What is Taoism:
Taoism is about learning, cultivation and practice, that is, learning about the ways of the Tao, self-cultivation to achieve Tao and practising the teachings of Taoism. Its origins could be traced back to the time of the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di, 黄帝), thereafter it was promoted by the philosophical writing of Lao Zi (老子), and finally organised as a formal religion by Zhang Dao Ling (张道陵), the religion’s Celestial Master.
Taoism is the only indigenous religion of China. It embodies forms of Chinese beliefs and traditions practiced from the early days of Chinese civilization. Thus, as the great Chinese writer Lu Xun put it, “The root of the Chinese people is Taoism.” It is commonly said that to understand Chinese culture, one has to understand the Taoist religion as Chinese culture lies in Taoism.
Taoism draws its philosophy and teachings from Lao Zi’s “Tao Te Ching” but it has never developed a dogmatic belief system. Instead Taoism wholeheartedly adopted the philosophy and principles of the “TAO”. Taoism emphasizes the paramount importance of understanding the natural order of things, because only by knowing the principles of the Tao people then can live in harmony.
Taoism views the universe and all its manifestations as operating according to a set of unchanging natural laws. Human beings can gain knowledge of these laws and become attuned to them. It is these natural laws that constitute the core principles of Taoism. Aligning ourselves with these principles provides a universal perspective and understanding that allows life to be lived in harmony with the Tao. Hence, Taoism may be defined as the Chinese philosophic-religious tradition dedicated to achieving harmony with the transcendent Tao.
Taoists dedicate Lao Zi’s birthday, 15th day of the 2nd Lunar Month to offer homage. All Taoist temples conduct prayers to mark the Supreme Patriarch of Taoism and keep this day as the Taoist Day.
轩辕黄帝> 是华族纪元的开始，故尊为道教始祖，并以他登帝位时(公元前 2697年) 作为第一个甲子的纪年开始，至今 2002 年一共 4699 年 (道历)。
老子> 道家思想的创始者，生于商朝武丁二十四年(公元前1301年)，岁次庚辰二月十五卯时，原名李耳，字伯阳，号聃，根据道书的记载，老子乃为元始天王所化神宝君之化身，道教奉为太上老君，太上道祖或道德天尊，列为三清尊神之一，乃大道至尊之神，道教尊为道祖，著有一部闻名于世的 <<道德经>>。
Three Grand Masters of Taoism:
The Yellow Emperor (黄帝)
The Yellow Emperor is commonly acknowledged as the progenitor of the Chinese world and is therefore also honoured as the founder of Taoism. The date of the beginning of his reign – BC 2697 is taken as the beginning of the Chinese calendar (the first jia zi 甲子). The Taoist calendar also dates itself from that point in time, and so Taoists regard the current year AD 2001 as the 4698th year on the Taoist calendar.
Lao Zi (老子)
Lao Zi is recognized as the initiator of Taoist philosophy. He was born during China’s Shang Dynasty, in the middle of the second lunar month in BC 1301. His actual name was Li Er. According to Taoist annals, he is the incarnate of the Celestial King of the Creation (元始天尊), and also the personification of the Lord of Divine Treasure (神宝君). He is also addressed as Tai Shang Lao Jun or Tai Shang Dao Zhu or Dao De Tian Zun, and is considered to be one of the Trinity of Holiness and Purity. Lao Zi is the author of the world-famous “Tao Te Ching” (The Book of the Tao and its Virtues).
Zhang Ling (张陵)
Zhang Ling is also known as Zhang Dao Ling. He founded the Orthodox One Sect (正一派) of Taoism. He was born in AD 34, during the Eastern Han Dynasty, and was a Descendent of Zhang Liang. Zhang Ling synthesized the prevailing customs of the people at that time with the teachings of the Tao Te Ching to form a Wu Dou Mi Taoist Sect (五斗米道, another name for the Orthodox One Sect) and he became the Heavenly Master (天师). He preached the Tao of the Yellow Emperor and Lao Zi and formalized rituals and regulations to give Taoism a form identity as a religion. The Sect performed charity far and wide and its reputation gradually spread throughout the land to become a religion of the Chinese people.
