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The Taoism ( Chinese  道家 , Pinyin Daojia  - "Teaching the Way"), in accordance with other transcriptions and Taoism is a Chinese philosophy and belief and will serve as China's own and authentic religion viewed. Its historically established origins go back to the 4th century BC. When the Daodejing (in older transcriptions Tao te king, Tao te ching etc.) of the Laozi (Laotse, Lao-tzu) originated. There are sometimes significant differences between philosophical and religious Daoism, but ultimately the two cannot be sharply delineated.

In addition to Confucianism and Buddhism , Daoism is one of the three teachings ( 三 教 , sānjiào ), through which China was significantly shaped. The Three Doctrines have exerted a significant influence on people's religion and spiritual world beyond China as well. In China, Daoism influenced culture in the areas of politics , economics , philosophy , literature , art , music , nutrition , medicine , chemistry , martial arts, and geography .

Daoist adept


When exactly the Taoist teaching arose remains unclear. Daoism only took shape after a long process of development, whereby currents of antiquity were continuously integrated. The Taoist doctrine takes up a lot of ideas that were widespread in China at the time of the Zhou dynasty (1040–256 BC). These include the cosmological ideas of heaven and earth, the five phases of change , the teaching of (energy), Yin and Yang and Yijing (I Ching), but also the tradition of cultivating body and mind, using breath control and other techniques like taijiquan and qigong , meditation , visualization and imagination , alchemy and magical techniques immortality wanted to be achieved. The search for immortality , a central theme of Daoism, probably goes back to very old beliefs, because in the Zhuangzi , a Daoist classic from the 4th century BC. The Xian , the immortals , are already mentioned, the most important of which are the yellow emperor, Huangdi , and the queen mother of the west, Xiwangmu . These are figures that may have appeared as early as the Shang period in the 2nd millennium BC. Have existed.


Due to the various forms of expression, the unclear demarcation from other religions and the lack of statistical records in the People's Republic of China , the exact number of followers of Daoism is difficult to determine. Approximately 8 million Daoists live in Taiwan today , where many followers of the Daoist schools sought refuge from the persecution of the Cultural Revolution .

The Daoist Association in the People's Republic assumes around 60 million Daoist believers in the PRC. Daoism is also widespread among the overseas Chinese and in other Asian countries such as Malaysia , Singapore , Vietnam , Japan and Korea .

Laozi and the Daodejing

Laozi, larger than life stone figure from the Song Dynasty near Quanzhou

Whether there  really was a thinker named Laozi ( Chinese  老子 - “the old master”) is doubted today. Traditionally, the Daodejing (the classic of the Dao and the De ) is ascribed to him. His biography is steeped in legends and extremely controversial. It is said to be at the time of the spring and autumn annals in the 6th century BC. Lived, which was marked by unrest and wars. It represents a heyday of Chinese philosophy , as many scholars wondered how peace and stability could be achieved again. One speaks therefore of the time of the hundred schools . The Daodejing contains such a teaching, which is aimed at the ruler and wants to bring about peace.

The Daodejing is also referred to by the name of its legendary author as Laozi . In its present form it is divided into two books with a total of 81 chapters. The first part deals with the Dao, the second with the De. However, the book does not represent a logically structured construction of a worldview, but rather appears as a disordered collection of mystical aphorisms that stimulate one's own, subjective interpretation. Therefore, over the course of time, several hundred commentaries were created as interpretations of the text and hundreds of translations.

The Zhuangzi

In contrast, the Nanhua zhen jing , "The true book of the southern blossom country" (actually, "The true book from Nanhua", the city from which Zhuangzi, who was also called "the true man from Nanhua" came from) is written quite differently . It was founded in the 4th century BC. BC, shortly after the creation of Daodejing , by Zhuangzi (Dschuang Dsi, Chuang-tzu, about 369–286 BC), after whom it is also called Zhuangzi (also Dschuang Dsi ). In it the essence of Daoism is explained in often paradoxical parables and anecdotes , in which philosophical discussions are woven. Zhuangzi takes up some ideas of Daodejing, but rejects others - so nothing is left of the Laoi's political goals. The unworldly sage ( Zhenren ) is the ideal image here. As with Daodejing , authorship is also controversial here. Zhuangzi is certainly a historical figure, but most of the book was probably compiled by his students.

The Liezi

The Liezi (also Lieh-tzu or Liä Dsi ) or the “True Book of the Swelling Primordial Ground” resembles the Zhuangzi in some sections . The wisdom, often presented in a humorous way, some scholars suspect, was compiled over a period of about six hundred years (300 BC to 300 AD). Others see Liezi as a historical personality who lived before Zhuangzi, or the book is assigned to a philosophical school. The book includes the teachings of the philosophers Liä Yü Kou and Yang Dschu , with Richard Wilhelm pointing out that there is no historical evidence for the former. The “Revelations of the Invisible World” given in the first book show the profound Daoist discussion of philosophical questions, when, for example, in the fourth section a saying of the Lord of the Yellow Earth is quoted: “The spirit enters its gates, the body returns to its own Root, how should the ego be able to last there? ”, Or in the seventh and eighth section two quotations attributed to Confucius (in the text: Dschung Ni) or“ Master Yän ”are brought, in which it says:“ Big is death: he brings the good to rest, the bad he subdues. "

At the time of the Laozi and the Zhuangzi, neither a philosophical nor a religious organization that could be called Daoism can be proven. There are only a few texts that testify to Daoist ideas and which were later understood as canonical writings when Daoist organizations were founded . However, it is undisputed that these texts were developed in connection with religious practices and beliefs.

