Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Lao Zi -- Great Philosopher and Founder of Taoism in Chinese Culture

Li Er (about 570 B. C. — ?), honorific name was Bo Yang, also was respected as Lao Tzu or Lao Zi, was a great philosopher, author and historian.


His masterpiece Tao Te Ching (also pronounced as Dao De Jing) formed the Taoism school, which is one of the most influential philosophical schools in Chinese Culture.


Emperors of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) respected Lao Tzu as their ancestor, when they honored him as an emperor of the Tang Empire. 

A Knowledgeable, Diligent Wunderkind

Lao Zi started to learn history, astrology and military since he was a toddler.


Few years later, his teacher believed that Lao Zi had mastered everything he knew; therefore, he recommended Lao to move to the capital city of the Zhou Dynasty and to learn from the most knowledgeable scholars there.


Soon, as a 13 year old boy, Lao Zi left his parents and hometown, and went to the capital city where he studied and mastered more knowledge.

Working Life in the Zhou Empire

Then, Lao Zi worked in the Zhou Empire as a historian and a librarian, when he had read large numbers of books and mastered the entire documented history.


He soon became famous nationwide, for his insight and talent, and many people worshipped him as a sage.


Confucius had travelled long distance to consult Lao Zi for several times, to talk about the universe, life, history, politics, etc. Confucius was inspired after each meeting, and compared Lao Zi as a mysterious and powerful dragon.

Decades later, the Zhou Empire stepped into a chaotic era, so Lao Zi decided to leave this kingdom.


When he arrived at the gate on the border, the chief commander here recognized him.


This commander stopped and welcomed Lao Zi, saying a master like him should leave the world his knowledge.


Writing of Dao De Jing and Lao Zi's Mysterious Leaving

Lao Zi agreed and wrote down a five-thousand-words book, and gave it to this commander. 


Afterwards, Lao Zi disappeared from the public forever.


But the book he handed over before he left, named Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching, was widespread nationwide and formed the philosophy of Taoism in Chinese culture.


The content of this masterpiece, some people believed is in regard to teach the ruling class how to be a good monarch and militarist, while others considered it was revealing the essence of the universe, nature, and society.


In a word, everyone could learn different things out of it, based on their own various perspectives.  


Main Ideas of Lao Zi 

1  Everything has two sides, and they are transferable.


Everything is complicated and keeps changing. 


Therefore, people’s definition and cognition of nature is always limited, and requires constant progressing.  


2  Humans adhere to the pattern of the earth; earth responds to change of the heaven; heaven obeys the Dao; Dao follows the doctrine of nature. 


For instance, human’s agriculture production needs to adhere to the change of seasons and rainfall, and temperature or moisture on earth is the result of the movement of the Sun. The pattern of the whole universe could be recognized as Dao, the essence of the nature of law.


3 Everything in the universe follows the Dao. Human can perceive, define, and make use of it, but no one is able to change it.


4 Denial of Theism.


Dao dominates the universe, not any kinds of immortal nor supernatural force. 


5  Value the Doctrine of Inaction.


When ruling class do not advocate luxury goods and man-made secular values, civilians won’t have many resemble desires nor imitate certain behaviors.


Monarchs should master and respect the law of nature and avoid to intervene society frequently through excessive policies.


Inaction is the methodology, not the purpose. It doesn’t mean doing nothing; it means more learning, to be insightful and capable of seeing a bigger picture, while less interfering, and trusting others can do their job. That way, the inaction could lead to better achievement.


6  Value the Conciliatory Thought, in which water is the best representative.


Water is extremely soft and flexible, and can be shaped into everything. It nurtures and cleans everything but is modest and quiet.


However, water also can be extremely strong and powerful, since it is able to destroy everything.


Water doesn’t compete with anything, but it is invincible. 


Therefore, soft and compromise doesn’t mean weak or useless, humble and quiet doesn’t equal to coward or incapable.


Everything in the world is transferable. 


7 War is strongly opposed.


People shouldn’t be proud of or afraid of war, and righteous war is necessary. 


Strategy in war is welcomed, which could end the war as soon as possible and achieve victory.


Ruling class shouldn’t advocate or praise military success. 


8 Everything starts from zero.


A long journey begins with a single step, a huge tree grows out of a tiny seed.


Big dream is made of countless and consistent hard works, as well as complicated and subtle details.


9  A great person could know, overcome and never lost him/herself.


10 Nurture, but don’t take forcible possession of everything, having made contributions to but not take advantage or impose on others. That is the greatest moral standard to treat other people, like one's children, friends, relatives or colleagues. 


11 Everything comes from nothingness, and goes to nothingness.