Quite a few popular books that explain Dao, such as certain translations of the Daode jing and The Tao of Pooh, have been heavily criticized by Western scholars as colonialist appropriations of Chinese culture, and thus as examples of a "false" Dao. However, such critiques are presented without considering the view in China, after all the birthplace of the concept of Dao. This paper aims to add a Chinese perspective to this discussion.

First, I analyze the high-frequency words and contents of these popular texts, showing that Dao in these books not only possesses similarities with its Chinese counterpart, but also does not conflict with the serious Dao as defined in Western academics. Next, I suggest that Western scholars declare popular Dao as false, because they judge it based on their own ideas and Western religious conceptions. They ignore the special manifestations of Dao in China, such as its infiltration into daily life, where it does not necessarily manifest as religious practices or rites. Last, combining the manifestation of Dao in the Chinese tradition and its contemporary Chinese understanding with the American Dao, I conclude that the popular Dao is in fact worthy of recognition as Dao and deserves to be studied further. After all, Dao by definition has no rigid form or fixed boundaries and must be inclusive.


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pp. 106-135
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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