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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

David Mozina

theology department

Assistant Professor

Stokes N451
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Phone: 617-552-3071
Fax: 617-552-0794

Curriculum Vitae

Office Hours


Doctorate, Comparative Religion with an emphasis on Daoism and Chinese religions, The Divinity School, Harvard University

Master of Theological Studies, Comparative Religion, The Divinity School, Harvard University

Bachelor of Arts, Religion, Columbia University in the City of New York


David Mozina joined the Boston College faculty in 2013. He teaches courses in Chinese and East Asian religions, with a focus on Daoism, as well in the Religious Quest sequence in the Core Curriculum. David spent many years living on mainland China and in Taiwan. He is currently at work on his first monograph, entitled Quelling the Divine: The Performance of a Talisman in Contemporary Daoist Thunder Ritual, which explores the technology of talisman making in the strain of Daoist ritual currently practiced in central Hunan Province in south China. A former second baseman for Columbia, David attempts to keep up his skills by playing competitive fastpitch softball in Boston. He also tries to learn as many culinary tips as he can while hanging out with local chefs and wine distributors.


David Mozina - Research Interests

Daoist priests processing during a funeral, Hunan Province, People's Republic of China
Photo courtesy of Doug Kanter

The clangs of hand cymbals, courtly melodies of the bamboo flute, and processions of Daoist priests during ceremonies large and small are daily occurrences in the hinterlands of central Hunan province (Xiangzhong 湘中). Since the late 1980s when the Chinese communist government relaxed proscriptions of religious activity throughout much of China, Daoist priests have again begun practicing esoteric rituals that had been outlawed since the 1950s. During my doctoral research, I was fortunate to experience first hand something of this revival. I lived with a lineage of Zhengyi 正一 Daoist priests in Anhua County 安化縣 for long stints, learning from them the brand of thunder ritual (leifa 雷法) they practice. Developed during the Song Dynasty (907-1279), thunder ritual blends inner alchemical (neidan 內丹) methods of self-cultivation with ritual modes of employing martial deities associated with the celestial Thunder Department (leibu 雷部) in order to exorcise demons believed to cause illness and economic misfortune. One finds conspicuous forms of thunder ritual thriving these days in central Hunan, sometimes including incantations and ritual instructions identical word for word with those found in 13th-century and later ritual manuals preserved in Daoist canons.

David Mozina - Research Interests

Ritual manual for hailing a thunder deity, Hunan Province, People's Republic of China
Scan by David Mozina

I am interested in how these thunder rituals work, how they are imagined as technologies for hailing, communicating with, and even cajoling thunder deities, who are charged with serving under the command of the priest as his exorcists. In my forthcoming first monograph, Quelling the Divine, I employ textual and ethnographic methods to explore a particular thunder ritual that features the subtle art of talisman making to hail a thunder deity. A close reading of the symbolic and performative aspects of the ritual compels us to reimagine a written talisman on cloth or paper (fu 符) not as simply a piece of textual script or material artifact but as the condensation of a sophisticated ritual process that employs memory, visualization, and rhetorical play. Such a close reading of the ritual reveals a fantastic cosmology, physiology, and theology rooted in late imperial traditions of thunder ritual and in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) vernacular fiction. These cultural resources are again being appropriated by Daoist priests to negotiate the demands of life in rapidly modernizing, 21st-century rural China.


TH161  Religious Quest I & II
TH 171 All Under Heaven: Religion and Politics in Early China (cross-listed with History)
TH 387 The Path of the Bodhisattva: Mahayana Buddhism in East Asia
TH 578 Visions and Visualizations: Daoist Religious Traditions


Book co-editor of the journal Daoism: Religion, History and Society 道教研究學報
Co-director of the Daoist Iconography Project, University of Hawai’i-Manoa
Co-chair of the Daoist Studies Group, American Academy of Religion
Member of the Steering Committee of the Comparative Studies in Religion Section, American Academy of Religion


Junior Faculty Development Award, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2013, declined
Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Junior Scholar Fellowship, 2012
Center for Chinese Studies Research Grant for Foreign Scholars in Chinese Studies, 2012, declined
Association of Asian Studies China and Inner Asia Council Small Grant, 2011
Faculty Research Grant, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2010-2011


“Summoning the Exorcist: The Role of Heart Seals (xinyin 心印) in Calling Down a Demon-Quelling Deity in Contemporary Daoist Thunder Ritual.” In Exorcism in Daoism, edited by Florian C. Reiter, 231-256. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011.

“Daubing Lips with Blood and Drinking Elixirs with the Celestial Lord Yin Jiao: The Role of Thunder Deities in Daoist Ordination in Contemporary Hunan.” Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie 19 (2010): 269-303.


“Paradox, Divine Reflexivity, and Daoist Ordination Oaths,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), Chicago, November 2012. (Organizer of the panel Paradox and the Chinese Ritual Imagination)

“招殷郊天君:湖南省安化縣梅城鎮正一道教儀式的研究” [Invoking Celestial Master Yin Jiao: An Orthodox Unity Daoist Ritual from Meicheng Township, Anhua County, Hunan Province], 第二屆國際瑤族傳統文化研討會 [Second International Conference on Yao Minority Traditional Culture], sponsored by The Society of Hunan Literature and Arts, Kanagawa University of Japan, and The Chinese Institute for the Study of Yao Culture, Changsha, PRC, August 2012. (Given in Chinese)

Danqing 丹青 and the Production of Daoist Ritual Images in Hunan Province,” Icons, Charts, and Talismanic Scripts: Daoist Visual Culture, The Leslie Center for the Humanities, Dartmouth College, May 2012.

“What’s in a Daoist Image: The Life of a Ritual Artisan in Today’s Rural China,” Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, May 2012.

“Divine Reflexivity and Daoist Ordination Oaths,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), San Francisco, November 2011.

“Gods, Patriarchs, and Masters: Lineage Affiliation and Transmission of lingqi 靈炁 in Contemporary Daoist Thunder Ritual in Hunan,” Symposium für Sinologie: Affiliation and Transmission in Daoism, Humboldt-Universität, Berlin, GERMANY, June 2011.

“Gods, Patriarchs, and Masters in Living Color: The Social and Religious Contexts of Representations of a Daoist Pantheon from Hunan Province,” Annual Conference of the Association of Asian Studies (AAS), Honolulu, April 2011.

“The Materiality of a Talisman,” Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), Atlanta, November 2010. (Co-organizer of the panel Making an Object a Subject: Relationships, Rituals, and the Life of Material Culture)

“Summoning the Exorcist: Calling Down a Demon-Quelling Deity in Contemporary Daoist Ritual in Central Hunan,” Symposium für Sinologie: Exorcism in Daoism, Humboldt Universität, Berlin, GERMANY, December 2009.

“How to Talk to a God: Modes of Discourse in Daoist Ritual,” East Asia Center, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, November 2009.


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