Daoism between philosophy and religion

Inside the Taoist Temple in Cebu City in the Philippines

The distinction between Daoism as a religion and Daoism as a philosophy , which has long been used based on Sinology , is conceptually fuzzy. It is more of an aid to Western Sinology and was introduced to help describe various aspects of the long history of Daoism. Nevertheless, a distinction is made in Chinese between philosophical Daoism (Daojia, 道家 , dào jiā ) and religious Daoism (Daojiao, 道教 , dào jiào ). However, Daoism is just as multifaceted as other religions. In the course of its more than two thousand year history, the most diverse doctrines and systems have emerged. Today's sinologists see religious Daoism as the practical realization of philosophical Daoism. The separation of religious and philosophical Daoism is therefore a simplification; There is therefore a tendency in research to no longer use this distinction because it does not do justice to the complexity of the subject. After all, the pair of terms is of limited use because it enables a first, helpful structure in a description of Daoism. However, the facts are much more varied than this simplification suggests.

The Dao

The word "Daoism" is derived from Dao (Tao), a term in Chinese philosophy that was used before Daodejing , but only received its central position and special, universal meaning in this text. Dao originally meant “way”, but in classical Chinese it already meant “method”, “principle”, “the right way”. With Laozi, the concept of Dao then takes on the meaning of an all-pervasive principle underlying the whole world. It is the highest reality and the highest mystery, the primordial unity, the cosmic law and absolute. From the Dao arise the "ten thousand things", i.e. the cosmos , and the order of things also arises from it, similar to a natural law, but the Dao itself is not an omnipotent being, but it is the origin and union of opposites, with which it ultimately is indefinable.

Philosophically, the Dao could be understood as beyond all conceptuality, because it is the ground of being, the transcendent cause and thus contains everything, including the opposition between being and non-being. In this sense nothing can be said about the Dao because every definition contains a limitation. The Dao, however, is both unlimited transcendence and the principle immanent in the cosmos, in the universe .

"The Tao that can be described in words is not the true Tao."

- Laozi: Daodejing

Through the work of Dao, creation is brought about through duality, yin and yang , light and shadow, from whose changes, movements and interactions the world emerges.

Temple on the Heng Shan in Hunan

Daoist ethics

The ethical teaching of Daoism says that people should orientate themselves to the Dao by observing the course of the world in which the Dao is expressed. Thereby they can get to know the laws and manifestations of this world principle. Since the Dao reveals itself in the Ziran , the "self-so-being", nature, it stands for naturalness, spontaneity and versatility. The wise man achieves harmony with the Dao less through understanding, willpower and conscious action, but rather in a mystical-intuitive way by adapting to the course of things. Daoism says that there is nothing in the cosmos that is fixed: Everything is subject to change (Chinese , ) and the wise person realizes the Dao by adapting to the change, development and growth that make up the phenomenal world.

In the changes in the phenomena, every thing and being spontaneously realizes its own "path", its own Dao. It is considered ethically correct to let this spontaneity run its course and not to intervene, so Wu knows to practice “not intervening”, “not acting” or “not forcing”. Things and their course are viewed as self-ordering and unfolding and realizing themselves in their nature. To the sage it seems pointless to waste one's energy in a constant act of will of action (of intervening in the natural workings of the Dao). Rather, the doing should be appropriate. The desired pure and non-self-centered spirit should make it possible to act that is not blinded by one's own wishes and desires. Man should simply "let it happen".

It is therefore seen as wise to interfere as little as possible in the work of the Dao or even to oppose it. Goals are achieved better than through great effort if the natural, self-running processes that are determined by the Dao are used for them. This principle of action without exertion of force is precisely the Wu Wei. By following the natural processes of change, the wise man arrives at an inner emptiness. He realizes the acceptance and union of opposites, because the Dao, which produces the Yin and Yang, is the cause and union of these two. Thus, in harmony with the natural processes, the sage realizes the fulcrum of the phases of change between Yin and Yang, the empty center of opposites.

The Daodejing provides the world view that remained the ideal of the Daoist sage: equanimity, withdrawal from worldly affairs and relativization of values ​​as well as naturalness, spontaneity and non-intervention.

According to the Daoist view, only conformity with the Dao leads to lasting and true happiness. Involvement in worldly affairs, on the other hand, leads to a decline in true virtue (De). It is thus considered advisable to gain indifference to goods such as wealth and comfort, and to beware of excessive desires.

Despite this genuinely Daoist ethic, later Taoism also adopted ethical teachings from Confucianism and Buddhism. Ge Hong refers to Confucian virtues, the Lingbao School adopted the universal goal of salvation from Buddhism, and Quanzhen Daoism also borrowed the ethical rules for monks and nuns from Buddhism.

Daoism as a religion

Taoist priest at Tai Shan

The difference between philosophical and religious Daoism, which this article uses for pragmatic reasons (see above), could be understood in such a way that philosophical Daoism has the ideal of the sage who realizes the Dao by adopting a certain attitude, while the religious Daoist strives to achieve enlightenment and to realize the Dao by using different methods such as meditation ( Qigong , Taijiquan ), concentration , visualization , imagination , breathing techniques, alchemy , ritual and magic from mind and body, the microcosm , an image of the macrocosm and in this way becomes one with the universe and its immanent Dao.

The first confirmed date of Daoism as a religion is the year 215 AD, when Cao Cao recognized the Church of the Sky Masters . Daoism does not have a closed or uniform system, as it refers to many heterogeneous sources.

