Taoism

21 05 2006

I received a letter from one of a specialist – Ching Wi who is the manager of the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery in Sinagpore. She told me that people who believes Taoism only will burn spirit money. So, to find out more about what is Taoism…I started to read some books about Taoism.

Below are some quotes I got from the book. The book name is Principles of TAOISM, From Bournemouth Library.

Paul Wildish, 2000, Principles of Taoism, Publisher: London; Thorsons.
………………………………………………………………………………….

Taoism is one of the world's oldest spiritual/philosophical traditions, predating the foundation of Christianity by some four or five hundred years. The Tao encompasses a message of balance and proportion – you must seek to avoid discord and to achieve harmony by finding the middle way between any two extremes. Taoists believe in the profundity of nature that, out of its continuous cycle of change, tends always towards the most harmonious outcome. All life is therefore subject to this cycle of change, pulled between the interaction of opposite polar influences that are never wholly good nor wholly bad but, instead, are complementary aspects of the same primordial One: the Tao that manifests all existence (page 1)

Taoism, and its two great counterparts Confucianism and Buddhism, comprise the 'three teachings' whose historic dialogue has conditioned so much of the character of Chinese society (page 1)

The cosmology that forms the basis of the Taoist teachings existed long before Lao-Tzu made his journey west (page 08)

The term 'Tao' can be simply translated as 'road' or 'path', but is more commonly described as the 'Way', which if followed without deviation or restraint, will realize the individual's potential to interact harmoniously with creation (page 9). The Tao, or the 'Way', has been one of the principle influences on Chinese civilization and culture for the last 5,000 years.

In 150 CE, the Han emperor set up a shrine dedicated to Lao-Tzu and took the unprecedented step of leading official ceremonies to honour his memory. For the emperor to venerate a figure who was not one of his own ancestors in this way implicitly recognized Lao-tzu as a celestial power. Although deified in this way, Lao-tzu was not regarded as God in the sense of Judaic, Christian and Islamic traditions. Lao-tzu was remembered and honoured in the same way as Chinese families still venerate their ancestors; to ask for their guidance and to thank them for the watchful help they give to the family. All Taoist religious practice must be seen in the context of this tradition, where veneration and the making of offerings to deities does not equate with the Western religious concept of worship (page 43).

By the beginning of the 20th century, organized Taoism in China was in serious decline. Beginning in the 1890s the Manchu imperial court began to adopt a sceptical view of religious Taoist doctrine and practice. Although Taoist templea and monasteries were still supported from state funds they were no longer looked upon with any real favour. When the Nationalist government os Sun Yat-sen took power in 1911, state support for Taoism's institutions and infrastructure was severed. The Nationalists viewed Taoism as an outdated superstition and stood by to let it sink or swim on its own. By this time Taoism was in no condition to manage to keep open its monasteries and temples without state assistance. Many religious institutions, containing art works of great beauty, fell into decline and were abandoned to rot. A further blow to Taoist institutions came with Japan's invasion in 1937 and brutal devastation of China. Many temples were vandalized or destroyed by the Japanese Army (page 133).

Taoism was not the only faith to suffer during the 1930s and 1940s – the temples and churches of other faiths and religions were also destroyed in the general carnage. All faiths were again to share the same fate when the next blow fell. With the overthrow of the Nationalists and the foundation of the Communist-led People's Republic of China in 1949, all organized religion was banned (page 134).

Of course Taoism did survive persecution in exile. There are thriving Taoist communities in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the USA and wherever there are large Chinese communities. These communities are lending their support to Taoism's recovery in mainland China, and it seems likely that Taoism will see a resurgence that will, once again, establish it as a major world religion (page 135).

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2 responses

24 05 2006
Jing

Hi Chang,

Sorry for the late reply. After coming back from Pulau Aur I was down for the finale of the Canadian International School’s Yearbook production. I just complete sending all artwork to the printer today. Phew!

While I was busy, I also started reading your email and your blog articles. At the same time, I did some quick internet research hope to find out more information:

I was delighted to find some interesting websites such as selling hell money online… See link below:

http://www.rubbertrouble.com/joss.php

Different types of hell money… see link below:

http://www.luckymojo.com/hellmoney.html

I was born in a Chinese Malaysian family in North Borneo. Every year we briefly celebrate both festivals Ching Ming and Yue Laan. It is the simplified version of putting together joss papers, hell money and some paper cut cloths etc., then go through a series of praying and at last, burn the papers.

As a child, I used to help my mum folding joss papers in various shapes of Yuen Bau… An these folding techniques became by first experience of origami art. I always amaze how the hell money was designed. It has every detail of the real money could have.

In my opinion, burning joss papers and hell money and all the accompanying workships is not really Taoism. It is more a transformation from Taoist philosophy into Traditional Chinese Practice…

I will touch on whether or not I see these as an art in my next comment. For now, take care! 🙂

24 05 2006
hongy

Thanks, Jing. Good to see u in my blog. I hope you enjoy reading my blog 🙂
Yes, there are many things need to find out before I really come out the clear outline in my project. It sounds abit worry..I only have another 3 months to say bye bye to my MA. And really hope everything will go smooth 🙂

Hey, I appreacire your help and sharing ur knowledge with me. Thank you again. Remember, Ching Wi, she wrote me a letter last week and forward my project outline to her friends who might provide me spirit money information.

This morning, I received few letters from her colleagues from Kong Ming San temple (http://www.kmspks.org/). They are very helpful and friendly. And the information are very useful.

I though Buddhists are not burning spirit money ( only for Taoists )…but below link has another an explanation which is very new to me and useful.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zeph/message/306

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