P.G.G. (Paul) van Enckevort

  • PhD student
  • Chinese Studies

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2171
E-Mail: p.g.g.van.enckevort@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden Institute for Area Studies, SAS China

Fields of interest

History of self-cultivation traditions in Late Imperial China

PhD research

The Path to Immortality: An Introduction to the Life and Works of Wu Shouyang
Supervisors: Barend ter Haar and Jan de Meyer

My research project focusses on the reception of classical neidan theory (i.e. a syncretic theory and practice of longevity techniques, expressed in the language of proto-chemistry, aiming at immortality and the obtainment of para-normal skills.) during the late Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644) by Wu Shouyang (1573-1644). This neidan system - lit: inner elixir; often translated as 'inner alchemy' - formed part of the repertoire of Daojiao (Daoism) and became a central theory to it from the Song dynasty (960-1279) onwards. Although understood in its basic principles and general outline, this system has barely begun to be described in its details connected with individual texts and writers and especially the Late Imperial period has been the least well studied. The basic framework of my research will be a quite straightforward analysis structured in three parts: sources (used by Wu Shouyang), reception (Wu Shouyang's understanding of neidan theory) and influence (of Wu Shouyang on later writers). Specific characteristics of Wu's texts seem to be popularization, systematization and syncretism. This, to me, seems to make him ideal to serve as a case-study for the developments of Late Imperial neidan theory.

As I have argued in my MA thesis, neidan, although earlier attempts to understand it often treat it as a coherent system, derives this seeming coherency from a shared terminology. However, it might perhaps more accurately be treated as a family of systems, each master promoting his own system and each system proposing a particular interpretation of the shared terminology. The main task then for contemporary Daoist studies is to accumulate studies on these distinctive traditions, preferably on distinct teachers and their writings. In this way we can build up actual knowledge of the concrete fabric of ‘Daoism’; i.e. real people and actual literary productions.

This kind of basic research is not only urgently needed to help further the maturation of Daoist studies, but is now also much more feasible than before due to the recent momentum in the publication of crucial research tools. Recently, we have witnessed the publication of the Daoism Handbook (2000), providing periodical and topical overviews, as well as the long-awaited The Taoist Canon (2005), offering a comprehensive survey of canonical texts up until the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Furthermore, this year we should see the publication of The Encyclopedia of Taoism, containing about 800 entries on a variety of topics reflecting the current state of scholarship.


Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands
MA in Chinese Language and Culture (sinology), December 2005

Supervisor: Prof.dr. B.J. ter Haar
Corrector: Dr. J.A.M. De Meyer

Thesis title: The Path to Immortality: An Introduction to the Life and Works of Wu Shouyang
National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan Center for Chinese Language and Culture Studies)

- Exchange student, 2000-2001
- Intensive Modern Standard Chinese (Mandarin) language training


"Geschriften om te verbranden: ‘Over man en vrouw’ and ‘Betoog voor een onbevangen geest’" Dutch translation of the Fufulun and the Tongxinshuo in Li Zhi’s Fenshu. Het Trage Vuur 40 (2007): 86-90.

Last Modified: 11-12-2015