"Where there is impossibility, there is possibility; and where there is possibility, there is impossibility. It is because there is right, that there is wrong; it is because there is wrong, there is right...Thereupon the self is also the other; the other is also the self."
"Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river." Lao Tse.
"Without going out of your door, You can know the ways of the world. Without peeping through your window, you can see the Way of Heaven. The farther you go, The less you know. Thus, the Sage knows without traveling, Sees without looking, And achieves without struggle." Lao Tse.
"Different Chinese philosophers, writing probably in 5-4 centuries B.C., presented some major ideas and a way of life that are nowadays known under the name of Taoism, the way of correspondence between man and the tendency or the course of natural world." Alan Watts, from his book: "Tao: The Watercourse Way."
"We believe in the formless and eternal Tao, and we recognize all personified deities as being mere human constructs. We reject hatred, intolerance, and unnecessary violence, and embrace harmony, love and learning, as we are taught by Nature. We place our trust and our lives in the Tao, that we may live in peace and balance with the Universe, both in this mortal life and beyond." Creed of the Reform Taoist Congregation 1
"For more than two thousand years, Daoism has evolved in close interaction with the other major traditions of China--Confucianism, Buddhism, ethnic creeds, and popular religion--and adapted many of their features. To the present day, Daoism consists of a multiplicity of beliefs and practices, and continues to develop, as it has for the past millennia, through the interaction between differentiation and integration--the move to change in accordance with political, cultural, and economic developments versus the urge to create stability through belief systems, lineage lines, rituals, and myths." From the Amazon.com review of the book "Daoist Identity: History, lineage and ritual.
Daoism is the only major religion that came exclusively from Chinese roots and grew to maturity in Chinese soil. It originated at the end of Eastern Han Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Shun Di(125-144 A.D.) and is based on ancient witchcraft and formulas of immortality. Taoists, however, regards Lao Zi (LaoTzu) as the founder and supreme god of Daoism, and Dao Dejing, a profound bood of only five thousand Chinese characters by Lao Zi as the believer's canon.
In this book, Lao Zi says that the basic principle is: first, be benevolent; second, be pure, and third, do not act in advance of other people. Being benevolent means assuming an amiable attitude toward everything in the universe and maintaining universal harmony, Being pure means getting rid of extravagant hopes and being plain in mind and body.
Daoism Sanqing Palace
Not daring to act in advance of other people means being modest and holding the self in check instead of assuming an attitude of strength and dominance.
The word "Dao"(Tao), translates as "the way". In its broadest sense, Dao is the way the universe functions, the path taken by all natural events. Dao is nature's way, expressed in effortless action. Daoists often use the image of water to illustrate such effortless action. Water always settles to the lowest level and yet can wear away even the hardest of substances.
According to Daoism, the cosmos is a maganitude of harmony and order. It is active, not static. Its state is one of change and variation, perpetually becoming and fading away,
(a main God of Dao)
contracting and expanding. The Dao guides its function as an ordering principle. Within the Dao, the two elementary powers, Yin and Yang, function by reciprocal action. Yin and Yang are the two polar opposites into which all things can be classified. Thus dark and light, life and death, male and female, good and evil, srrong and wiak are all manifestations of Yin and Yang.
In China, various sects of Daoism appeared in different periods. During the reign of Emperor Shun Di, Zhang Ling established the Heavenly Teacher Sect, also known as the Five Piculs of Rice Sect. Toward the end of theEastern Han Dynasty, Zhang Jiao,
WuDang, a famous Dao Monastery in Hubei Province
a peasont rebel leader, set up another Daoist sect named Tai Ping Tao. By the Western and Eastern Jin dynasties, the Five Piculs of Rice Sect had become a major religion. During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the ruling class tried to reform Daoism so that it would help them in controling the peasants. The peasants. In the north, the Northern Heavenly Teacher Sect was established and in the south, the Southern Heavevly Teacher Sect. During the Yuan Dynasty the northern and southern sects merged into a new sect known as the True Unity Sect. From then on, this sect and the Complete Unity Sect which From then on, this sect and theComplete Unity Sect which was founded during the Jin Dynasty, in 1167, were the two majir sects of Daoism.
The True Unity Sect believed in driving out devils by calling in the gods and averting disasters by prayer. Its priests could, marry and have meat and wine except during the special fasting periods; the Complete Unity Sect emphasies self-cultivation and immortality, and its priests had to renounce home life, practice vegetarianism, and remain unmarried.
Now, however, the Complete Unity Sect and the True Unity Sect, and other different Daoist sects gradully merged into one.
Tao is wu wei, namely Non-action. Non-action is to follow the rule of nature instead of overriding it. By conforming to the natural rules, Tao does nothing but it can do everything. Tao makes everything run smoothly but it does not boast about its own achievement. Those learning Taoism should be pure and take non-action.
Dialectic thinking is abundant in Lao Zi's system. He contended that Tao turned to the opposite during the circulation, like existing and non-existing, up and down, long and short, front and back, fortune and misfortune, strong and weak. Based on his thinking, a proverb was later devised, "Things will develop in the opposite direction when they become extreme." For example, Taoism holds that flexibility can defeat strength. Water was used as a metaphor in Lao Zi to explain the prowess of flexibility. Nothing can be more flexible and soft than water but it can defeat all tough things. Similarly, Taoism emphasizes humbleness and tenderness.
Taoism has its drawbacks. For example, Lao Zi promoted the idea of a return to a small state with a small population; people did not socialize though they lived so near that the barks of dogs could be heard. These ideas prevented social development. Also, Chinese intellectuals resorted to a hermitic way of life whenever they met setbacks; when they were successful, they would say "the less hermitry was to live in the remote areas while the great hermitry was to live in the court". The inner worldly and outer worldly attitudes made the Chinese intellects hover between the active Confucianism and the passive Taoism.
