Guide to Taoism

Origins of Taoism

Taoism has no single founder and no real date of origin. It is formed from many different philosophies and religious traditions in China and was really recognised as a religion in itself around 300 BC. It grew to become the official Chinese religion during the Tang and Song dynasty but was banned after the communist takeover of the country in the 1960s, soon becoming popular in Taiwan where there was more freedom.

Beliefs

Taoism does not have a God in the way many other religions do. There is no specific being that controls the universe. Instead, Taoists believe in “the Tao”, which literally means “the way”. It is an abstract idea rather than a God-like “person”. It is a force that universe springs from, and that keeps everything moving harmoniously.

However, Taoism still does have Gods, mostly borrowed from other religions. These deities are within this universe and are themselves subject to the Tao. Many of them are gods of a particular role, rather than a personal divine being.

Taoists also believe that they can journey out of the body into higher spiritual realms. They do this through meditation and rituals and believe that this eventually brings them closer to the Tao.

Rituals

Although Taoism is often thought of as an agnostic philosophy in Western civilisation, it in fact functions as any conventional religion in China and Taiwan. Taoists have temples and monasteries and take part in religious rituals and ceremonies. Priests carry out conventional tasks as in other religions and regulate the relationship between the world of humanity and the spirit world.

The key book of Taoism is the Tao Te Ching and was compiled around the 3rd century BC. Tao Te Ching means “The Way (Tao) and Its Power. It is a short book divided into 81 small chapters containing descriptions of the cosmos and advice on how to live a good life.

No single person wrote the Tao Te Ching. It is a collection of different proverbs and sayings of many anonymous people over the course of many years.

Religious Holidays and Festivals

Most Taoist religious festivals celebrate the birth of deities or Gods.

Taoist followers regard Lao Tzu’s birthday on the 15th day of the 2nd lunar month as the most important festival. He is seen as the first God of Taoism and the personification of the Tao.

The first major holiday in the Taoist calendar year is the Chinese New Year, held on the first day of the first lunar month, equivalent to February on the Western calendar. Rituals in the temple and the home celebrate with an offering of sweets, a banquet, and exchange of gifts with family and friends.

Celebrity Followers!

Bruce Lee – Star of hundreds of Chinese martial arts films. In fact, martial arts are a big part of Taoism as they are important in connecting the physical to the divine.

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