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Daoism An Ancient Chinese Religion Essay

1172 words - 5 pages

Taoism, although an ancient Chinese religion, is still an active and popular religion and philosophy that has survived due to its history and its doctrine, thus proving that a nascent philosophy from ancient times can still be viable and relevant for humanity’s daily life.
Although there is no specific date of the creation of Daoism, many legends shed light onto the history of the origins of this way of life. Lao-Tze, meaning the “old philosopher”, is known as the “founder of Taoism” even though it is “not clear whether [or not] he [is] a real person” (Hays). Lao-Tze supposedly lived during the Zhou dynasty in China where he served as a librarian and astrologer for the Zhou emperor (Hays). There are many legends surrounding this mythical creator. From his being “conceived by a shooting star” and born as a wise old man “after being carried in his mother’s womb for 81 years” (Hays). Another infamous legend of Lao-Tze describes him “[climbing] on a water buffalo and [setting] off in the direction of…Tibet” where he “write[s] down Tao Te Ching (The Way and its Power), a short…synopsis of his beliefs” in a single night (Hays). This absurd birth as well as his interactions with Confucius cause Lao Tze to be considered a mythical philosopher. It is during the Han dynasty that Daoism was firmly established as a religion and philosophy (Hays). However the organization quickly fell apart as sects began straying from Lao Tze original beliefs and cult’s developed with esoteric beliefs and improper rituals in hopes of achieving immortality. Through the centuries it has varied from organized religions, crude rituals, and ethical philosophy.
The religious aspect of Taoism, called “Tao Chiao”, combines varying Taoist beliefs with myriads of deities and ancient texts. These beliefs, at the core values, are similar to the philosophical Daoism. Fiero states that “Daoism embraces a universal and natural principle- the Dao, or Way” (Fiero). This way is the driving force and motivation for followers. Tao is an idea that permeates everything viable in the universe. At the same time Tao is “ineffable… [and] beyond words” (Li). Religious Taoism embraces “the belief in physical immortality” and preserving the human body to achieve Dao (Majka). In order to achieve longevity and immortality “one must practice Taoism both inside and outside one’s physical existence” (Li). In addition to these core beliefs, religious Daoism has many deities that guide one’s soul.
Tao Chiao maintains multiple deities, representing different sects, circumstances, and qualities of ceremonies. Although Lao Tze and Chuang Tzu never intended there to be specific deities, Li suggests that Tao Chiao “introduced deities to attract believers and please the emperor” and without them the religion” might have not been able to survive to today” (Li).The varying levels of importance of the deities depends on the sect of Tao Chiao. One of the most important deities is Yu-Huang, or the Jade Emperor. The...

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