Many schools of Daoism strived for immortality, they probably emerged from shamanistic techniques and immortality cults (see also Fangshi and Wuism ), which were connected with the philosophical direction of Daoism during the Han period . The highest goal of religious Daoism is eternal happiness as Xian (immortal), whereby immortality is not necessarily physical, but also has to be understood metaphysically and as immortality after death.

In all schools of Daoism, its followers strive to return to the origin. This is expressed in terms of Daoist mysticism e.g. B. the return to the one, to the pearl, the return to the state before heaven and earth existed, or the creation of the cosmic embryo. This return happens when the Daoist adept uses a classifying system, the cosmological bases of which are yin and yang , the five phases of change and other numerological coordinates, and moves to the center of the cosmos he has constructed and classifies, connects, determines and names, to achieve integration and to make the world an instrument of the spirit .

The Daoist gods , also called " immortals ", often have no history, others go back to historical or legendary people who are seen as important for the development of the country and people. But they rather represent an incarnation of functions as individuals or gods in the western understanding. In addition to the gods by whom the adept is sanctified, there are also gods over whom he can command. The triad of the highest deities represent the three pure ones .

The Taoist paradise is in the Kunlun Mountains in the west, but there are also other realms of bliss, such as the Penglai Islands , where the miraculous plant of immortality grows. Daoism's notions of hell were taken over from Buddhism.

Relationship to Buddhism

When Buddhism came to China in the 2nd century, it was initially perceived as a strangely distorted variant of Daoism because the first translators of Buddhist concepts used terms from Daoist teachings. In addition, a Daoist legend said that the founder figure Laozi emigrated to the west. In China they simply declared that Laozi had come to India and, as Buddha, had converted the “barbarians” to Daoism; but they did not fully understand the teaching, and so Buddhism came into being. The mutual influence of Daoism and Buddhism also resulted in new schools. A successful example of such a fusion is Chan Buddhism ( Chinese    /  , Pinyin chán , W.-G. ch'an ; Japanese: zen ; Korean:  /  seon; Vietnamese: Thiền ). His influence was formative for the Chinese Tang and Song era. It persists in Japan , Korea , and Vietnam as Zen Buddhism to this day and is still widespread in China. An example of the adoption of Buddhist ideas is the Quanzhen Taoist school .

The idea of nirvana in Buddhism is related to the conception of Daoism, especially the philosophical Daoism, according to which the dissolution of the ego should be striven for during lifetime and takes place in death. Richard Wilhelm describes in his commentary on sign no. 52 of the first book of the I Ching , in which, in his opinion, "there is so much 'Taoist'", the difference as follows:

"While Buddhism strives for rest by subsiding in nirvana of all movement, the standpoint of the Book of Changes is that rest is only a polar state, which is constantly supplemented by movement."

- Richard Wilhelm : I Ching
Gate of a heavenly master temple

The sky masters

The first Daoist organization, a kind of "church", emerged in the 2nd century when Zhang Daoling (Chang Tao Ling) founded the Movement of the Sky Masters (tianshi dao) in Sichuan in 142 AD . Zhang Daoling probably borrowed from Buddhism , possibly also from monotheistic Mazdaism . In the group, which is also known as the "five bushel rice" ( Wudoumi Dao ) movement after a levy that its followers had to pay , messianic and revolutionary thoughts prevailed : the Han dynasty should be overthrown so that the Sky Master Zhang Daoling could rule and the end times could begin. In the history of Daoism, other secret societies such as the Yellow Turbans , the Red Eyebrow Sect or the Taiping Sect, which often also pursued political goals, formed again and again .

For about 30 years there was even a Heavenly Master State, which was characterized by a large administrative apparatus. The bureaucracy reflected the idea of ​​heaven, which in the belief of the heavenly masters is also bureaucratically structured. Requests and prayers were written in forms and sent by incineration to the respective gods responsible.

A distinct ethic and a Daoist cult arose in the heavenly master movement . Due to the compulsory contributions, the communities developed into economically important organizations. Under the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) more and more members of the aristocracy joined the Heavenly Masters Movement and one of the Wei emperors even declared Daoism the state religion. Many poets and artists also belonged to it. From the 2nd century onwards, Laozi was no longer just seen as an old sage, but worshiped as a god. Likewise, the abstract concept of the Dao became a personal deity. However, the gods of Daoism represent more an embodiment of functions than individual entities. The ritual gods are generally either abstract instances or embodiments of natural forces, for example the earth, the rivers, the rain, the mountains. The deified Laozi also represents a hypostasis of the Dao and the Daoist saint, as Zhuangzi described him, less of a personal deity as it corresponds to the western idea.

Development into a popular religion

Even the Daoist philosophers used pictorial stories and old folk tales to explain their ideas. During the Han period, Daoism was associated with older cosmological, theological and anthropological ideas, traces of which can already be found in the Shang period . These older ideas probably stem from immortality cults and the shamanistic tradition (see Fangshi ). More and more folk customs, rites and Buddhist elements found their way into Daoist practices. The Daoist religion became polytheistic and defined itself by a common liturgical tradition. The liturgies were performed by Daoshi , Taoist priests. A rich heaven of gods was created, the exact shape of which could differ from school to school, but in which three supreme deities, the three pure ones , crystallized: Yuanshi tianzun, the heavenly venerable of the beginning, Daojun or Lingbao tianzun, the lord of the Dao as the Heavenly Venerable of the magical jewel, and Daode tianzun or Taishang Laojun, the Heavenly Venerable of the Dao and De or the Supreme Lord Lao, who is the deified Laozi.

