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Taoism: Basic Terms and Concepts

Taoism: Basic Terms and Concepts

Taoism (/ˈdaʊɪzəm/), also known as Daoism, is a religious, philosophical, and ritual tradition which began in China. The core teaching of Taoism is becoming one with ‘Tao.’

1. Taoism highlights living in harmony with the ‘Tao’ (also ‘Dao’) (literally ‘Way’).

2. Tao is also a central idea in Chinese religions other than Taoism, like Confucianism. In Taoism, nevertheless, Tao stands for the principle that is both the source and the design of development of all that exists.

3. The ‘Tao Te Ching’ (or ‘Daodejing;’ “Classic of the Way of Power”), a compact book comprising teachings credited to Laozi (also Lao Tzu), is generally considered the grounding work of the Taoism together with the later writings of Zhuangzi.

4. Book ofChuang Tze (Zhuangzi or Chuang-tzu) is an ancient Chinese text from the late Warring States period (476–221 BC) which comprises stories and anecdotes that exemplify the carefree nature of the ideal Taoist sage. The book is one of the two bedrock texts of Taoism, along with Tao Te Ching. But whereas the Tao Te Ching is cold and proverbial in style, the Chuang Tze buzzes with life and insights, typically with considerable humor behind them.

5.One of Taoism’s chief concepts is ‘wu wei,’ which is usually translated as ‘non-doing’ or ‘non-action’ or ‘non-intervention.’ However, a better way to look at it is as a paradoxical ‘action of non-action’ or ‘effortless doing.’

6.As seen in its famous symbol (clled the Taijitu), yin yang refers to two halves that together complete wholeness. The word ‘yin’ comes out to mean ‘shady side’ and ‘yang,’ ‘sunny side.’
Yin yang is the concept of duality forming a whole. People encounter examples of Yin and Yang every day, such as night (yin) and day (yang) and female (yin) and male (yang).

7. Simply put, the law of reversion states that anything that develops extreme qualities will revert back to its opposite extreme, and in this way everything becomes a cycle of constant flux. The principle of reversion thus declares that the arrival at an extreme indicates the start of decline. 

8. “Incense is used as a medium to communicate with the deities, as the Taoist scriptures mentioned: The precious incense burns in the golden incense burner, and the emitting smoke travels up to the heavens. The incense is the communication tool for man to convey our wishes and messages to the deities, the rising smoke from the combustion carries our wishes up to the heavens.

9. All this corresponds to the “Taoist footprint” as epitomized in the general use, in traditional China, of cloth shoes with soft cotton soles, so as not to crush ants or other small insects when one inadvertently walks over them. This custom is based on one of the rules that governed, almost two thousand years ago, the first nature sanctuaries in Sichuan, and bears witness to the fact that already at that time there was the awareness that everything in the environment was connected.” (“Taoist Environmentalism,” n.d.)

10. Until today, there are called Taoist nature sanctuaries (TNS), no less than one hundred and fifty very outstanding sites in terms of landscape beauty, vegetation, and wildlife. In those environmental sanctuaries, no hunting, land clearing, plant gathering, mining or pollution was allowed for almost two thousand years. Many of these sites harbor rare and endangered animals and plants. Historically, this is how TNS began to exist:

Part II
1. The Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu or Chuang Tze) is an ancient Chinese text from the late Warring States period (476–221 BC) which comprises stories and anecdotes that exemplify the carefree nature of the ideal Taoist sage.

2. In Taoism, houses, buildings, and temples are carefully chosen and designed according to the principles of feng shui, which literally means ‘wind and water.’ Feng shui seeks to promote prosperity, good health, and general wellbeing by evaluating how energy (called ‘qi,’ pronounced ‘chee’) flows through a particular room, house, building, or garden.

3. In Taoism, the practice of wu wei is the expression of what is deemed to be the highest form of virtue, that is, one that is in no way planned, but rather arises spontaneously. One cannot actively pursue wu wei. It manifests as a result of cultivation. The Tao is a guide.

4. A usually cited metaphor for naturalness is ‘pu,’ the ‘uncarved block,’ which represents the original nature, prior to the imprint of culture of a person.

5. The incense is the communication tool for man to convey our wishes and messages to the deities, the rising smoke from the combustion carries our wishes up to the heavens. The scriptures also explained that the offering of three sticks of incense is to convey a message to the deities, and the deities of the three realms will turn shower blessings on us.

6. As seen in its famous symbol (called the Taijitu), yin yang refers to two halves that together complete wholeness. The word ‘yin’ comes out to mean ‘shady side’ and ‘yang,’ ‘sunny side.’

7. The ‘Tao Te Ching’ (or ‘Daodejing;’ “Classic of the Way of Power”), a compact book comprising teachings credited to Laozi (also Lao Tzu), is generally considered the grounding work of the Taoism together with the later writings of Zhuangzi.

8. Tao Te Ching may be translated as ‘Instruction regarding the Way of Virtue.’ Containing eighty-one short sections in a poetic style, the text varies widely in content, from practical advice to universal wisdom, embracing politics, society, and human nature.

9. The Zhuangzi was named for its traditional author, ‘Master Zhuang’ (Zhuang Zhou or Zhuangzi), a man commonly said to have been born around 369 BC at a place called Meng in the state of Song (around modern Shangqiu, Henan Province) and died around 301, 295, or 286 BC. Some reference claim that Zhuangzi was not the sole author of Chuang Tze.

10. One of Taoism’s chief concepts is ‘wu wei,’ which is usually translated as ‘non-doing’ or ‘non-action’ or ‘non-intervention.’ However, a better way to look at it is as a paradoxical ‘action of non-action’ or ‘effortless doing.’

Part III
1. The core teaching of Taoism is becoming one with ‘Tao. ’It is the chief philosophy of the Taoist that becoming one with the Tao, or the life force of the universe, brings peace and harmony to them.

2. Tao stands for the principle that is both the source and the design of development of all that exists. From Confucianism, Taoism differs by not accentuating rigid rituals and social order.

3. Taoism categorically promotes environmentalism as it is a very old nature philosophy that has been considered significant in environment-care even by today’s scientific standards. Taoism strives for a world wherein the laws of nature are respected. Tao is nature.

4. Taoist thinking and tradition have found their way into cultures influenced by China, especially those of Vietnam, Japan, and Korea.

5. It is important to note that Laozi itself is an honorific title. As a religious figure, he is worshipped under the name ‘Supreme Old Lord’ (Tàishàng Lǎojūn).

6. The book is one of the two bedrock texts of Taoism, along with Tao Te Ching. But whereas the Tao Te Ching is cold and proverbial in style, the Chuang Tze buzzes with life and insights, typically with considerable humor behind them.

7. “In 742, the Zhuangzi was canonized as one of the Chinese Classics by an imperial proclamation from Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, though most orthodox scholars did not consider the Zhuangzi to be a true "classic" (jing) due to its non-Confucian nature” (“Zhuangzi,” n.d.).

8. One of Taoism’s chief concepts is ‘wu wei,’ which is usually translated as ‘non-doing’ or ‘non-action’ or ‘non-intervention.’ However, a better way to look at it is as a paradoxical ‘action of non-action’ or ‘effortless doing.’

9. The principle of reversion thus declares that the arrival at an extreme indicates the start of decline.  Believing in this idea of the cyclical, Taoism holds that life and death are eternal transformations of being and non-being, and that through this cycle, you will reap what you sow.

10. It is said that Tao works well, though through manmade global warming, the harmony is disordered. 

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