The Daoist Tradition: An Introduction

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View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title Using a historical, textual and ethnographic approach, this is the most comprehensive presentation of Daoism to date. Buy New View Book. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title. Customers who bought this item also bought.

Stock Image. New Paperback Quantity Available: 1. Seller Rating:. Published by MacMillan Publishers. The Daoist Tradition Komjathy, Louis. New Quantity Available: 2. New Quantity Available: 3. The Daoist Tradition Louis Komjathy. New paperback Quantity Available: 5. 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.

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 harmonized the concepts of the Wu Xing Five Phases 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, [18] 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, visualizing 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 [98] 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": [] []. 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.

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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 organization flags and logos, temple floors, or stitched into clerical robes. According to Song dynasty sources, it originated around the 10th century CE. 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.

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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 memorizing ancestors, such as time of Qingming. Also on particular holidays, street parades take place.

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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 practiced through planchette writing.


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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.

A number of martial arts traditions, particularly the ones falling under the category of Neijia like T'ai Chi Ch'uan , Bagua Zhang and Xing Yi Quan embody Taoist principles to a significant extent, and some practitioners consider their art a means of practicing Taoism. The number of Taoists is difficult to estimate, due to a variety of factors including defining Taoism. Most Chinese people and many others have been influenced in some way by Taoist traditions. Since the creation of the People's Republic of China, its government has encouraged a revival of Taoist traditions in codified settings.

In , the Chinese Taoist Association was formed to administer the activities of all registered Taoist orders, and received official approval in It was disbanded during the Cultural Revolution under Mao , but was re-established in Taoist literature and art has influenced the cultures of Korea , Japan , and Vietnam. Organized Taoism seems not to have attracted a large non-Chinese following until modern times.

In Taiwan 7. Throughout Chinese history there have been many examples of art being influenced by Taoist thought. Ancient Taoist art was commissioned by the aristocracy, however scholars masters and adepts also directly engaged in the art themselves. Daoism never had a unified political theory. While Huang-Lao positions justified a strong emperor as the legitimate ruler, [] the "primitivists" like in the chapters of the Zhuangzi argued in strongly for a radical anarchism.

A more moderate position is presented in the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi in which the political life is presented with disdain and some kind of pluralism or perspectivism is preferred. Many scholars believe Taoism arose as a countermovement to Confucianism. In general, Taoism rejects the Confucian emphasis on rituals , hierarchical social order, and conventional morality, and favors "naturalness", spontaneity, and individualism instead.

The entry of Buddhism into China was marked by significant interaction and syncretism with Taoism. Taoism especially shaped the development of Chan Zen Buddhism, [] introducing elements like the concept of naturalness , distrust of scripture and text, and emphasis on embracing "this life" and living in the "every-moment". Taoism on the other hand also incorporated Buddhist elements during the Tang dynasty , such as monasteries, vegetarianism, prohibition of alcohol, the doctrine of emptiness, and collecting scripture in tripartite organization.

Ideological and political rivals for centuries, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism deeply influenced one another. In time, most Chinese people identified to some extent with all three traditions simultaneously. Some authors have dealt with comparative studies between Taoism and Christianity.

This has been of interest for students of history of religion such as J. Isamu Yamamoto [] the main difference is that Christianity preaches a personal God while Taoism does not. Yet, a number of authors, including Lin Yutang , [] have argued that some moral and ethical tenets of these religions are similar.

Until recently, the Mawangdui manuscripts have held the pride of place as the oldest extant manuscripts of the Laozi. In late , the excavation of a tomb identified as M1 in Guodian, Jingmen city, Hubei province, has yielded among other things some bamboo slips, of which are inscribed, containing over 13, Chinese characters. Some of these, amounting to about 2, characters, match the Laozi. The tomb See also: Hundred Schools of Thought. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin. Neidan , or internal alchemy, an array of esoteric doctrines and physical, mental, and spiritual practices that Taoist initiates use to prolong life.

Holy places. Main article: Daoism—Taoism romanization issue. Main article: History of Taoism.

Life Lessons From Lao Tzu: The Taoist Philosopher of Old

Main article: Taoist philosophy. Main articles: Tao and De Chinese. Main article: Wu wei. Main article: Ziran. Main article: Three Treasures Taoism. See also: Three Treasures traditional Chinese medicine. Further information: School of Naturalists , Qi , and Taoism and death. Main article: Taoist theology. Main article: Tao Te Ching. Main article: Zhuangzi book. Main article: I Ching. Main article: Daozang.

Main article: Neidan. See also: Taoist alchemy , Taoist sexual practices , and Neijia. Further information: Taoist art. See also: Vinegar tasters. Religions in the Modern World. New York: Routledge. What Is Taoism? Hsieh, Sages and Filial Sons. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved The Routledge companion to philosophy religion 1st paperback ed. London: Routledge. Religion and Society. On: Review of Religion and Chinese Society 1 , — Daoism Handbook.

Leiden: Brill. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list link pp. State University of New York Press. Archived from the original PDF on March 27, Chan, in Kohn , p. Ultravisum, Shambhala, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Stanford University. The discovery of two Laozi silk manuscripts at Mawangdui, near Changsha, Hunan province in marks an important milestone in modern Laozi research. The manuscripts, identified simply as "A" jia and "B" yi , were found in a tomb that was sealed in B. The texts themselves can be dated earlier, the "A" manuscript being the older of the two, copied in all likelihood before B.

Retrieved 29 May Walking the I Ching. Blue Snake Books, The I Ching Workbook Doubleday, Cleary, Thomas, tr. The Taoist I Ching. In Alon, Ilan ed. Chinese culture: organizational behavior, and international business management. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers. Taoism emphasizes social phenomena as multilevel 'living' systems organized in hierarchies of complexity and involving self-organizing 'consciousness. An aesthetic construction is oriented towards Virtue. The wisdom of virtuous leadership lies in the humanistic capacity to harmonize the imagination of the family, group, clan, or nation.

In this sense, it is a social constructivist worldview. The Eastern archetype is dialectic in expecting an unfolding pattern to emerge from an acceptance of simultaneous multiple realities. Therefore, the whole and the parts are codetermined and neither is coherent outside the mutuality, complementarity and 'oneness' they share.

The Daoist Tradition: An Introduction by Louis Komjathy

The everyday cognitive characteristics of the aesthetic construction are effectiveness, emergence, unpredictability, and wholeness. Taoism involves a multivalent or plurivalent, multivalued, fuzzy, 'shades of gray' and non-linear worldview that sees contradiction and paradox as normal, experiential, and valuably coherent common sense.


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The generic principle of relationality is central to holism and to understanding the Eastern archetype. The focus is upon the whole as a system of related parts. Relationality rather than the self [ When relationality replaces the self, Virtue replaces Truth, because actions must adhere to what we all can harmoniously accept in our imaginations rather than to what one person can rationally prove is true or real.

Religions in the Modern World Third ed. New York: Routhledge. Archived from the original PDF on 27 April Retrieved 16 May Archived from the original on 8 July Hong Kong Government. Singapore Department of Statistics. Archived from the original PDF on 3 March The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Oxford University Press, US. Open Court. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, p. Ulysses Press. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Taoism. Isamu Christianity and Chinese Culture.