The liturgical system forms the formal framework for different local cults and the Daoist pantheon is populated by cosmic deities, gods of nature, demons , spirits, immortals ( Xian ) and perfect ones ( Zhenren ). The seat of the pantheon are sacred mountains and grottoes, which represent a microcosmic image of the macrocosm, as well as temples, altars and bodies.

Zhinan Temple, Taipei

Through Zhang Daoling's Heavenly Master Church , a certain unification of the various Daoist communities took place. This strong and broad-based organization became a true popular religion and religious power during the Sui and Tang dynasties . The Tang dynasty claimed to be of Laozi and made worship an official cult. The Daoist Emperor Xuanzong founded Daoist temples across the country and had a great fondness for Daoist rituals. Most of the Taoist scriptures also come from the Ming and Tang dynasties. It was the heyday of Daoism.

Under the Song Dynasty (960–1279), Daoism was then fully integrated into popular culture, u. a. by merging the local and regional organizations through Emperor Zhenzong into a network of officially sponsored temples, which also took on secular tasks such as organizing markets and collecting trade taxes.

When China's last dynasty, the Qing , was founded in 1644, Daoism was subject to restrictions and bans because the Qing were close to Orthodox Confucianism and the Manchus were afraid of Chinese nationalism, which is why they suppressed local organizations. In the Taiping uprising in 1849, all temples, both Buddhist and Daoist, were destroyed and in the course of the 20th century the tendency to destroy the original Chinese religion increased more and more.

Daoist deity in a museum in Texas

Daoist practices

Over the centuries, a large number of Daoist schools with different teaching content and practices have sprung up in China. However, a key feature of religious Daoism in many schools was the search for immortality . Many practices have their origins in the practices of the ancient Fangshi . The Daoist canon ( Daozang ), which was compiled in its most recent version in 1442, gives an impression of the different practices. It contains thousands of works, and the texts are about and a. of philosophy, liturgy, ritualism , magic, sexual practices , medicine, imagination and mythical worlds, hagiographies , the Yijing (I Ching), alchemy, morals, meditation techniques and hymns .

The first texts that gave a detailed description of the meditation turned inward were those of the Shangqing School, which emerged from the 4th century AD , namely the Shangqingjing (Book of Great Purity). The Shangqing meditations contain different elements: the adept associates ritually and imaginatively with gods, recites sacred texts and visualizes and goes through complex structured elements and processes of cosmology, mythology and symbolism of Daoism. The visualizations of this school represent journeys into spiritual worlds, as they are said to have been carried out by the shamans of the Shang times. They lead into realms of the earthly paradises , the gods, the stellar worlds, the movements of Yin and Yang and the various forms of Qi (energy). The goal of the complex techniques is to return to the original unity through the harmonization of mind and body. Those familiar with Daoist practices repeatedly claim that these journeys are - at least for some adepts - out of body experiences .

In the pursuit of immortality, Daoists developed many alchemical techniques, later also techniques of inner alchemy . One of the most important exponents of alchemy was Ge Hong . Since around the 4th century AD, attempts have been made to make elixirs or pills that will prolong life. Here played cinnabar (Dan), mercury (Gong) and gold (Jin) a special role. Due to the properties that they show in chemical reactions, they were considered elements that embody immutability in external change (a central feature of the Dao). Many who expected longevity from the pills died of mercury poisoning, which was probably one of the reasons why alchemy became increasingly unpopular until the end of the Tang period and there was an increasing turn to inner alchemy . However, other areas were also fertilized by alchemical research, for example gunpowder and hallucinogenic drugs were discovered, and medicine was also influenced.

The Shangqing meditations already show a shift from external to internal alchemy, which was then fully developed in the 9th century. Instead of mixing substances in the laboratory, one's own body and mind were understood as an “inner laboratory”. The task now was to structure the primal chaos through meditative techniques and to realize emptiness and unity through the cultivation of vitality (Jing), energy (Qi) and the invigorating spirit (Shen).

The prerequisite for these practices is the idea that there are analogies between all levels, that is, that the cosmos, earth and man are structured analogously and correspond in all details.

A school that increasingly turned to the liturgical ritual through Buddhist influence was the Lingbao Pai . One of the main practices, also of today's Daoism, are the Daoist rituals .

Another derivative of Daoism is Feng Shui , which was originally geomancy , but later referred to the ordering of people's surroundings according to certain principles in order to create happiness, success and harmony.

Daoism in the People's Republic of China

Daoism in the 20th century is characterized by the fact that there is no uniform teaching, but a variety of theories and practices, including sectarian developments and unorthodox movements.

Under the socialist dictatorship the religions of China were suppressed and persecuted, during the Cultural Revolution many monasteries and temples were destroyed, writings destroyed and the monks and nuns re-educated or killed. However, in the underground, Daoist teachings were always present in China. In the meantime, people in the People's Republic are also reflecting on the religious heritage and on the Daoist knowledge of the art of healing. Many monasteries and temples were rebuilt, training centers for monks and nuns were created, and some university research centers for Daoism were even set up. At the turn of the millennium there are around 3,000 Daoist shrines in the PRC, which are inhabited by around 25,000 nuns and monks. The Daoist temples are partially economically independent in that they operate hotels, restaurants, teahouses or souvenir shops and martial arts schools, and Daoist organizations are involved in public areas such as environmental protection, education or disaster relief.

