Elena Valussi received an MA in Chinese Studies from the University of Venice, and an MA and Ph.D. in Chinese History and Religious Studies, from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. She is a senior Lecturer in the History Department at Loyola University Chicago. She has been a visiting scholar and researcher at the University of Venice, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. For spring 2023, she is a visiting scholar at the University of Venice.


Prof. Valussi’s research interests and publications revolve around the intersection of gender, religion and body practices in Late Imperial Daoism, printing and religion in the late Qing and Republican periods, and Republican period discourses on gender and religion. Recently she has also been focusing on religious diversity in the province of Sichuan, and she is co-directing a large project on this topic with Prof. Stefania Travagnin, funded by the CCK foundation. Valussi was the co-chair of the Daoist Studies Group at the American Academy of Religions and a member of the editorial group for the International Daozang Jiyao Project. With Prof. Natasha Heller, she is co-founder of Wisar, a website that showcases the work of women scholars in Asian Religions. She is also currently the vice President of the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions.


Ph.D. University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (History Department/Department of Religions); Diss. “Beheading the Red Dragon: A History of Female Inner Alchemy in China.” 2003

MA with First Degree and Honors, University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (History of Religions- Chinese Religions) 1996

MA/BA summa cum laude, University of Venice, Italy, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, 1995

Other Publications

Forthcoming: Spirit-writing in Chinese History and Society, ed. by Matthias Schumann and Elena Valussi, Leiden, Brill

Forthcoming: “Women, Goddesses and Gender Affinity in Spirit-writing”, in Spirit-writing in Chinese History and Society, ed. by Matthias Schumann and Elena Valussi, Leiden, Brill

Forthcoming: “Introduction”, in Spirit-writing in Chinese History and Society, ed. by Matthias Schumann and Elena Valussi, Leiden, Brill

Forthcoming: “Li Xiyue and lay Daoism in late Imperial Sichuan”, in Festschrift for Fabrizio Pregadio, ed. by Dominic Steavu Balint

2023: “Alchimia Femminile”, in Festschrift per Alfredo Cadonna, ed. by Ester Bianchi, Daniela Campo, Maurizio Paolillo, Venezia, Editrice Cafoscarina

2023: “Female Alchemy, Health or Immortality?”, in Religion and Medicine in Asia: Methodological insights and innovationsed. by Michael Stanley-Baker , Manchester University Press

2022: “Daoist and Sexual Practices for Health and Immortality for Women” in Handbook of Chinese Medicine, ed. by Michael Stanley Baker and Vivienne Lo, Routledge

2020 “Men Built Religion, Women Made it Superstitious: Gender and Superstition in Republican China”, Journal of Chinese Religions 48.1

2019: “Gender as a Useful Category of Analysis in Chinese religions: with two Case Studies from the Republican Period”, in Critical Concepts and Methods for the Study of Chinese Religions III: Key Concepts in Practice, ed. by Stefania Travagnin and Paul Katz, Leiden, De Gruyters

2018 “Spirit writing in Sichuan province: an overview”, in the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities ‘Fate, Freedom and Prognostication’ Newsletter, Erlangen, Germany

2017 “War, Nationalism and the transmission of Daoist scriptures from China to Taiwan: the case of Xiao Tianshi”, Asia Major, 30.1

2015 “The transmission of the cult of Lü Dongbin to Sichuan in the nineteenth century, and the transformation of the local religious milieu”, in Daoism: Religion, History, and Society 7

2014 “A new Daoism for the Nation: Master Xiao Tianshi and the transmission of Daoist scriptures from China to Taiwan in 1949”, Chinese University of Hong Kong Daoist Studies Newsletter, September

2014 “Female Alchemy: Transformation of a Gendered Body”, in, Gendering Chinese Religion: Subject, Identity, and Body, ed. by Jinhua Jia, Xiaofei Kang and Ping Yao, SUNY

2012 “Printing and Religion in the Life of Qing dynasty alchemical author Fu Jinquan”, in: Daoism: Religion, History, and Society, No. 4 (2012), 1–52, Chinese University of Hong Kong

2011 “Gender and Sexuality”, co-written with Julia Huang and David Palmer, in Religion in Chinese Societies: Communities, Practices and Public Life. Edited by David A. Palmer, Glenn Shive and Philip Wickeri, Oxford University Press

2010 “Women’s Qigong in America – Tradition, Adaptation, and New Trends”, Journal of Daoist Studies, Volume 3

2009 “Blood, tigers, dragons. The physiology of transcendence for women”, in IASTAM Journal of Asian Medicine, Brill, Leiden, 4.1

2008: “Female alchemy and paratext: how to read nüdan in a historical context”, in Asia Major, 21, number 2

2008: “Men and women in He Longxiang’s Nüdan hebian (Collection of female alchemy),” NannüMen, Women and Gender in Early and Imperial China, Brill, Leiden, 10.2

2008: “Women’s Alchemy: an Introduction”, in Internal Alchemy: Self, Society, and the Quest for Immortality, edited by Livia Kohn and Robin Wang, Three Pines Press

Blog Posts

  • Hello world! (Women in the Study of Chinese Religions, 2021-11-28)


‘Mapping Religious Diversity in Modern Sichuan: A Spatial and Social Study of Communities and Networks’: https://sichuanreligions.com

co-directed with Stefania Travagnin, University of London, SOAS

Funded by Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

2022 Roundtable presenter “Situating Medicine and Religion in Asia”, American Academy of Religions, Denver, November 18-20

2022 Roundtable presenter: “Building and Sharing Open-Access Online Resources for the Study of Chinese Religions”American Academy of Religions, Denver, November 18-20

2022 “Sexuality and Physiology”, in The Making and Unmaking of Home: Gender and Ritual in Chinese Religions, Past and Present, Elling Eide Center for Chinese Studies, October 6-9 (Deferred)

2022 “Religious Diversity and of Shifting Identities: The case of the Chunyang guan”, Research meeting for Mapping Religious diversities in Sichuan, September 23-25, Loyola University Chicago

2022 “The female body and the quest for immortality for women in Qing dynasty Daoist treatises”, Department of History, National Chengchi University, Taiwan, April 27

2022 “The Silk Roads in Global History”, Chicago, Newberry Library Seminar, April 22

2022 “Female alchemy and spirit writing in Sichuan”, École Pratique des Hautes Études, April 4

2022 “Lay Daoism, spirit writing and religious publishing in late Qing Sichuan: the case of Li Xiyue”, Sichuan Religions online lecture series, February 26

2021 Chinese University of Hong Kong, Centre for Studies of Daoist Culture, “Reassessing the publication of the Chongkan Daozang Jiyao in Sichuan and its relation to local historical and religious milieu”, part of the “International Conference on the Daozang jiyao and Daoism in the Ming and Qing Dynasty”, May 1-2, (via zoom)

2021 “A commemoration of Prof. Kristopher Schipper life and work”, co-hosting of an international event online, March 27th (via zoom)

2021 Presentation within the conference cycle “Eternal misunderstanding”, relating to the Exhibition “Short-Circuits”, a retrospective of Chinese artist Chen Zhen, at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, Milano, March 15 (via zoom)

2021 “Place, Space, and Politics in Chinese Religions, The Case of Chunyang Guan (純陽觀) in Sichuan” Sponsored by the Center for Religions in the Global East at Purdue University, February 19




American Academy of Religions

Association for Asian Studies

Elena Valussi

Profile picture of Elena Valussi


Active 7 months ago