The “Greening” of Daoism

Potential and Limits


  • Ellen Y. ZHANG University of Macau, China



Daoism, environmental ethics, animal ethics, anthropocentrism, ziran, wuwei


In recent decades there has been much discussion of Daoist thought in the light of environmental or ecological ethics. In this paper, I will discuss the meanings of ziran and wuwei, the two key terms in Daoism within its own tradition and then explore the possibility of establishing a form of “green Daoism” through an interpretative reconstruction of a ziran-wuwei ethic that is relevant to environmental and ecological concerns. I will argue that the Daoist idea of ziran-wuwei does not simply mean to accept things passively, but rather it entails a proactive dimension that can be used to challenge aggressiveness and destructive attitudes towards eco-cosmic unity and diversity. The paper intends to show that although some of the ecological issues we address today may not be the major concerns of ancient Daoism, and that the complexity of the ecological problems and solutions are dependent on modern technology, it will not prevent us from taking Daoism as a cultural resource with which we can examine the human place in nature in view of the current environmental crisis.


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How to Cite

Zhang, E. Y. (2023). The “Greening” of Daoism: Potential and Limits. Asian Studies, 11(2), 69–94.