The state has enforced an official version of Daoism in the People's Republic that emphasizes benevolence, patriotism and public service. The education of a Daoist in the People's Republic includes Daoist doctrine , rituals , music, calligraphy , philosophy, martial arts and the English language . The " Daoist Association of China " was founded in 1956, registered in 1957 and is located in the Baiyun Guan (Temple of the White Clouds) in Beijing. According to its objectives, the association is led by the People's Government of China and has the task of uniting all Daoists in the country, loving the country and Daoism, observing the constitution, laws, rules and politics of the country, and upholding the legacy of Daoism cultivate and engage in spiritual affairs. However, many Daoist priests are not registered and do not belong to government organizations, so the statistics are inconsistent. The rebuilt temples are well attended and tens of thousands of pilgrims come on some occasions such as the Lantern Festival , from which one can conclude that Daoism still plays a major role in the People's Republic.

Excluded from this religious freedom, which is subject to severe restrictions, are Daoist communities that are not permitted by the state and therefore cannot be controlled. They are considered sects and heretical cults and are subject to state persecution. Yi Guan Dao (path of the all-pervading principle) or Huangtian Dao (path of the yellow sky) are particularly persecuted. While most Christians served long prison sentences in the 1950s, Yiguan Dao supporters were mostly executed after their arrest. Yiguan Dao believers were arrested back in the 1990s. The reason for the harsher persecution is historical, as Yiguan Dao was involved in revolutionary movements several times.

Many Daoists fled to Taiwan or Southeast Asia, where the Daoist cult is still flourishing. In today's China there are still two main lines of the religious Daoist tradition, Quanzhen Daoism (school of complete truth), also known as neidan , inner alchemy, and Zhengyi Daoism (school of orthodox unity), which directly refers to the tradition of the Sky Master goes back.

The Quanzhen Daoists live monastic and celibate and place the main practice on meditation, while the Zhengyi Daoists are allowed to marry and also in priestly and magical functions, for example as ritual priests at temples, families and individuals, i.e. H. also work at funeral and wedding rites or exorcisms and healings. In contrast to Quanzhen, which is strongly influenced by Buddhism, Zhengyi Daoism has a distinctive ritualism and magical practices. The rituals can be largely traced back to the school of the Lingbao Pai . Local gods are mostly worshiped in the temples to which the Zhengyi priests are invited. Many folk elements as well as some shamanistic elements were incorporated into today's Zhengyi Daoism.

Rituals are carried out on many occasions: for the birthday of the local god, for the restoration of a temple or to inaugurate a new statue of a god. A ritual can last up to nine days and is often associated with theatrical performances, processions, and sacrifices. Many rituals are distinctly liturgical. The main ritual is one of cosmic renewal and reconnection.

The monastic Quanzhen school differs from the Zhengyi in the withdrawn life of the adepts in meditation and internal alchemy, without offering the general public work in a practiced ritual service. Inner alchemy does not strive for the production of a substance or physical immortality, but is a technique of enlightenment, a method of ordering self and world. It is an operative discipline which is supposed to lead to the birth of a new person through a creative act and which aims to elevate the spirit over the world. Since many elements of Buddhism were adopted in the Quanzhen school, it has a strongly speculative character and the texts of this school are characterized by certain features: the mental and physical training, the practice of different techniques such as breathing exercises, visualizations and internal alchemy, the adoption certain speculations of Buddhism, e.g. B. About Wu (emptiness) and You (existence) and the method of Gong'ans (Japanese Kōan ), the adoption of Confucian values ​​and the systematic use of Yijing and alchemical techniques in a metaphorical, spiritual form.

Shangqing School techniques are still practiced by Zhengyi and Quanzhen.

Daoism as a philosophy

The philosophical Taoism is the search for the origin of life and the presumption of Dao basis. In contrast to religious Daoism, however, liturgical practices and belief in gods and demons are largely rejected. However, various basic philosophical insights are shared in religious Daoism as well. Outside of modern Sinology , a more atheistic or pantheistic , intellectual view of philosophical Daoism has established itself in the western world, especially since Richard Wilhelm , which is thus seen separately from religious Daoism. The question of whether the non-provability of the Dao is a common feature with belief in religions is assessed differently from person to person. Logical thinking and the understanding of reality are very important in philosophical Daoism, in which agnostic traits can also be recognized. Ultimately, however, it is intuitive looking that can serve as a path to Dao. The authors of the three main works of the Daoist canon, Laozi , Zhuangzi , and Liezi , are viewed either as historical figures or as a group of philosophers or schools. In his commentary published in 1925, Richard Wilhelm sets out his preferred philosophical view of Daoism, showing striking similarities with modern conceptions in physics, particularly Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (including the last sentence of the quote):

“Chinese philosophy now begins in Lao Tzu with the radical removal of anthropomorphism in religion . […] Nevertheless, Lao Tzu is far from considering the course of nature to be something accidental and disordered. So he is free from all skepticism and pessimism. He is not a mere fighter against popular religion, but brings something in its place that can replace it because it is higher and leads further. [...] Confucianism stopped at heaven. […] For Lao Tzu the sky was still not the ultimate and ultimate. The highest and the last was also above personality, indeed above every somehow perceptible and definable being. It wasn't a thing next to or above other things. But it wasn't nothing either, it was something that simply eluded human thought. "

- Richard Wilhelm : The teachings of Laotse

By logical inference, Daoist philosophy came to the conclusion that bodies, such as B. Plants, animals, people, heavenly bodies (or even possibly existing gods, paradises, etc.) need space (and time) for their existence. The question arose again and again: “If it exists, in what does it exist?” This space can generally be described as “the limitless” or “the void”. In the eleventh section of Daodejing, Laozi points to the nothing, the emptiness, which is what makes the work possible. The sixth section says: “The spirit of the valley does not die…” Richard Wilhelm explains in his explanations that the core of the meaning is the empty space between two mountain walls, not what we usually understand by the term “valley”. This means the same emptiness that allows the universe to expand without limits.

