach that the greatest ancient Daoist doctors and TCM texts advocated the use of herbs instead of animal parts.

Daoists are members of the Green Pilgrimage Network, a network of pilgrimage places around the world, and they have already added green and organic sites to one of their main pilgrim cities, Louguan, near to Louguantai, the place through which it is said, the sage Lao Zi passed on his journey west, and wrote, in one night, the main Daoist text, the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching).

Daoism, also known as Taoism (the latter spelling predates the official pinyin system of spellings introduced by the Chinese Government in 1958) is one of the five recognised religions of China. Dao means “the way” and is believed to be the origin of everything. The Dao teaches “wu-wei”, the path of no action and no selfishness. This means to live in a plain and modest way and not to struggle for material gain. Daoism suffered in the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, but it has rebuilt. Today there are tens of thousands of Daoist sacred sites, shrines and temples. Tens of millions of people follow Daoist practices, and millions more engage in pilgrimages and visits to Daoist sites every year.


Contact us for details or opportunities to interview and/or photograph the Daoist Masters, Martin Palmer and/or the Harmonious Co-Existence exhibition at Asia House, New Cavendish St, London W1G 7LP on October 3, 2013.

NOTE: Old Master Ren speaks rural Chinese and requires double translation, which we can provide. However even when he is speaking a language you can’t understand, he is quite extraordinarily charismatic (I know this is a press release, but this is the truth). At a conference in China in 2008 we all sat, agog. It is doubtful he will be in the UK again.

Notes to editors:

1. You can read more about the partnership between the Chinese Daoist Association and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation on the ARC website here.

2. The Daoist faith statement about humanity’s responsibilities towards nature can be read here.

3. The illegal wildlife trade is the fifth largest illicit transnational activity worldwide after counterfeiting and the illegal trades in drugs, people and oil.

4. ARC is a secular international organisation founded by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1995 to help faith groups develop conservation programmes based on their own beliefs, teachings and practices. It also helps the religions link up with key environmental organisations, creating powerful alliances between faith communities and conservation groups. It now works with 11 major religions around the world as well as with the Confucianists, who are not a religion but a philosophical system.

5. Asia House was set up in 1996 to build links between Europe and Asia. It has premises at 63, New Cavendish St, London W1G 7LP.

6. Photos available to use on Flickr.


Master Ren Farong is in his late 80s, He is a wonderful calligrapher and scholar of Dao Dejing. he resides in Louguantai. He considers his mission to build more Daoist temples in China, so for questions about the spiritual world of the Dao and future of Daoism in China he will be a good person to interview.

Master Meng Zhiling is the spokesperson for the CDA. He is a master of personal cultivation, Daoist meditation and scriptures. He commits to eating only one meal a day -- vegetarian of course. He would be in a very good place to answer questions about TCM, Qigong, and Daoism in general. He is also a vice president of CDA.

Master Zhang Xueling studied in America and was called back to China at the request of his mentor. He is the abbot of a Daoist temple on top of Tian Taishan. He speaks very fluent English. He has a special interest in ecology.

Mr. Wang Zheyi, the secretary general of CDA, is committed to promoting Daoist culture in the world. He believes that by doing this, more Chinese will be interested in Daoism, because what the West looks up to is often considered fashionable and modern in China as well. He is the person to ask questions about the promotion of Daoism and how Daoism could contribute to the harmony of the world.

Mr. Yin Zhihua did his master thesis on Daoist ecology teachings. Questions about Daoist ecology and the event itself could be directed to him.

Martin Palmer is Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, founded by HRH Prince Philip. He has translated many classical Chinese texts into English including the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching), I Ching, and works of Chuang Tsu.

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Daoist ecology
A summary of the environmental teachings of Daoism
Daoist Faith Statement
Formal statement of Daoist beliefs about ecology: "If all things in the universe grow well, then a society is a community of affluence. If not, this kingdom is on the decline."
Louguantai Taoist Temple, Louguan, China
Information about the sacred site of Louguantai and the ways in which the religious and civil authorities are collaborating to make it a green pilgrimage destination.