Volker Olles received his Master’s degree at Bonn University and his Ph.D. at Humboldt University in Berlin. Two long-term stays at Sichuan University, as an exchange student (1992–1994) and as a research fellow (1998–1999), were funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). He currently holds the position of Distinguished Research Associate at the Research Institute for Daoism and Religious Culture Studies of Sichuan University. Olles started his academic career as a lecturer at the Sinology department of Humboldt University (2000–2005), where he wrote his dissertation on a sacred site of early Daoism.
From 2006 to 2008, based at Humboldt University, Olles conducted research on the Confucian Liumen tradition, which was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). He was awarded a research grant of the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation in 2009 and continued his post-doctoral studies, focusing on the Fayan tan ritual tradition, at the University of Leipzig (2009–2013). Olles then joined the European Research Council project “FOUNDMED – Foundations in Medieval Societies” at the History department of Humboldt University (2013–2014), where he contributed a study on religious foundations in China.
His main research interests are the modern history and current circumstances of Sichuan Daoism, sacred space in Chinese religions, the Liumen teachings and the Fayan tan ritual tradition in Sichuan, history and culture of (Daoist) temples, traditional religious publishing, Daoist environmental ethics, and epigraphy. In 2013, his monograph Ritual Words: Daoist Liturgy and the Confucian Liumen Tradition in Sichuan Province was awarded the research prize of the German Oriental Society (DMG).