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Taoism Religion in Chinese Culture

Taoism Religion, also known as Daoism Religion or Daojiao, is a Chinese religion that has evolved from Taoism Philosophy and ancient Chinese Mythology.

It venerates Laozi (or Lao Tzu) as a saint and deity, considering his masterpiece Dao De Jing (or Tao Te Ching) as an essential classic.

It encompasses a comprehensive system of magical forces and deities, alongside a series of remarkable scientific achievements.

Taoism Religion stands out as the most mysterious and secular religion in traditional culture, seemingly distant, yet it has indeed seamlessly been integrated into and profoundly influenced the daily lives of Chinese people for thousands of years.

Silk Manuscript of Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching), Unearthed From Tomb of Prime Minister Li Cang (? — 185 BC)

Silk Manuscript of Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching), Unearthed From Tomb of Prime Minister Li Cang (? — 185 BC) — Mawangdui Museum of Hunan Province

The Ultimate Goal of Taoism Religion - Pursuing the Dao

Taoist believers dedicate their lives to understanding the Dao or Tao, the law of nature, and the rule of the universe. 

​Having apotheosized the Taoism Philosophy and based on ancient Chinese Mythology, an entire immortal system is constructed.

Moreover, in Taoism Religion, all human beings can become immortals, man or woman, noble or humble.

Therefore, the primary purposes of Taoist priests are to pursue the Dao in the current world and hopefully to become immortals through cultivation.

Chinese Character "Dao" Written by Emperor Li Longji (685 — 762)

Chinese Character "Dao" Written by Emperor Li Longji (685 — 762)

Key Characteristics of Religion of Taoism

  • It is possible for everyone to become immortal through cultivation, hence the polytheistic system.

Everyone can choose their favorite deity to believe in; there are no absolute rules, regulations, or ceremonies.  

  • For most people, the best means to pursue the Dao is to practice in the secular world. 

To be a good daughter or son, a lovely partner, a responsible employee, etc. 

Finding and completing oneself is the foremost thing to do.

  • Everyone could have their own understanding of the Dao. 

Part of Murals of Taoism Deities on the Walls inside the Yongle Palace (Built in 1247 — 1358) in Shanxi Province

Part of Murals of Taoism Deities on Walls inside the Yongle Palace (Built in 1247 — 1358) in Shanxi Province

Taoism Cultivation

Cultivation includes two practice phases in Taoism Religion, Xiuzhen, and Xiuxian. 

 

  • Xiuzhen is a spiritual journey to practice one's mind and spirit, discover the inner self, and pursue the Dao.

 

  • Xiuxian is pursuing immortality through different mystical means, usually after completing the Xiuzhen process. 

The methods used to assist one's pursuit of immortality paths are secretive and different.

 

Generally, they include physical practices (such as breathing exercises), taking elixirs from special alchemy, or doing good deeds.

Mythical Creature Kun Peng from A Fable of Taoism Philosopher Zhuangzi.

Mythical Creature Kun Peng from A Fable of Taoism Philosopher Zhuangzi.

Cultivation Places: Sacred Places of Taoism in China

Since the means of pursuing the Dao vary throughout history, the cultivation places also differ.

In ancient China, emperors and officials would practice Taoism in their secular worlds while visiting Taoism temples from time to time. 

Some other professional Taoists would practice in magnificent Mountains in China, such as Mount Tai, Mount Hua, Mount Huang, and Mount Wudang, which are believed to be closer to nature and heaven.

Ancient Taoist Temples on the Mount Hua of the Shaanxi Province

Ancient Taoist Temples on the Mount Hua of the Shaanxi Province

Scientific Contributions of Taoism Religion

Not everyone could succeed while pursuing the Dao for thousands of years. 

 

However, many Taoists made significant contributions to Chinese medicine, chemistry, alchemy, astronomy, geology, math, science, botany, astrology, numerology, literature, etc.

For instance, gunpowder and Tofu were the results of alchemy activities, the compass was used in detecting Fengshui, many types of equipment were designed to try to fly, acupuncture, moxibustion, and Tai Ji were essential ways to keep healthy, and authors of the most extraordinary medical masterpieces in ancient China believed in Taoism Religion.

These achievements integrated into and extensively benefited the civilians’ daily lives, making the mysterious religion secular and popular. 

Those skills and knowledge are only meant for pursuing the Dao; however, the final results varied for each person.

Pond Yangtianchi on Top of Mount Hua

Pond Yangtianchi on Top of Mount Hua, Believed the Place that Deities Take Water to Do Alchemies. 
This Mythical Small Pond is Surrounded by Rocky Stones but Had Never Overflown nor Dried Up. 

Magical Practices within Taoism Religion

In the process of pursuing the Dao or being immortal, besides those scientific contributions, Taoist practices also made use of some magic power, which made them quite mysterious.

The magic arts, which are only secretly and strictly passed on within certain factions, include Fengshui, Dream Interpretation, fortune-telling, alchemy, dispelling of evils, praying, divination, means of communicating with deities and ghosts, flying and traveling fastly between heaven and earth, etc.

Golden Dragons (Zou Long) that used as Ritual Implements of Taoism Religion Ceremony in the Tang Dynasty

Golden Dragons (Zou Long) that were used as Ritual Implements of Taoism Religious Ceremony in the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Shaanxi History Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)