道教以 “忠” ，”孝” ，为主 ，以 ” 敬天法祖，利物济人 ” 为务，本自由，平等和平的原则学道，修道和行道，毫无拘束。道家修养功夫分内修(出世) 和外修(入世) 两门。出世与入世并无畛域，不偏于一门。
道教所信奉的神很多，故道教是一个多神教，基本信仰可分神 (无极界)、仙 (太极界)、圣(现世界)。道教徒将神，仙和圣，统尊称为神明，即天神普照光明。
Basic Tenets of Taoism:
Taoism’s main precepts are “loyalty” and “filial piety”. In practice, it calls on its faithful to “respect heaven, honour ancestors, and be compassionate to man and all things under heaven”. In promoting the learning and cultivation of Tao, it adheres to the principles of liberty, equality and peace. Personal cultivation in Taoism has two aspects to it: Inner (内修) and Outer (外修). The Inner stresses a state of truth to and authenticity within one’s self. The Outer requires one to be loyal, filial, benevolent and thrifty, all with the purpose of improving oneself and helping others. There is, however, no clear dividing line between the Inner and the Outer.
Good deeds are emphasized in Taoism. This message is clearly stated in the Taoist text Tai Shang Gan Yin Pian (太上感应篇):If you are in harmony with the Tao you will advance…. Be kind and compassionate to all things. Be dedicated in whatever you do… Help the orphans and widows. Respect the old and care for the young. Do not hurt trees, grass, and insects. Share in the suffering of others. Delight in the joys of others. Help people in desperate need. Save people from harm. View the good fortune of others as your good fortune. View the losses of others as your own loss
Taoists worship many deities and so Taoism is polytheistic. The deities belong to three realms: Shen (神) (Wu ji or the Limitless Realm), Xian (仙) (Tai ji or the Great Realm) and Sheng (圣) (Terrestrial Realm). They may be translated into the approximate English terms of gods, fairies and saints. In Chinese, the Divine is collectively called “shen ming” (神明), which literally means “radiance of the celestial soul”, thus referring to a divine or supernatural force
Taoists usually perform worship in their own household or in the temple. The temple is metaphorically the residence of a heavenly official. Thus, it is built with the characteristics of the palaces and residences of imperial China. Cosmologically, the temple represents the Taoist image of the world. The principal door of the temple opens toward the south and the temple walls on either side often have the images of the Green Dragon and White Tiger. Another easily noticeable characteristic is the roof. It is often an image of a sacred mountain, the paradise of the Immortals. The figurines that decorate the roof depict legendary figures and heroes of sacred myths. One can also find that at the top of the roof, two dragons looking at each other over a flaming pearl located in centre. This pearl represents the pure energy (chi) that emanates from the incense burner in the temple. Being the sanctuary of the Divine, the décor is often very elaborate and expensive. It represents the sincerity of devotees towards the Deity.
At times of festivities, Taoists also perform worship in temporary tents and shelters. Such structures are often set up because the temple ground is too small to hold a large congregation of devotees and also the need to engage the services of Taoist masters to perform rituals. Such special ritual space is called “the Tao’s enclosure” (Dao-chang 道场).
In the Taoist religion, ancestors are remembered and honoured with offerings; they are also worshipped. The practice of remembering and honouring one’s ancestors is to promote harmony and happy living within the family unit. It reaffirms the family identity and maintains the transition in order of succession.
The Taoist Symbol (TaiJi):
The symbol of Taoism called the TAI JI (meaning the “Great Ultimate”) is a circle divided into two parts. One part is dark and the other is light. They represent the forces of ying (negative) and yang (positive) which embody the Tao. The dark side of the Tai Ji is called “Ying” and it represents earth, night, darkness, coldness, inwardness and femininity. The light side is called “Yang” represents heaven, day, brightness, heat, outwardness and masculinity.