In the 16th section, Laozi gives the central point of his teaching with the statement "Create emptiness up to the highest!" The union with this emptiness, which exists and includes everything, but is not tangible, and yet enables all life, is a goal that can be striven for in Daoism in meditation. Further conceptions such as “non-being” or “non-being” and “non-spatial”) are reserved for individual experience, since they result in the desired (and possibly achieved) dissolution of the ego (cf. Liä Dsi, Book I, sections 4, 7. and 8; Dschuang Dsi, Book XVII, Section 3; Laotse, Section 56) should not be conveyed to others in words (cf. Dschuang Dsi, Book XXII, Section 4). The knowledge of the reality of the limitlessness of space and time can allow the expansion of the spirit in all directions up to the dissolution of the ego (which must appear inadequate in view of this incomprehensible) and the connection with the Dao in the subjective experience. An infinity or limitlessness of space and time allows the logical conclusion that everything in it can be in the middle at any place and at any time, and thus a connection to the Dao can be felt. In her book The Teachings of Tao , the editor Eva Wong quotes instructions on meditation from 'The Scriptures of the Holy Spirit of the Mysterious Grotto on Concentrated Contemplation (Tung-hsüan ling-pao ting-kuan ching)':

“Silent contemplation begins in the mind. When a thought arises, you need to stop it immediately so that you can maintain your stillness. Then get rid of all illusions, desires and wandering thoughts .... Concentrate on the empty mind ... When you achieve silence in your meditation, you should practice yourself in this state of mind in everyday activities such as walking, standing, sitting and sleeping . Be relaxed and serene in the midst of events and excitement. Whether things happen or not, your mind should be empty. "

- Eva Wong : The teachings of the Tao

The end of Section 10 in Book II in Zhuangzi can also be interpreted in this sense:

“Forget the time! Forget the opinions! Rise up to the limitless! And live in the limitless! "

- Richard Wilhelm : Dschuang Dsi, The true book from the southern blossom country

The reference to outstanding philosophers and thinkers of the western world such as Epicurus , Kant , Hebbel , Spinoza , Heraklit , Bruno , Schelling , Schopenhauer , Schleiermacher , Kierkegaard , Rousseau , Goethe , Tolstoy and others. a. For the first time, Richard Wilhelm elaborated on ideas of philosophical Daoism in his translations and commentaries in an adequate form. In the following quotation from his explanations on Liä Dsi ( Liezi ), Book V, Sections 1 a. 2 (conversation with four main questions from 'Tang von Yin' to 'Gi von Hia'), Richard Wilhelm describes the obvious synchronicity of the antinomies of pure reason by Immanuel Kant (information in square brackets comes from the text of Book V, 1st section and are inserted for simplicity):

"The first question [" Was there no world at the beginning? "] Deals with the first half of the first antinomy of pure reason, whereby the view leans strongly on the side of the Kantian antithesis. The second question ["Is there an outer limit and last simple parts in space?"] Concerns the second half of the first antinomy - boundaries of space - and the second antinomy - existence or non-existence of last simple parts. Here, too, the tendency towards the Kantian antithesis is noteworthy.

The third question ["How is it across the four seas?"] Deals with the problem of the continuity of causality. Although the wording differs somewhat, the explanations, especially those of the G sharp answer, can be combined with Kant's third antinomy. Here, in the assertion that the world belongs to nature, the emphasis on the antithesis is shown even more overtly than before, although here, too, scientific caution is maintained with the addition "On the other hand, this also exceeds knowledge" .... The fourth Asking Tang relates to whether there is an absolute standard in the world or whether everything is only relative. It can be put together according to its core with the fourth antinomy put forward by Kant - an absolutely necessary essence. Here, too, the answer shows the direction towards the antithesis. "

- Richard Wilhelm : Liä Dsi

Daoism in the West

The history of the reception of Daoism in the western world is about 200 years old, and especially Daodejing influenced u. a. Art, literature, psychology and philosophy.

The first translation of Daodejing into Latin by a Jesuit dates back to 1788. From the 1860s to the beginning of the 20th century, large numbers of Laozi translations appeared, which were mainly made by missionaries, so it it is not surprising that most of these translations are tendentiously Christian. Even the most famous translation by Richard Wilhelm in the German-speaking world does not want to deny its Christian background, which is shaped by western education.

In the 19th century, the reception of Daoism in the West was strongly influenced by the Theosophical Society , which propagated a mixture of Indian mysticism and Western occultism .

After the First World War, interest in Eastern philosophy and religion increased and the pacifists in particular turned to Wu wei, to non-action. For example, in 1919 the German poet Klabund called on the people to live according to the holy spirit of the Dao in his work “Hör es Deutschland”, and in Germany this broke through the translations of the Zhuangzi and the Laozi by Richard Wilhelm and Martin Buber a real Daoism euphoria that spread among writers and artists. Hermann Hesse , Alfred Döblin and Bertolt Brecht in particular were influenced by these translations.

