Aaron Reich is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Saint Joseph’s University, specializing in Chinese religions and religious art. His doctoral dissertation, completed in 2018, focuses on the visual culture of Daoist ritual during the Ming period (1368–1644). The project entails a close study of an unusual handscroll painting from the seventeenth century that records and illustrates the canonization of a local god. Aaron’s 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, his 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.
Prior to completing his PhD in Chinese Literature and Culture, Aaron earned MA degrees in Art History, Chinese, and Asian Religions. 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. In November 2018, Aaron will present his new research into visualization methods from Ming-dynasty Daoist liturgical manuals at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. This talk will appear on a panel titled “Vision and Visualization in Art, Alchemy, and Ritual: Exploring Daoist Modes of Perception,” which Aaron organized for this year’s conference meeting.