Aaron Reich is a PhD candidate in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in Chinese religions and religious art. His dissertation focuses on the visual culture of Daoist ritual during the Ming period (1368–1644). It entails a close study of an unusual handscroll painting from the seventeenth century that records and illustrates the canonization of a local god. His analysis provides new insights into how local communities established ties with the Zhengyi Daoist institution in the late imperial period. In addition to his specialization in Chinese and Asian religions, Aaron’s teaching and research interests include a range of broader topics, such as religion and visual culture; ritual and semiotics; and relationships between religion, aesthetics, and self-expression.
Aaron holds MA degrees in Art History, Chinese, and Asian Religions, and his current and past projects explore the transdisciplinary overlaps between these three fields. Since 2007, he has worked as a research and technical assistant for the Daoist Iconography Project, an international research database for the study of representations of the Daoist pantheon and the function of these images in ritual contexts. While researching and writing his dissertation, Aaron currently teaches several lecture series at the Honolulu Museum of Art School.