Alfred Döblin's novel “ The Three Jumps of Wang-Lun ” and Charles Waldemar'sThe Gem of Lao-Tse ” show, for example, a strong acceptance of Daoist ideas, especially Wu wei, and Hermann Hesse's entire work is permeated by Eastern philosophy. The most prominent testimony to Bertolt Brecht's intense exploration of Daoism since around 1920 (“... it agrees so much with me”) is his 1938 poem, The Legend of the Origin of the Book Taoteking on the Path of Lao Tzu into Emigration .

The reception of Daoism by depth psychology also falls during the Second World War. Carl Gustav Jung found in translations of the Daoist works " The Secret of the Golden Flower " and the older " Yi Jing " by Richard Wilhelm strong stimuli for the development of his own psychological theories and he wrote the preface to both.

In the 1920s, the ideas of Daoism were then adopted and disseminated by the then popular philosopher Hermann Graf Keyserling , who found the deepest sayings on wisdom in the Daoist classics.

The philosopher Martin Heidegger was also inspired by translations of Daoist texts by Richard Wilhelm and Martin Buber , but Zen Buddhism also influenced his work. Heidegger's non-nihilistic representation of nothing as “abundance” seems to go back directly to Daoism.

Karl Jaspers , another existential philosopher of the 20th century, wrote the work Lao-tse / Nagarjuna  - Two Asian Mystics , in which he tried to understand Daoism, and Ernst Bloch also dealt with Daoism.

After the Second World War, Daoism was also spread in the western world by Chinese exiles who, due to the political conditions in their home country, for example. B. stayed in the USA. A prominent representative was Gia-Fu Feng , who had lived permanently in the USA since 1947 and began to teach Daoism there. In particular the beatniks like Jack Kerouac or Alan Watts were partly strongly influenced by this: "Gia-Fu was The Real Thing". He also found numerous followers in Europe. Daoism found its way into western culture through Zen Buddhism. The portrayal of Daoism as the origin of Zen such as B. in Alan Watts work " The Way of Zen ". These ideas later found their way into the hippie movement. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Dao was seen as a cure for the diseased Western culture in Europe. Daoism was trivialized and primarily related to the older yin and yang teachings and spread in this form in the New Age movement.

After Fritjof Capra's Das Tao der Physik (The Tao of Physics) from 1976, larger quantities of popular Daoist and trivializing works such as The Tao Cookbook or Easy Tao appeared , whereby Capra's approach initiated an increasingly superficial popularization of the Dao. Accordingly, Peter Sloterdijk reacted mockingly to this "Eastern philosophy fast food" in his book Eurotaoismus .

In the meantime, due to the esoteric wave, Daoism has become an integral part of western culture and a quarter of the esoteric book trade is denied with works on Daoism.

Different transcriptions

Chinese simplify Pinyin Wade-Giles Lessing-Othmer common in German-speaking countries
Dào Tao Dau Tao
道教 道教 Dàojiào Tao-chiao Dauism Daoism / Taoism
道家 道家 Dàojiā Tao-chia
老子 老子 Lǎozǐ Lao-tzu Lao Tse Laotse
道德 經 道德 经 Dàodéjīng Tao-te-ching Daudedsching Tao-te-king
莊子 庄子 Zhuāngzǐ Chuang-tzu Dschuang Dsï
太極 太极 Tàijí T'ai-chi Tai chi

