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Department of Social Anthropology



Liangliang Zhang is currently conducting long-term, multi-sited fieldwork in China on the experiences of self-cultivators (shi-xiu zhe 实修者) who are part of a practice-based self-cultivation network. Drawing on Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist texts and practices, the self-cultivators, who live in diverse locations, visit the network’s two retreat centres in Wudangshan, Hubei Province and Luguhu, Yunnan Province and participate in teaching tours in major cities. Liangliang’s research explores the kinds of self-transformation enacted in this geographically dispersed community of practice, the forces that give shape to participants’ pursuits, and the relation between self-cultivation traditions, individual ethical projects and nationalist identity formation.
Liangliang’s research also touches upon the contemporary grassroots interpretation of Daoist classics such as the Book of Change (Yi-jing 易经). She is additionally interested in comparative issues of the laicisation and popularisation of knowledge-practices that were once bound up with renunciatory religions. She explores the social life of Daoism in contemporary China, by comparing it to that of mindfulness, yoga and diverse forms of popularised Buddhism. Liangliang holds a BA in International Comparative Studies (Duke University) and an MPhil in Social Anthropology (University of Cambridge).


Daoist thought and practices, intentional self-making, comparative ethics, grassroots classical culture revival movements (min-jian chuan-tong wen-hua fu-xing 民间传统文化复兴) in China.

Research Title: "Action through Non-action”: Self-making and Citizen-making through the Wudang School Self-Cultivation Network in the PRC
Supervisor: Professor James Laidlaw
 Liangliang  Zhang (2017)

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