Philosophical and Religious Taoism

 

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Explaining Taoism

What is Taoism

Taoism (道教) is a Chinese philosophical and religious system which began approximately

4700 years ago. It was founded by Huang Ti (Yellow Emperor its inception, but the

principal canon were not formulated until much later by Lao Tzu ()_hin his writings the

"Tao Te Ching' (道德经). Taoism is seen as 'a complex system of philosophical thought that could be indulged in by only a few individuals." (Compton: 1992) There are two forms of Taoism, The Taoist philosophy (Tao Chin) and the Taoist Religion (Tao Chiao) which developed later.

The Taoist philosophy encourages harmony between man and nature, detachment from struggles and reunion with nature - these ideas are based on the Yin-Yang dualism (陰陽原理). The Yin-Yang principle is the relationship between two forces called Yin and Yang whose continuous interaction gives birth in turn to the Five Elements (五行) from which all events and objects are derived. 'Yin is dark, soft, mysterious, wet, passive and the female element. The earth itself is predominantly Yin. Yang is bright, dry, warm, active and male. Heaven is predominantly Yang in character." (Dixon, 1984:91) Behind this principle is the belief that there is a deep relationship between humans and nature. Each can affect the other_ Nature can bring either prosperity or disaster to humans and they can upset the delicate balance of nature by their actions_ Together they form a unity where humans must therefore harmonise with nature, not go against it_

Taoism religion began about the first century AD. It was a combination of Taoist philosophy and Chinese folk religion with its many gods and a hereditary priesthood. Taoists seek individual immortality as their ultimate goat. The way to this is through special diet, breath control and magic. Others move along by searching for knowledge in nature, medicine, astronomy and alchemy

Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu (551-479 BC), one of the founder of Taoism along with Huang Ti, was named Li Erh and had the courtesy name Lao Tan_ He was keeper of the archives at the imperial court. In his 80th year he set out for the western border of China, saddened and disillusioned that men were unwilling to follow his path to natural goodness. At the border, the guard Yin Hsi requested that Lao Tzu record his teachings before he left, whereupon he composed in 5,000 characters and 81 chapters the "Tao Te Ching". The essential teaching of Lao Tzu is the Tao (way), to ultimate reality--the way of the universe exemplified in nature. For example in "Tao Te Ching", Chapter 7, the teaching stresses that understanding of the inner self can overcome desires and selfishness (Appendix 2:Tao Te Chino.

Chuang  Tzu

Chuang  Tzu 莊子 lived between 399 and 295 BC, and is considered with Lao Tzu,to be

the second founder of Philosophical Taoism. He was born at Meng Mona n) and declined an offer of premiership by the ruler of Ch'u, preferring freedom. Freedom is the keynote of Chuang Tzu's teaching, which stemmed from the Taoist concepts of nature_ Chuang Tzu's collection of essays is rich in poetic imagery, his arguments are driven borne with fantastic allegory and the humorous dialogue of imaginary people.

 

     

 

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What is Taoism