See also


Further literature

Web links

Portal: Daoism  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of Daoism
Wiktionary: Daoism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Daoism  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. “With Lao Tzu, inaction is the highest act, insofar as the nature of the ruler comes into harmony with the cosmic influences and in this way works completely hidden with the necessity of a force of nature. Only an extraordinarily large and generous man - one who loved the world in his own self - could practice this kind of rule by inaction according to Laotse. "Richard Wilhelm: Comment. The teachings of the Laotse , in: Laotse: Tao te king. The book of the way of life . Second edition, Bastei Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2003, ISBN 3-404-70141-0 , p. 186.
  2. Eva Wong: The teachings of the Tao . Ullstein Verlag, Berlin 1998.
  3. ^ Richard Wilhelm : Liä Dsi . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Düsseldorf and Cologne, 1967.
  4. Lao Tse: Tao-Te-King . Newly translated into German by Hans Knospe and Odette Brändli. Diogenes, Zurich 1996, p. 5.
  5. “If things only have the reason for existence in the SENSE and the power to exist in LIFE, then through their own essence they create a corresponding external form in the final form, without any special intervention being necessary. This course of nature is the reason why it is the highest wisdom to abstain from all "making" as ruler. "Laotse: Tao te king. The book from the way of life , edited and translated by Richard Wilhelm. Second edition, explanations on section 51, Bastei Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2003.
  6. “The first section shows in the spontaneity of heaven the power through which it is made possible that the world will come to order when the rulers practice non-action. Since this force comes into effect, if only it is not prevented, the order that is achieved through non-action is something positive, not just the accidental result of the conflicting individual forces and in this respect differs in principle from the theory of laissez faire, laissez aller «.” Dschuang Dsi: The True Book of the Southern Blossom Land , Book XII, Explanations to Section 1, translated by Richard Wilhelm. Diederichs, Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-424-01453-2 .
  7. See Laozi , Daodejing , section 7; Liezi , The True Book of the Swelling Urgrund I, 4.
  8. Introduction. In: Richard Wilhelm: Tao te king. Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Munich 1978.
  9. On the first historical mention of gunpowder in the alchemical Daoist treatise Zhen yuan miao dao yao lue (真 元 妙 道 要略, 9th or 10th century AD) by Zheng Siyuan (鄭思遠) cf. Wang Ling: Science and Civilization in China. Vol. 5, Pt. 7: Military Technology: the Gunpowder Epic . Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge et al. a. 1986, p. 112.
  10. "In addition, the fundamental difference between the impersonal-pantheistic conception of Laotse and the sharply outlined historical personality of the Israelite God must not be disregarded." Explanations for section 14, in: Laotse: Tao te king. The book from the way of life , edited and translated by Richard Wilhelm. Second edition. Bastei Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2003.
  11. Chinese thought distinguishes "chia" (= philosophy) from "chiao" (= religion), but emphasizes the togetherness of both. Markus Hattstein, Li Deman et al. , "World Religions", The Religions of China, Confucianism, p. 47, Könemann, Tandem Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-8331-1406-1
  12. While some religions have similarities, such as B. the concepts of love of neighbor or the forgiveness of sins are perceived as commandments or goodness of a god, in philosophical Daoism a knowledge gained through logical thinking leads to these conclusions. The charity z. B. arises from the recognition of the universal relationship, because one's own person is, so to speak, a “child” of the infinite universe and thus other people (and actually all matter) as well - regardless of whether the others have the same knowledge or not. It cannot be otherwise that one does not have a connection with even the most distant, inexpressibly vast areas of the universe. Laozi calls infinity in section 25 “the mother of the world”, and in section 49 he gives an example of his charity: “And the one who is called accepts them all as his children”. In an infinite universe, of course, the little things of earthly life also become less and less important. Even good and bad, beautiful and ugly (Daodejing, section 2) are only relative phenomena, which lose their meaning in the light of immense reality. In section 62 of the Daodejing he recognizes, half asking: “Whoever asks receives, whoever has sins will they be forgiven?”
  13. “The whole metaphysics of Taoteking is based on a fundamental intuition, which is inaccessible to strict conceptual fixation, and the Lao Tzu, in order to have a name," makeshift "with the word TAO (pronounced: dao) (cf. 25). ”Introduction to Laotse: Tao te king. The book from the way of life , edited and translated by Richard Wilhelm. Second edition. Bastei Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2003.
  14. “What Lao-Tzu strives for is therefore not“ knowing ”but“ seeing ”, inner“ enlightenment ”. That this looking has nothing to do with ascetic visions, that Lao Tzu is rather concerned with the "body" and the "bones", i.e. H. the corporeality in its necessary existence thoroughly approves, emerges from a number of passages (cf. 12, 3). This inner enlightenment leads by itself to simplicity (cf. 28), which has its most beautiful parable in the child who has not yet been driven around by the confusion of desires. ”Introduction to Lao Tzu . Tao te king. The book of the way of life , 2nd edition. Bastei Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2003.
  15. Cf. Dschuang Dsi: The true book from the southern blossom country , book XVII, section 12, "The joy of the fish", translated by Richard Wilhelm. Diederichs, Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-424-01453-2 .
  16. ^ "The teachings of Laotse", in: Laotse: Tao te king. The book from the way of life , edited and translated by Richard Wilhelm. Second edition. Bastei Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2003.
  17. “What is the significance of the uncertainty relation?” From the alpha-Centauri TV series (approx. 15 minutes). First broadcast on June 9, 2002 ( online ).
  18. See: THE TEACHINGS OF LAOTSE ( Memento of December 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  19. See Daodejing , Section 4.
  20. See Liezi , Book V, 1.
  21. Dschuang Dsi: The True Book of the Southern Blossom Land , Book XXV, Section 4, “The Warring Realms”, translated by Richard Wilhelm. Diederichs, Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-424-01453-2 .
  22. Cf. Daodejing , Section 1, 2 and 40.
  23. Cf. Richard Wilhelm, explanations on section 43, in: Laotse, Tao te king .
  24. Richard Wilhelm: Dschuang Dsi, The true book from the southern blossom country. Book II, Section 1. Anaconda Verlag GmbH, Cologne, 2011; Original edition by Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena, 1912.
  25. "The middle is the great root of all beings on earth, ..." The teachings of Confucius, Dschung Yung - Measure and Middle, Part I, A. The basics, Chinese and German, translated and explained by Richard Wilhelm, two thousand and one 2009, p.587, ISBN 978-3-86150-873-1
  26. According to the rules of Shu-ching, the true prince should be mild and serious, indulgent and firm, sincere and polite, strict and yet fair and so at the same time, while keeping the measure and middle between all one-sided exaggerations on one side or the other, reflect the harmony of the world order in the harmony of his nature . Helmuth von Glasenapp : The five world religions, The Chinese Universism, 3. The practical realization of universal harmony, p. 154, Diederichs Yellow Series, special edition 2001, Heinrich Hugendubel Verlag, Kreuzlingen / Munich, ISBN 3-89631-415-7 .
  27. The Teachings of the Tao. Ullstein, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-548-35778-4 .
  28. a b c d e f g h i j Richard Wilhelm: Dschuang Dsï: The true book of the southern blooming land. Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Düsseldorf / Cologne 1972.
  29. ^ Richard Wilhelm: Dschuang Dsi. Preliminary remarks to book XXV, 10, Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-424-01453-2 .
  30. The contents of the Tao te king. In: Richard Wilhelm: Tao te king. Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Munich, 1978.
  31. Introduction. In: Richard Wilhelm: Liä Dsi. Eugen Diederichs Verlag, 1985, ISBN 3-424-00461-8 .
  32. a b Kant: Critique of Pure Reason. ed.Kehrbach, pp. 354, 355.
  33. Kant: Critique of Pure Reason. ed.Kehrbach, pp. 360, 361.
  34. Kant: Critique of Pure Reason. ed.Kehrbach, p. 374.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on September 25, 2005 .