Throughout the history, people have needed to believe
in something especially a religion with many purposes such as not to feel empty
thinking what would happen after the death or what the point is in living on
this world and to nourish the soul with the teaching of the religion. In China,
there are five religions that recognized by the Chinese Government. And these
are Taoism, Buddhism, Islam and Protestant and Catholic Christianity. In this
paper, the topic of Taoism, one of the oldest religions in China, which carries
Chinese thinking and philosophy, will be handled. However, besides than a religion, Taoism is
also a philosophy that many people follow. The concepts related to Taoism, the
topics of the origin, the tradition of Taoism, its founders, its books, Taoist
deities, sacred sites of Taoism, and important Taoist holidays will be handled mainly
on this study.
Firstly, it is important to explain some concepts
about Taoism to understand it in a comprehensive way. The first concept, Tao means
the way, route, path that people follow to reach the actuality waiting at the
end (Blankey, 1983, p. 37). Tao existed before Taoism and can be seen in
Confucianism. In fact, being on the way is more important in Taoist thinking
than attaining the actuality. In fact, the concept of Tao existed before Taoism
and could be seen in Confucianism. The second concept, “tê is the virtue,
character, influence, moral force” (Blankey, 1983, p. 37). The third concept,
wei wu wei has various meanings. One of them is to move without moving. Another
is living in the harmony of nature. The fourth concept, Shen Jen refers to the
wise man, the sage. And the last concept, T’ien means the divinity, the creator
(Blankey, 1983, pp. 39-41). These concepts are also used by Confucius before Taoism
Taoism is the only religion that originated from China
and spreads through the World. Nowadays, it has approximately twenty to fifty
million followers around the world. However, it is hard to estimate the number
of Taoist and there are not any specific patters of Taoism (Rogers, 2009, p.
130). Taoism is considered to be founded by Yellow Emperor, I Huang Ti. He is
considered as lived earlier. And Lao-tzu, one of the essential Taoists, writes
the book of Taoism “the Tao Te Ching”, the oldest book reached to the present
time. Then Chuang Tzu, living during the Warring States era, improves Taoism.
And he writes the book of Chuang-tzu, also referred as Nan-hua Ching. These are
important works for the Taoism religion. However, there are some doubts about
the origin of these books and even whether they have lived or not are doubtful (Hu
and Allen, 2005, p. 9).
The main thinking of Taoism is the path of the
universe and Tao creates and gives birth to everything on the Earth. However,
it is not obligatory to comply with it and it doesn’t dictate its power. Also,
balancing is an important issue in Taoist thinking. For example, night and
morning, darkness and brightness go after another (Hu and Allen, 2005, pp. 27-28).
The concepts such as yin-yang, feng shui, pa kua, lio
po belong to Taoist tradition. Ying-yang symbolizes the two apposite powers
such as morning and night, good and bad. It refers that morning would not come
if the night does not exist. Keeping the
balance and distributing the power evenly is important in yin-yang (Hu and
Allen, 2005, p. 30). Feng shui, a belief originated in China, is about keeping
up with the nature. And it is also used to cure sick people. Pa Kua, also known
as Eight Trigrams is a demonstration of yin-yang. Each line on the Eight
Diagrams symbolizes ying and yang (Cooper, 1977, p. 33).
Taoists perform their religion on natural environments
such as in mountains and caves. Therefore, they are their natural sacred sites.
They often set of on journey to the mountains overcoming life threatening
situations such as passing over the rivers and encountering with the wild
animals in their habitat. The purpose of this journey is to purify the souls
and find themselves. Some of them come back to share and deliver their
teachings to the people to enlighten them whereas some do not. Furthermore,
they discover curable herbs on their journey to mountain and they focus on the
philosophy of feng shu. As well some scriptures and some remnants such as
swords have been excavated on the mountains. The well-known Taoist mountains
are Five Peaks, Taishan, Hengshan, Huashan, Hengshan and Songshan. Taoists also
share their sacred sites with Buddists (Pregadio, 2008, pp. 72-73).
Taoist religion has rich works of art. The first
masterpiece of art is painted by Taoist Hsieh-ho. Taoist art is not just about
what is seen on the picture. It has deeper meanings and purposes such as consolidating
and nourishing the soul. Taoism also shares same thinking with other beliefs.
The figures, the people are drawn as moderate creatures on the paintings. Men
don’t symbolize the infinite power in contrast to Western Art. Due to the
Religious belief, it is not aimed to influence people with the work of art. The
art of Taoism is about forgetting who you are, purifying yourself from your
egos. Thus why, some Taoist artists prefer not to sign their masterpieces. The
art of calligraphy is also common in the religious works. As known in the art
of calligraphy, it is not possible to draw again and erase the things drawn.
The artists should draw it rapidly and without any uncertainty. The Taoism
religion can be correlated with the art of calligraphy since people cannot undo
what they have done earlier, and they should live in harmony with the people and
adopt themselves to live in the community like the calligraphies arranged in a
straight line connected systematically with the others (Cooper, 1977, pp. 80-86).
Finally, Taoism has some same holidays with other
religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism since people from these religions
live close to each other and they are constantly in the interaction. They share
the holidays such as Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival and the Ghost
Month. On the New Year, people organize dinner events to present to kitchen
deity, believed that he settles down in the kitchen and his aim is to protect
the kitchen. Some people put alcohol on the dinner table on that day to hinder
the kitchen deity to utter the mistakes made by the family members and people
pray on the morning of that day for the deities to bring wealth. The other
holiday is lantern festival celebrated on the first month of the lunar calendar
for the celebration of Emperor of the Heavenly Realm’s birthday. On that day,
people light candles pray for benisons. Furthermore, they sing, dance on that
day for the honor of the Emperor of the Heavenly Realm. As a special tradition, they present the dish
of yüan-hsiao (yuanxiao) to the Emperor of the Heavenly Realm. One another
holiday in Taoist tradition is the Ghost Month. That all ghosts are freed from
the hell and come to the human’s world on that day is believed. And people on
the world prepare food and offer money for the well-being of the ghosts that
they love. And this indicates that Taoists believe in etherealness (Hu and
Allen, pp. 60-65). Not only Taoists have these holidays. Buddhists also
celebrate these days.
To sum up, all religions have some traditions and
customs. And the traditions, customs and holidays, festivals, practices of
Taoism are seen in other religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism. They even
share their sacred sites and temples and they perform their religious practices
in the same place as they live together. Instead of conflicting, these people
live in harmony with others, having different religions, in the society.
Blankey, B. (1983). The Way of Life Lao Tzu: A new
translation of the Tao Te Ching, New York: Penguin Books, 37, 39- 41.
Cooper, J. C. (1977). An Illustrated Introduction to
Taoism: The Wisdom of the Sages. Indiana: Word Wisdom, 33, 80- 86
Hu, H., and Allen, W. C. (2005). Religions of the World: Taoism. Chelsea
House Publishers, 9, 27-28, 30, 60- 65.
Pregadio, F. (Ed.). (2008). The Encyclopedia of Taoism I. New
York: Routledge, 72- 73.
Rogers, P. C. (2009). Ultimate Truth Book I. Bloomington: