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Taoism: Growth of a Religion [Isabelle Robinet, Phyllis Brooks] on *​FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. This is a survey of the history of Taoism.
Table of contents

After the 17th century, however, it fell from favour. Taoism, in form of the Shangqing school , gained official status in China again during the Tang dynasty — , whose emperors claimed Laozi as their relative.

Religious Daoism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Between and , Ge Chaofu compiled a series of scriptures which later served as the foundation of the Lingbao school , [37] which unfolded its greatest influence during the Song dynasty — In the 12th century, the Quanzhen school was founded in Shandong. It flourished during the 13th and 14th century and during the Yuan dynasty became the largest and most important Taoist school in Northern China.

The school's most revered master, Qiu Chuji , met with Genghis Khan in and was successful in influencing the Khan towards exerting more restraint during his brutal conquests. By the Khan's decree, the school also was exempt from taxation. Aspects of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism were consciously synthesised in the Neo-Confucian school, which eventually became Imperial orthodoxy for state bureaucratic purposes under the Ming — During the Qing dynasty — , however, due to discouragements of the government, many people favoured Confucian and Buddhist classics over Taoist works. During the 18th century, the imperial library was constituted, but excluded virtually all Taoist books.

As a result, only one complete copy of the Daozang still remained, at the White Cloud Monastery in Beijing. Today, Taoism is one of five religions recognised by the People's Republic of China.

Daoism in China

The government regulates its activities through the Chinese Taoist Association. Taoism tends to emphasise various themes of the Tao Te Ching and Zhuangzi , such as naturalness, spontaneity, simplicity, detachment from desires , and most important of all, wu wei. It is at once the beginning of all things and the way in which all things pursue their course.

Common translations are "nonaction", "effortless action" or "action without intent". In ancient Taoist texts, wu-wei is associated with water through its yielding nature. When someone exerts their will against the world in a manner that is out of rhythm with the cycles of change, they may disrupt that harmony and unintended consequences may more likely result rather than the willed outcome.

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Taoism does not identify one's will as the root problem. Rather, it asserts that one must place their will in harmony with the natural universe. As the "practical, political side" of Taoist philosophy, Arthur Waley translated them as "abstention from aggressive war and capital punishment", "absolute simplicity of living", and "refusal to assert active authority". These terms are elements of the traditional Chinese concept of the human body , which shares its cosmological foundation— Yinyangism or the Naturalists—with Taoism.

Within this framework, they play an important role in neidan "Taoist Inner Alchemy". Taoist cosmology is cyclic ; relativity, evolution and 'extremes meet' are main characters. The school's tenets harmonised the concepts of the Wu Xing Five Elements and yin and yang. In this spirit, the universe is seen as being in a constant process of re-creating itself, as everything that exists is a mere aspect of qi , which, "condensed, becomes life; diluted, it is indefinite potential".

Human beings are seen as a microcosm of the universe, [16] and for example comprise the Wu Xing in form of the zang-fu organs. Taoism can be defined as pantheistic , given its philosophical emphasis on the formlessness of the Tao and the primacy of the "Way" rather than anthropomorphic concepts of God. This is one of the core beliefs that nearly all the sects share.

Taoist orders usually present the Three Pure Ones at the top of the pantheon of deities, visualising the hierarchy emanating from the Tao. Laozi Laojun , "Lord Lao" , is considered the incarnation of one of the Three Purities and worshipped as the ancestor of the philosophical doctrine.

Different branches of Taoism often have differing pantheons of lesser deities, where these deities reflect different notions of cosmology. Persons from the history of Taoism, and people who are considered to have become immortals xian , are venerated as well by both clergy and laypeople. Despite these hierarchies of deities, traditional conceptions of Tao should not be confused with the Western theism.

Being one with the Tao does not necessarily indicate a union with an eternal spirit in, for example, the Hindu sense. The famous opening lines of the Tao Te Ching are:. There is significant, at times acrimonious, debate regarding which English translation of the Tao Te Ching is preferable, and which particular translation methodology is best.

However, the main themes of the text are repeatedly expressed using variant formulations, often with only a slight difference. The leading themes revolve around the nature of Tao and how to attain it. Tao is said to be ineffable, and accomplishing great things through small means. Perhaps the oldest one, the Heshang Gong commentary, was most likely written in the 2nd century CE.