The forces function in the form of the five basic elements: water, fire, wood, metal and earth. The movement and transformation of ying and yang are constant and spontaneous, producing cycles of changes. When these cycles reach an apogee, it will be, as Lao Zi puts it: “The Tao produces the one. The one produces the two. The two produces the three. The three produces all beings.”
The ying and yang complement and counterbalance each other but neither ying nor yang is good or bad in itself. Only an excessive predominance of one or the other is dangerous. For the Taoist, ying and yang are complementary opposites and neither could exist without the other. The merger of ying and yang into one circle called the Tai Ji is the perfect stage of Tao, also named “Tai Ping” (太平) a symbol of harmony and the final unity of Tao.
道教徒互 相敬 礼的手势是右手先握拳，然 后左手抱着握拳的右 手并摆在胸前。这也是一 般华人对别人敬 礼时用的手势。道教也用这种手 势，虽然多了一些步 骤，但大致也一抱拳为标 准。 因 为这个抱拳的手势代表了整 个太极，所 以
道教徒在拜神祭祖的时 候，也同 样用这个手 势然 后行三拜。太 极代 表了整 个宇 宙，道教徒用敬神的手势来对亲 戚朋 友敬 礼。显 示了道教徒对他 人的礼 仪是真 诚的。遗 憾的是因 为缺 乏道教教 育，以 至一般人认 为双手和十是道教的敬 礼手势。这是一个应该纠 正的错误。
Basic Greeting Rites:
Taoists greet each other by cupping left hand in the right before one’s chest. Similar to the common way of greeting in traditional Chinese culture, Taoists will cup the hand in a unique way to form the symbol of Tai Ji. When Taoists pay homage to the Deities, they will also use the same hand sign and in addition, they would prostrate 3 times in front of the Divine. The Tai Ji symbolises the entire universe and the Taoist is showing as much respect to his fellow friend as he will show to the Divine. However, due to lack of religious education, the act of clasping both hands together is thought to be the hand sign for Taoists.
七魄：一名尸狗，二名伏夫，三名雀阴，四名吞贼，五名非毒，六名除秽，七名臭肺。此七魄为身中之浊鬼，酉阳杂俎云: 三魂营骨，七魄卫肉” ，人在阴阳交配(天地之和)孕育成人体时，至三魂俱则生育，后每隔七日一魄生，共七七日(四十九天)则七魄全俱，时为弥月 (即完满之意) 。
Taoist View on Life and Death:
Life: Man, like all living things, belongs to the world of nature and has limited life cycle. Hence, man should learn to love his body and develop both its physical and spiritual potentials. Whatever human desires should be kept in moderation. Man should perform charitable acts, be modest and thrifty, and love his fellow human beings in order to achieve an inner peace.
Taoism believes that man embodies the ying and the yang. The yang component comprises the three Hun (三魂) and the ying component comprises the seven Po (七魄).
The three Hun (魂) are made up of:Tai Guang (胎光), Suan Ling (爽灵) and You Jin (幽精).
The seven Po (魄) are made up of: Shi Gou (尸狗), Fu Fu (伏夫), Que Yin (雀阴), Tun Zei (吞贼), Fei Du (非毒), Chu Hun (除秽) and Chou Fei (臭肺). These are the filthy elements inside our body.
As recorded in the book You Yang Za Zhu (酉阳杂俎), “The three Hun form the skeleton and the seven Po make up the flesh”. A process of ying and yang combining (a merger of heaven and earth) makes Man to give him a physical form, and that is when the three Hun are assembled. Thereafter, every seven days brings into the body a Po; and within a period of 49 days, the entire seven Po would be assembled. That moment is called the Full-month (弥月).
Death: is not the ending of life but the beginning of a next stage in life: the “spiritual stage”. Taoists are therefore advised to undertake Chao Yu (超幽), a ritual that would allow the deceased’s spirit (the three Hun) to transport itself from the realm of Jiu You (九幽) to the Dong Hua Ji Le (东华极乐) realm, the eternity of the other world. However, the seven Po linger after death and Taoists believe that a ritual should send off each of these seven Po once every seven days. Only when that is done at the end of 49 days, is the deceased fully at rest and also capable of blessing the living descendants from that other realm.
