Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Sue Fawn Chung

Number of Pages



The Daoist temple is a largely overlooked feature in the study of the history of China. The temple has been an important component of Chinese history since the Zhou dynasty, beginning in the Spring and Autumn period and continuing into the Warring States period.1 It is Daoism that made immortals of mortal Chinese war heroes, emperors, leaders, and ancestors. It is these celestials and immortals, found only in a Chinese Daoist temple that can so successfully relate the history of the common man in China. The Chinese have venerated these Daoist celestials and immortals to the status of "gods," and it is these gods that are honored today in every Daoist temple in China and America. Many Daoist rituals developed as early as the eleventh century are still being practiced daily, with subtle variations, in a Daoist temple in Shanghai, China and a Daoist temple in Marysville, California; This thesis is an examination of the historical, social and religious reasons and motivations behind the longevity of the Chinese Daoist temple, including its rituals and its deities, and the role each temple plays in the history of the community it serves. The temples chosen for this study were selected because of their contemporary status. They are the Baiyunguan (White Cloud) Temple in Shanghai, China and the Bok Kai Temple in Marysville, California. The historical significance of these two temples and their deities is investigated by using an interdisciplinary approach that includes but is not limited to, anthropology, architectural studies, history, philosophy, science, and sociology. Also important to this interdisciplinary approach is the work of scholars of Chinese religion, specifically Daoism; Results of this investigation of two active Chinese Daoist temples located on opposite sides of the world shows how it is possible to trace the history of the Chinese people by examining their beliefs in hero gods and deities, and the roles these deities played in the downfall of imperial China. Research on the Chinese Daoist temple in America will address Chinese immigration, and allude to reasons behind the difficulty of the Chinese in America to assimilate and acculturate; This study also looks at the problems, and successes, of the Baiyunguan Temple and the Bok Kai Temple as they enter the current century. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, Daoism has been under the protection of Chinese law with the goal of perpetuating and developing Daoist traditions. This includes opening Daoist temples to tourism, which although bringing the temple additional exposure, creates issues that attach themselves to tourism such as maintaining the integrity of the temple while supporting its maintenance and environmental concerns. Another problem is the declining Daoist population. Daoist in China are once again returning to the temple, but in America in a small California town the decline of a Chinese population is a real concern. However, recent preservation and restoration efforts are giving both temples the historic recognition they deserve; This research looks at how the Baiyunguan Temple and the Bok Kai Temple have been able to survive for over one hundred years, and will suggest what the future outlook is for these two testaments to China's civilization and culture and to its 5000 year-old history; 1The Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods in Chinese history (770-221 B.C.) were a time of upheaval and turbulence. The Eastern Zhou dynasty is divided into two historical periods; the Spring and Autumn period, 740-476 B.C. and the Warring States period, 475-221 B.C. For more information on this era in Chinese history see Michael Loewe and Edward L. Shaughnessy, The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 B.C. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).


Alternative; Chinese; Daoist; History; Study; Temples; Two

Controlled Subject

Taoism; Taoism and state; Taoist temples; Taoist people; China; History; Emigration and immigration

File Format


File Size

2385.92 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit