The Encyclopedia of Taoism provides comprehensive coverage of Taoist religion, thought and history, reflecting the current state of Taoist scholarship. Taoist studies have progressed beyond any expectation in recent years. Researchers in a number of languages have investigated topics virtually unknown only a few years previously, while others have surveyed for the first time textual, doctrinal and ritual corpora. The Encyclopedia presents the full gamut of this new research.
The work contains approximately 1,750 entries, which fall into the following broad categories: surveys of general topics; schools and traditions; persons; texts; terms; deities; immortals; temples and other sacred sites. Terms are given in their original characters, transliterated and translated. Entries are thoroughly cross-referenced and, in addition, 'see also' listings are given at the foot of many entries. Attached to each entry are references taking the reader to a master bibliography at the end of the work. There is chronology of Taoism and the whole is thoroughly indexed.
There is no reference work comparable to the Encyclopedia of Taoism in scope and focus. Authored by an international body of experts, the Encyclopedia will be an essential addition to libraries serving students and scholars in the fields of religious studies, philosophy and religion, and Asian history and culture.
2. Taoism (or Daoism) is indigenous to China.
Traditionally, Taoism is divided into philosophical Taoism (daojia) and religious Taoism (daojiao).
Both have their roots in the writings Daodejing and Zhuangzi.
Religious Taoism has its ups and downs.
As an organized religion, Taoism began in the Eastern Han (25 - 220 CE) at 142 CE by Zhang Daoling in what is today's Sichuan Province.
Religious Taoism steadily developed during the next few centuries and sprouted many branches.
It was favored by the Emperors of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 CE), whom sharing a common last name (Li) with the author of Daodejing, claimed him as an ancestor.
And quite a few Emperors of Sung Dynasty (960 - 1279 CE) were also enamored with Taoism, with its promise of immortality and sexual potency.
Religious Taoism probably reached the pinnacle of its influence in China during the latter part of the Sung Dynasty and the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1367 CE) under the Mongol.
A branch of Taoism founded by Wang Chongyang called Quanzhen in the latter part of the Sung Dynasty is still the most influential form of Taoism in China today.
Taoism went into decline in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644 CE) and the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1912 CE).
In 1980, there were approximately 20,000 registered Taoist priests in mainland China.
But since many Taoist ideas have become part of the daily lives of the Chinese peoples, the influence of Taoism cannot be measured by the number of registered Taoist priests.
3. For the last half a millennium, western scholarships on Taoism has been very weak.
It is only in the last 30 to 40 years that western scholarships on Taoism began to mature.
The Encyclopedia of Taoism (2008) edited by Fabrizio Pregadio is the first fruits of the harvest of that scholarships.
Besides the many features of this Encyclopedia, I find the 17 pages Synoptic Table of Contents especially helpful.
After browsing through the two volumes set and reading some of the entries, I concur with what T.H. Barrett has written in the forward (Pregadio 2008a, viii):
"Even so the unprecedented large-scale collaborative effort required, calling on the expertise right across the globe, would probably have been expended in vain were it not for the Herculean labours of the editor. ... For all the minor shortcomings that may be discovered in this compilation, and for all the scholarship it may contain that may one day appear outdated and in need of revision, he at least should be absolved from any blame and indeed allowed a full measure of self-congratulation, for he has worked as hard and as meticulously as anyone could."
Although the price is very stiff (USD 272 at Amazon), The Encyclopedia of Taoism (2008) (2 Vols) is a must for anyone interested in Taoism.
3a. Added later on Tuesday, May 29, 2012: Amazon has a paperback set that is more reasonably priced at USD 87.77.
4. Book details:
Hardcover: 1551 pages
Publisher: Routledge (January 10, 2008)
5. Names, Words and Phrases:
Daodejing (Traditional Chinese: 道德經; Simplified Chinese: 道德经).
Daojia (Traditional: 道家; Simplified: 道家).
Daojiao (Traditional: 道教; Simplified: 道教).
Eastern Han (Traditional: 東漢; Simplified: 东汉).
Li (Traditional: 李; Simplified: 李).
Ming Dynasty (Traditional: 明朝; Simplified: 明朝).
Mongol (Traditional: 蒙古; Simplified: 蒙古).
Quanzhen (Traditional: 全真; Simplified: 全真).
Qing Dynasty (Traditional: 清朝; Simplified: 清朝).
Sichuan Province (Traditional: 四川省; Simplified: 四川省).
Sung Dynasty (Traditional: 宋朝; Simplified: 宋朝).
Tang Dynasty (Traditional: 唐朝; Simplified: 唐朝).
Wang Chongyang (Traditional: 王重陽; Simplified: 王重阳).
Yuan Dynasty (Traditional: 元朝; Simplified: 元朝).
Zhang Daoling (Traditional: 張道陵; Simplified: 张道陵).
Zhuangzi (Traditional: 莊子; Simplified: 庄子).
Pregadio, Fabrizio, ed. 2008a. The Encyclopedia of Taoism, I. New York: Routledge.
Pregadio, Fabrizio, ed. 2008b. The Encyclopedia of Taoism, II. New York: Routledge.