道藏是一本收集了历 代道书的重 要经书。内容包含了教理，神学，礼 仪，科仪，医 药和风 水。历朝历代都出现了很多版 本的道藏。遗 憾的是这些版 本都被摧 毁了。现在的这本道藏是明朝时编 织的。道藏对道教来说是非常重要的。可是现在它还在重编当 中，因为道藏内有和多深奥的字眼和图形。
道是万物的根源。它是无名，无形的，难以抓莫。但却也是无边无际，用之不尽的。一 切万物都依 赖它。隐 藏在世界的变迁和动态，道是永恒不变的。
道虽然是万物的根源，但它不是神仙或神灵。在”道德经” 中，天，地，河 流，山 川都是属于 大道的。大道是一股无 形，无名，无私但又仁 慈的力 量在运 行着整 个宇 宙。
The Taoist Canon (道藏)
The Taoist Canon is the main compilation of Taoist texts over the centuries. The contents comprise of religious, philosophy, rites, ceremonies, medical, geomancy, etc. There had been several versions of the Taoist Canon over the different Chinese dynasties. However, all had been destroyed except the last one complied during the Ming Dynasty. The Taoist Canon is an important source of reference for the religion; however, it is currently under utilized because of the obscure language and symbolism it contains. At this point of time, Taoist academics and scholars are still in the process of adding modern-day Chinese language explanations to make the Canon reader-friendly.
Tao Te Ching
The Tao Te Ching (道德经), known also as the Laozi (老子) is a short text of about five thousand characters. It is the classic of all Taoism, the oldest and most important of its works. It is divided into eighty-one chapters and two major sections, dealing with the Tao and the Virtue respectively.
The opening chapter of Tao Te Ching describes the Tao as:
The Tao that can be spoken of
Is not the eternal Tao
The names that can be given are not absolute names,
The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth:
The named was the mother of all myriad creatures …
Mystery upon mystery – the gateways of manifold secrets.
The Tao is the source of life of all things. It is nameless, invisible, and ungraspable by normal modes of perception. It is boundless and cannot be exhausted, although all things depend on it for existence. Hidden beneath transition and constant change, the Tao is the permanent underlying reality.
Although the Tao is the source of all life, it is not a deity or spirit. In the “Tao Te Ching”, the sky, the earth, rivers, and mountains are part of a larger and unified power, known as the Tao, which is an impersonal and unnamed benevolent force behind the workings of the universe.
道是宇 宙萬 物的根源。道 德經第四十二章說：道生一(太 極 )，一生二((陰 陽 )，二生三(天地人 )，三生萬物。
在天 地尚未形 成前，整 個宇宙是處于混沌的階段。這個時候只有散閃行行的混 合精氣。當這些氣凝 聚在一起，時 機成 熟後就開 始分 開了。
輕又透 明的氣便會升起 來形 成了天。重又半透明的氣著往下沉，形成了大地。然後再一次，這些氣便再 度凝 聚在中 央，形 成了中孚，不升不沉。一 切萬 物就是從這三界而生。
The Tao is the origin of all things and the underlying unity of all things. The Tao Te Ching specifically defines it as:
The Tao gave birth to the One (Tai Chi)
The One gave birth to the Two (yin and yang)
The Two gave birth to the Three (heaven, earth and man)
The Three gave birth to the myriad of creatures. (Chapter 42.)
Before Heaven and Earth were formed, the whole universe existed in the state Primordial Chaos, called hun-tun (混沌). It contains the matrix of chi, the “breaths” or pure energy-matter which is still diffused, undifferentiated, and subjected to the influence of Tao. As the matrix matures, it breaks up, freezes the breaths, the light, transparent “chi” rise and form heaven, the heavy, opaque ones sink, forming Earth. Once again, the chi united in the Centre, which constitutes a third fundamental modality. Myriad things are then formed from these Three Basic modalities.