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Taoism, also spelled Daoism is a philosophical movement that has its roots in the earliest Chinese culture and whose oldest written sources from the late Zhou Dynasty strains (period of the 'Warring States' 481-221 v. Chr.). From a strict ethical philosophy Taoism early on developed into a popular religion, which also finds many supporters today.





The central theme of Taoism is the comprehensive universal law of nature (Dao = Path), to which one must adapt as people. Nature in the broadest sense, would be controlled by the interaction of cosmic forces, Yin and Yang. Living in harmony with nature is an important ideal. The people appointed by the society seen as artificial. The retreat from the human world is one of the typical Taoist phenomena. The ideal classical Taoist scholar is usually depicted as a hermit and mystic individualist.


Later, Taoism also adopted religious traits. Taoism was originally a philosophy without specific gods, later it has developed as a true folk religion with many gods, saints and other shadowy creatures added to the pantheon. Here, the experienced a strong (mutual) the influence of the Buddhist. The magic rituals tribes in many cases probably from an ancient shamanism.


Taoism has among other traditionally dealt with immortality and methods to achieve this. Many attempts have been made and claims posited to create the necessary elixir of life with the help of magic and alchemy. The alchemy was practiced to prepare for instance gold. This was mainly Taoists who stood at the cradle of the nascent science in China. It presupposes that the leadership of these scientific dilettantes China actually has no service. Because natural long identified with mysticism and magic they were despised by the secular power. It seemed possible that the natural sciences in Chinese society have been similar pioneering role in the West.


Taoist writings


The second important book of Taoism is the "Zhuangzi", named after the equally legendary author. This book is about the ideas and actions of Laozi. It promotes the simplicity of life without passion and without knowledge. The work probably dates from the first century BC. 

The development of Taoism to a folk religion took place from the second century, when the decline of the Han Dynasty. There was a kind of ecclesiastical organization headed by the "Heavenly Master" (Tianshi) with fixed rituals around many gods and saints. Part of the teaching was about all kinds of mystical properties associated with natural phenomena such as mountains, rivers, the five elements etc. Believers tried through the gods and mystical practices to improve his lot on earth or even achieve immortality. The first Heavenly Master Zhang was Daoling (34-156). He became the leader of a sect he founded the Tianshi, and was succeeded by his son. This succession was still continuing and the line of Celestial Masters has continued to this day (in Taiwan).

the Daodejing


The most important book of Taoism is the Daodejing ( "The Book of the Way and Virtue"). This book contains elements of the teachings attributed to the legendary philosopher Laozi and consists of a large number of mystical spells in the spirit of Taoism. We also know the paradoxes in this book. It is now attributed to Li Er, that would have been a contemporary of Confucius. In the 70s of the 20th century came from a tomb from the Han Dynasty (at Mawangdui, Hunan Province) a script Daodejing, written on bamboo slats, appears. It was owned by the son of the Marquis of Dai, who died in 186 BC Is and was buried in the tomb. This copy of the Daodejing ever found, the earliest version of this writing.


yellow Turbans


Around the middle of the 2nd century the bloody uprising broke out the so-called Yellow Turbans, against the authority of the Han. This revolt was inspired and supported by Taoists. The insurrection was suppressed quickly and bloody, but the successors of Zhang Daoling did between 184 and 215 to establish a practical Taoist independent state in the northwest of the province of Sichuan.


During the period of division (approximately 220-581) published the Taoist religion continues on throughout China, often in competition with Buddhism. The Han Dynasty (618-906), which is usually mostly associated with Buddhism, was also a golden age for Taoism. Several Tang emperors were fanatical Taoists. Especially when Taoist scholars were able to demonstrate that the imperial family was descended from Laozi. The number of Taoist monasteries peaked and the amount collected and annotated writings.


The bloom was during the Song Dynasty continued. Especially his artistic achievements and catastrophic political reputable Huizhong emperor (r. 1101-1125) Taoism strongly supported, including through its policy and the construction of many temples. Initially the Mongol rulers of the Han Dynasty (1276-1368) Taoism favor, but by all sorts of intrigues Buddhist opponents turned the tide and even deteriorated since 1281 in oppression and persecution. During the dynasties of Ming and Qing, the Taoists were able to continue their activities again, but did not play a major role in politics and society more.


Nowadays Taoism especially popular in Taiwan, Hong Kong and among overseas Chinese emigrants. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution are Taoist religious activities again be tolerated in the People's Republic.


Taoist schools


Like Buddhism, Taoism also has spawned different schools (or sects). Apart from the above Tianshi sect, called two more here. 
In the fourth century the Maoshan sect, named after a mountain in Jiangsu. This sect was also Shangqing genoemd.De school "complete perfection", Quanzhen, founded in 1127, has many Confucian and Buddhist elements included in its teachings.



Reactie van lezers:

Monique Aerts: Han dynasty was van 206 vChr tot 220 nChr. Van 618-907 nChr. was er de T'ang dynastie en van 1276 tot 1368 de Yuan dynastie. Cfr. chronologie B. Ter Haar en Kritofer Schipper.