Tobias Benedikt Zürn

Postdoctoral Fellow in East Asian Religions
PhD University of Wisconsin-Madison
research interests:
  • Pre-modern Chinese Religions and Intellectual History
  • Daoist Textual and Visual Cultures
  • Early Chinese Aesthetics
  • Reception History
  • Intertextuality
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contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
  • CB 1065
  • One Brookings Drive
  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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Dr. Zürn's research and teaching interests include early and pre-modern Chinese religions (including Daoisn), intellectual history, visual cultures, and intertextuality.

Zürn earned his PhD in pre-modern Chinese religions from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016, and taught for seven years at Grinnell College and in the University of Wisconsin system before coming to Wash U.  His research concerns itself with the many ways that religious texts, or scriptures, function in the life of communities, and shows how early Daoists and Buddhists used scriptures not just as philosophical guides, but also as aesthetic and ritual entities that engaged with bodies and other objects in numerous ways.

His teaching interests include life, death, and the afterlife in eastern religious systems, and understandings of sex, the body and gender. His most recent courses include: Daoist Traditions; The Zhuangzi, A Daoist Classic; Confucian Thought; and Anime and Animi: A Popular Cultural Approach to Shinto.

Current Research

“Writing as Weaving: Intertextuality and the Huainanzi‘s Self-Fashioning as an Embodiment of the Way” (Under Review at Journal of Asian Studies).
Zhuangzi’s Butterfly-Dream as a Practice of Forgetting: Hanshan Deqing's Buddhist Reading of the “Qiwulun” as a Dhāranī” (For submission to Journal of Chinese Religions).

Selected Publications

“Overgrown Courtyards and Tilled Fields: Image-based debates on governance and body-politics in the Mengzi, Zhuangzi, and Huainanzi,” Early China 41 (2018);
"Yin-Yang," Forthcoming in World Book Encyclopedia (Chicago: World Book Inc.).
“Seng Qixu 僧契虛 (Monk Attached to Emptiness),” in Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader, Volume 2. Edited by William H. Nienhauser Jr. (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co., 2016), pp. 367-428.