Development of Taoism
Taoism became a religion during the Eastern Han Dynasty and Lao Zi was respected as the creator of Taoism.
During Three Kingdoms, many scholar-bureaucrats practiced Taoism and it soon became separated into an aristocrat sect and a folk sect. This situation lasted till the Jin Dynasty but doctrines were not strictly adhered to due to the chaotic political background.
Religion can be this colorful and worldly.
Sui Emperors professed to Buddhism but still placed importance on Taoism. Ten Taoist temples were constructed in Chang'an (today's Xian) under the order of Emperor Yang, the notorious tyrant of Chinese history.
Tang Emperors regarded themselves as offspring of Lao Zi and Taoism developed rapidly and had a profound repercussion on the subsequent dynasties.
Unlike Buddhism, Taoism does not advocate asceticism. It pursues longevity and holds an open view toward sex. In the heyday of Taoism during the Tang Dynasty, there is no strict restriction on this. Taoist nuns were not uncommon. A poem satirizes that beautiful nuns were used to attract people as a means to compete with Buddhist temples.
In the middle years of the Tang Dynasty, aristocratic women, court maidens, and almes flocked to join the Taoist nuns, which had the effect of making this group more romantic and better endowed from a cultural and artistic point of view. The reasons why women became nuns varied; which meant that their prime purpose was not merely an ascetic life filled with devotion. Many were so beautiful that the temples were filled with people coming to solely to admire them. All these facts were noted in the Tang records. Many poets fell in love with Taoist nuns and many beautiful and sentimental poems were left when their love was unrequited. As Taoist nuns were called Nv Guan and later Nv Guan Zi, became a ci pai, a name of the tunes to which ci poems were composed.
Special institutions were set up by the Ming court to rule over the Taoist affairs. Another big event is the integration of the stories of the Eight Immortals. Over its long history, many legends about Taoist figures emerged and the most well-known are those of the Eight Immortals. A colloquial phrase has it, "like the Eight Immortals crossing the sea, each one showing his or her special feats'. These Eight Immortals are seven men and a woman. The images of the Eight immortals can be seen in many artifacts, from the bridal sedan to cakes, vases, paper-cutting and paintings.
Taoism was suppressed by the Qing rulers as well as by the foreign invaders consequent upon the Opium War. Taoism has been faced with a huge impact from foreign culture but it remains an influential system of thought among the Chinese people.
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Taoism, like Confucianism is a native Chinese religion. Its root's go back to the 5000 years of history of China. However, only by 100 BC Taoism evolved as an organized religion. Taoism is a reasoned doctrine and also the basis for Traditional Chinese Medication. Together with Confucianism and Buddhism, it has been invariably guiding Chinese in conduct and exercising authority.
Five Elements of Universe
Taoism emphasized on the relative "stability", which can be attained when a harmony is reached between "Yin" and "Yang", which are said to be the opposite but related natural powers of the universe.
There are 5 elements in the entire universe-
Wood- Yin, Water-Yin, Earth-Natural, Gold-Yang and Fire-Yang.
Taoism Religion guides Chinese about the role of these elements into ones life and to attain harmony. It requires meditation to attain intellectual calmness. Any act to one extreme will cause the opposite reaction in force until the balance is reached.
Taoism teaches that everyone should try to achieve two goals, happiness and immortality. The religion aims at securing longevity or attaining a kind of immortality, which could be attained through proceedings like-- medical treatment, breathing techniques, meditation, gymnastics, communal funeral etc.
Primarily, it was contemplated obligatory to maintain a proper harmony between the body and its own thousands of gods with their heavenly counterparts. The Taoists have a strong belief that there are two complementary souls present in the human body, that keeps it alive-- The three Hun-Souls, responsible for mans intellectual and moral behaviors and the seven PO-Souls, controlling such earthly aspects as passion and negative ethical behaviors.
By meditating them with deep concentration, speculating them in their respective domains of the body during three specific nights each month, one could prevent the departing of sole. The Taoists also gained their expertise in medicines. They invented their own occultism - that is, by consuming some specific drugs, one can attain the path of mortality.
Taoists worship more deities than do the followers of almost any other religion. Some deities are ancestors and others are the spirits of famous people.
The more worshipped gods in Taoist religion are the Trinity San Qing - The Three Pure Gods. They are-- Yu Qing -Jade Pure, the emperor who ruled the Earth, Shang Qing - Upper Pure and Tai Qing -Great Pure. God Tai Qing is considered as an immortal, divined and powerful of the other two.
The other deities include Empress of Heaven, and Laozy - an ancient Chinese philosopher who is also the founder of Taoism.
Famous Taoist Holy Temples
Temples and ceremonies show the influence of Buddhism. By A.D.1000, Taoism had divided into many sects. Some of the sects withdrew from daily routine to meditate and study in Monasteries. Other sects were based in temples. The temple priests passed on their position to their children.
Some of the most renowned temples on Taoism are--
Baiyun Temple known as White Cloud in Beijing, Baxian Temple - Eight Immortals in Shaanxi, Daoyuan -Taoist Temple in Shangdong, Louguan Terrace in Shaanxi, Zixiao- Purple Heaven Temple on Mt. Wudang in Hubei , Qingyang Temple in Chengdu
Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong.the list seems endless.
Famous Taoist Holy Mountains:
Mt.Wudang, Mt.Longhushan, Mt.Qingcheng, Mt.Qiyun, Mt.Huashan, Mt.Laoshan, Mt.Huangshan, Mt.Hengshan in Hunan, Mt.Hengshan in Shanxi, Mt.Songshan, Mt.Taishan, Mt. Wuyishan, etc.