Taoism (Daoism) - A Chinese Philosophy

Painting depicting the sacred birth of Chinese philosopher and Taoism founder Laozi.

Taoism is a religious and philosophical tradition that has had one of greatest impacts on the Chinese culture and ways of life for the past 2,000 years. The Taoist religion and philosophy have spread to the neighboring countries who have had close ties with the Chinese, including Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea.

5. History and Overview of Beliefs

Taoism, also known as Daoism, is a local and native Chinese religion and a philosophy, which is connected with the Tao Te Ch'ing, a political and philosophical manuscript allegedly written by Lao Tzu. The Tao Te Ch'ing centers on the Dao as the way to lead others and guiding behavior.Taoism did not start as a structured religion until 142 C.E when Zhang Daoling established the Division of the way of the extraterrestrial masters. He founded the sect on spiritual conversations from the sacred Laozi, which later participated in intricate ritual practices such as commitment to a broad range of immortals and extraterrestrial spiritual deities. Many of Taoism religious manuscripts were written over the centuries. Additionally, most of the Taoists were actively involved with the Chinese politics and played significant roles throughout the Chinese History. In one occasion, intellectuals in the West and China disregarded idealistic truths from the Taoism religion.

4. Global Presence and Notable Members

There are around twenty million Taoists all over the world, the majority of which live in Southeast Asia, especially Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. Additionally, Taoism has progressed and influenced the West, particularly in the fields of martial arts, and substitute medicine such as Tai Chi. Taoism is divided into two Tao-chaio, which is religious Taoism, and Tao-chia, which is a philosophical Taoism. Religious Taoism stresses on religious customs intended at achieving immortality. While philosophical Taoism centers on thoughtful writings of Chuang-Tzu, Lao-Tzu, and other spiritualists.Taoism religion has spread to most Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Korea and it became a religion of thoughts without real explanations of the faith. Notable members of Taoism include BenjaminHoff, Bruce Lee, Alan Watts, Empress Dou (Wen), and Ursula K. Le Guin a science fiction writer.

3. Development and Spread of the Faith

Over time, Taoism has spread throughout China and to several other countries in Asia. There are no Taoist missionaries as they believe that people should look for them if they want to convert to Taoism religion. Its adoption was mainly along the trade paths and routes. The emergence and spread of Taoism religion contributed to the growth and evolution of the religious order such as temples and sacred principles. Taoism religion is founded on idealism and philosophy more than worshiping holy beings and divinities.

2. Challenges and Controversies

Although many religions in China have flourished over the years, especially in the post-Mao era, Taoism has been gradually fading away. Despite the religion being the main contributor to the Chinese tradition and culture, most present day Chinese particularly the young hardly have any idea of the teaching of the religion. The young generations are not even aware of the theological difference between Taoism and other large religions such as Buddhism. It is not only in China that Taoism seems to decline but in such neighboring countries as Singapore many adherents are converting to other faiths, including Islam and Christianity. The decline could be attributed to poor social networking and non-availability of the teachings of the faith, and then there are other aggressive religions seeking converts in the region, namely Islam and Christianity.

1. Future Prospects

The Government of the People's Republic of China recognizes five major religions in the country, namely including Buddhism, Islam, Protestant Christianity, Catholic Christianity, and Taoism. The cultural revolution of the mid-1960s and early 1970s where religions in the country were suppressed by the communist party, but presently there is freedom of worship and major world religions are making a major onslaught for new converts in China. Taoism is gradually losing ground, and the religion could easily be extinct in future.


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