Taoism is a religion that originated in Ching, probably during the 300’s B.C. Taoism is also the name of a religion that began in the 100’s B.C. Through the many years this religion has influenced artists and writers in the East and West. The word Tao (also spelled Dao) originally meant road or way. The Taoist studied their religion and they believed that everything in the world was explained by the way. The word (the way) is also meant as reality as a whole or individual ”ways”
The beliefs of Taoism appear in two books, the “Lao-tzu” (later renamed the “Tao Te Ching” The Classic Way and Virtue) and the Chuan-tzu are all the different books that they often read. The “Lao-tzu” is a book that was brought together by many unknown authors. At first Confucianism was very popular among the Chinese but they believed they had to many rules. In Confucianism people can live a good life only in a well-disciplined society that stresses attention to ceremony, duty, mortality, and public service. Although in Taoism it was not as strict. In the Taoist religion they believed to live a simple life yet still mediated and was close to nature. The Taoist religion had an influence on many of the artist involved. Tao Qian was highly against any type of violence and wanted a life in harmony with nature. Xia Gui painted paintings and landscapes that reflected the Taoist sensitivity to nature.
Taoism was influenced by Chinese folk religion. In folk religion their gods are represented as human being who displayed exceptional powers during their lifetime. One of many they believed was a god that was a human being in there past lives was Guan Di, who is the protector of business people, lived as a general during the A.D. 200’s. The priests would display public rituals in which they submit the people’s prayers to the gods of folk religion. The chief priest, who is in a trance, prays to other divinities for the worshipers. These divinities are not former human beings but represent aspects of Tao. “The members of some Taoist groups have sought to attention immortality through magic, meditation and special diets, breath control, or the recitation of scriptures.
Tao is the first-cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life. The goal of everyone is one with the Tao. The concept of a personified deity is foreign to Taoism, as is the concept of the creation of the universe. Thus, they do not pray as Christians do; there is no God to hear the prayers or act upon them. They seek answers to life’s problems through inner meditation and other observation. Time cyclical, not linear as in western thinking. Yin (dark side) is a breath that formed the earth. Yang (light side) is the breath that formed the heavens. They symbolize pairs of opposites that are seen through the universe, such as good and evil, light and dark, male and female. Intervention by human civilization upsets the balances of Yin and Yang. “The Tao surrounds everyone therefore everyone must listen to find enlightenment.” Five main organs and the body that complement Taoism are the five parts of the sky: water, fire, wood, metal and earth. Each person must nurture the Ch’I (air, breath) that has been given to him or her. Development of virtue is ones major task. The three jewels that identify Taoism are compassion, moderation, and humility. Taoists follow the art of “wu wei”, which is to achieve action through minimal action. “It is the practice of going against the stream not by struggling against it and trashing about, but by standing still and letting the stream do all the work. Thus the sage knows that relative to the river, he still moves against the current. To the outside world the sage appears to take no action-but in fact he takes action long before others ever foresee the need for action.” Taoists believe that “ people are compassionate by nature… left to their own devices [they] will show this compassion without expecting an award.”
Sivin, N. “Taoism” The World Book Encyclopedia. 1997, Volume19 page 36