Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Daoism

The Way

A Daoist statue in Beijing, China. (ulrichsson/flickr)

A Daoist statue in Beijing, China. (ulrichsson/flickr)

The Way

Chinese communists see Daoism as fatalistic and passive, a detriment to socialist reconstruction. The People's Republic has kept alive some practical arts, such as the use of traditional herbal medicines, which have longstanding links with Daoism. In a larger sense, since Daoism functioned in imperial China as a retreat and withdrawal from the struggles of the political arena, one might say that in a very general way the current relaxation of political pressure in reaction against the excesses of the Gang of Four represents a Daoistic phase of Chinese Maoism.

 

Notes

Excerpted and adapted from Wm. DeBary, ed., Sources of Chinese Tradition, New York,: Columbia University Press, 1960, I: 56.
Arthur P. Wolf, "Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors," in his (ed.) Religionand Ritual in Chinese Society, Stanford: Stanford University Press,1974, p. 131.
Cyril Birch, Anthology of Chinese Literature, Vol. 1, New York: GrovePress, 1965, pp. 167-168. This anthology contains excellent andreadable translations of poems, biographies, essays, and stories thatare very successful in conveying religious attitudes. A useful resourcefor classroom selections.
See Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China, Vol. 2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956, pp. 33-164.
Arthur P. Wolf, "Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors," pp. 131-182.
Michael Saso, Taoism and the Rite of Cosmic Renewal, Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1972.

Author's note: This article and the one on Confucianism were written during the Indiana Religion Studies Project Institute for Teaching about Religion in the Secondary Social Studies Curriculum. The drafts were critiqued by the social studies teachers who attended with an eye to supplementing and correcting the information in textbooks and other materials used by teachers. The two articles should read as a pair;they complement each other in much the same way these two religions complemented each other throughout Chinese history.

Editor's Note: It is a matter of scholarly debate whether to change the term Taoism (or Taoist) into Daoism/Daoist to conform with pinyin's rules. Since Taoism is an coined, anglicized word, our choice is not to put it in the pinyin, in spite of the fact that we have changed "theTao", the way, to "the Dao." The current literature on China includes both spellings. It remains for the future to determine which will predominate.