The Daoist Iconography Project 道教圖像學計畫 (DIP) provides an international research database for the study of visual representations of the Daoist pantheon and their contexts of use in Daoist ritual traditions, illustrated scriptures, and popular culture. A unique enterprise, comprised of contributions from scholars in a variety of disciplines in both Asia and the West, the project offers both a new means for advancing our understanding of the rich visual culture of this native religion of China, as well as an invaluable resource for academics, museum and art specialists, educators, and students.

DIP was initiated in the fall of 2005 as a joint venture of the Department of Religion at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Honolulu Museum of Arts with a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Under the direction of Poul Andersen, Associate Professor of Chinese Religions at the University of Hawaii, the project continues to expand its scholarly contributions with new collections of Daoist images in a variety of genres. While the primary purpose of the project is to allow for scholarly interaction and research on Daoist images, the results of this research will eventually be open to the public in the form of an electronic encyclopedia of the Daoist pantheon and its visual expressions available over the internet. We invite the public to tour a sampling of our work here.

Daoism and Its Religious Iconography

Among the world's major religions, Daoism is without question the least fully explored by scholars, and the least clearly understood by people in general. Within the field of comparative religion it is still quite common to find textbooks that in effect avoid taking Daoism into account, and that describe the universally shared phenomena of religion and its visual expressions with reference to all the major world religions—except for Daoism. While it represents one of the richest religious traditions of the world, Daoism is still very much a terra incognita to the world outside the inner circles of its priesthood, and even some of the most basic questions concerning its history and its practices, not to mention the central elements of its pantheon, still wait to be answered. The goal of DIP has been to devise the means that will lead to finding the answers to some of the most important of these questions. Through compiling and analyzing images of the deities of the Daoist pantheon, the project aims to reveal the grammar and vocabulary of the iconic language of Daoist images and therewith the meanings expressed through this form of religious art.

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