CE helped establish the text as an important source for Taoist thought. The traditional view is that Zhuangzi himself wrote the first seven chapters the "inner chapters" and his students and related thinkers were responsible for the other parts the "outer" and "miscellaneous" chapters.

The work uses anecdotes, parables and dialogues to express one of its main themes, that is aligning oneself to the laws of the natural world and "the way" of the elements. The I Ching , or Yijing, was originally a divination system that had its origins around BCE [93] Although it predates the first mentions of Tao as an organised system of philosophy and religious practice, this text later became of philosophical importance to Daoism and Confucianism.

The I Ching itself, shorn of its commentaries, consists of 64 combinations of 8 trigrams called "hexagrams" , traditionally chosen by throwing coins or yarrow sticks, to give the diviner some idea of the situation at hand and, through reading of the "changing lines", some idea of what is developing. More recently as recorded in the 18th century, the Taoist master Liu Yiming continued to advocate this usage. It was originally compiled during the Jin , Tang , and Song dynasties.

The version surviving today was published during the Ming Dynasty. They are arranged from "highest" to "lowest": [98]. Daoshi generally do not consult published versions of the Daozang, but individually choose, or inherit, texts included in the Daozang. These texts have been passed down for generations from teacher to student.

The Shangqing School has a tradition of approaching Taoism through scriptural study. It is believed that by reciting certain texts often enough one will be rewarded with immortality. While the Tao Te Ching is most famous, there are many other important texts in traditional Taoism. Taishang Ganying Pian "Treatise of the Exalted One on Response and Retribution" discusses sin and ethics , and has become a popular morality tract in the last few centuries.

The wicked, and their descendants, will suffer and have shortened lives. Yin is the receptive and Yang is the active principle, seen in all forms change and difference such as the annual season cycles, the landscape, sexual coupling, the formation of both men and women as characters, and sociopolitical history.

One can see this symbol as a decorative element on Taoist organisation flags and logos, temple floors, or stitched into clerical robes. According to Song dynasty sources, it originated around the 10th century CE.

Christianity Is On The Rise In China

Taoist temples may fly square or triangular flags. They typically feature mystical writing or diagrams and are intended to fulfill various functions including providing guidance for the spirits of the dead, bringing good fortune, increasing life span, etc. A zigzag with seven stars is sometimes displayed, representing the Big Dipper or the Bushel, the Chinese equivalent. Taoist temples in southern China and Taiwan may often be identified by their roofs, which feature dragons and phoenixes made from multi-colored ceramic tiles.

Schools, Main Tenets, and the History of Practicing "The Tao"

They also stand for the harmony of yin and yang with the phoenix representing yin. A related symbol is the flaming pearl, which may be seen on such roofs between two dragons, as well as on the hairpin of a Celestial Master. At ancient times, before Daoism Religion was founded, food may be set out as a sacrifice to the spirits of the deceased or the gods.

This may include slaughtered animals, such as pigs and ducks, or fruit. He tore apart temples which demanded animal sacrifice and drove away its priests. Nowadays Daoism Temples are still not allowed to use animal sacrifices. The joss paper is mostly used when memorising ancestors, such as time of Qingming.

Also on particular holidays, street parades take place. These are lively affairs which invariably involve firecrackers and flower-covered floats broadcasting traditional music. They also variously include lion dances and dragon dances ; human-occupied puppets often of the " Seventh Lord " and " Eighth Lord " , Kungfu -practicing and palanquins carrying god-images. The various participants are not considered performers, but rather possessed by the gods and spirits in question. Fortune-telling —including astrology , I Ching , and other forms of divination —has long been considered a traditional Taoist pursuit.

Mediumship is also widely encountered in some sects. There is an academic and social distinction between martial forms of mediumship such as tongji and the spirit-writing that is typically practised through planchette writing. A recurrent and important element of Taoism are rituals, exercises and substances aiming at aligning oneself spiritually with cosmic forces, at undertaking ecstatic spiritual journeys, or at improving physical health and thereby extending one's life, ideally to the point of immortality. A characteristic method aiming for longevity is Taoist alchemy. Already in very early Taoist scriptures—like the Taiping Jing and the Baopuzi —alchemical formulas for achieving immortality were outlined.