A Simple, In-Depth Introduction to Chinese Taoism
by: Jason Randhawa
Chinese Taoism – A Definition
Chinese Taoism is basically A principal philosophy and system of religion of China. Basically, Chinese Taoism advocates a life of complete simplicity and naturalness and of noninterference with the course of natural events, in order to attain a happy existence in harmony with the Tao.
A Brief History of Taoism
The history of Taoism is relatively “unknown”. According to Wikipedia, the history of Taoism depends on how it is defined, “Taoism’s origins may be traced to the prehistoric Chinese religion; to the composition of the “Tao Te Ching” (3rd or 4th century BCE); or to the activity of Zhang Daoling (2nd century CE). Alternatively, one could argue that “Taoism” as a religious identity only arose later, by way of contrast with the newly-arrived religion of Buddhism, or with the fourth-century codification of the Shangching and Lingbao texts.
Other accounts credit Laozi (reputed author of the Tao Te Ching/Dao de Jing) as the teacher of both Buddha, and Confucius. They describe early Taoism (Daoism) to ancient picture writing, mysticism, and indigenous Ancestor worship. Symbology on tortoise shells predates early Chinese calligraphy and is the basis of written Chinese from artifacts dated from prior to 1600 BCE.”
Lao Tzu and Taoism
Lao Tzu is credited with writing the sacred Taoist book “Tao Te Ching”. Here is an excerpt from the Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching as translated by JH McDonald (Part 41):
When a superior person hears of the Tao,
She diligently puts it into practice.
When an average person hears of the Tao,
he believes half of it, and doubts the other half.
When a foolish person hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud at the very idea.
If he didn’t laugh,
it wouldn’t be the Tao.
Thus it is said:
The brightness of the Tao seems like darkness,
the advancement of the Tao seems like retreat,
the level path seems rough,
the superior path seem empty,
the pure seems to be tarnished,
and true virtue doesn’t seem to be enough.
The virtue of caution seems like cowardice,
the pure seems to be polluted,
the true square seems to have no corners,
the best vessels take the most time to finish,
the greatest sounds cannot be heard,
and the greatest image has no form.
The Tao hides in the unnamed,
Yet it alone nourishes and completes all things.
As you can see, the Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching is a very powerful text, regardless of the history of Taoism.