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Taoism

(TAO-KIAO.)

Taoism is the second of the three state religions (San-kiao) of China.

This religion is derived from the philosophical doctrines of Lao-tze. "Lao-tze's Taoism",
says Legge (Religions of China, 229), "is the exhibition of a way or method of living
which men should cultivate as the highest and purest development of their nature".
According to De Groot (Religious System of China, IV, p. 66): "Taoism, as the word
indicates, is the Religion of the Tao, a term meaning Path or Way, but denoting in this
peculiar case the way, course or movement of the Universe, her processes and methods.
In other words, Taoism is the Religion of Heaven and Earth, of the Cosmos, of the World
or Nature in the broadest sense of these words. Hence we may call it Naturism".

Lao-tze, the equivalent to "the Old or Venerable Philosopher" (if taken as a title of
respect), or to "Old Boy" (if literally translated), was born in the third year of Ting Wang,
Prince of Chou, i.e. in 604, at K'io-jin, in the Kingdom of Ts'u, to-day Ho-nan Province.
The legend given by Ko Hung in his "Record of Spirits and Immortals" (written in the
fourth century A.D.), says that "he was not born till his mother had carried him in her
womb seventy-two years or, according to some accounts, eighty-one years". "No
wonder", adds Legge (1. c., pp. 203-4) "that the child should have had white hair, — an
'old boy' of about fourscore years!" This date of 604, in accordance with historical
tradition, is not given by Sze-ma Ts'ien in the biography which he devoted to the
philosopher in his "She-ki" (Historical Memoirs); if this date be accepted, it is difficult to
admit of the authenticity of the meeting between Lao-tze and Confucius, 500 B.C.; if the
latter was then fifty-one years old according to Chwang-tze, Lao-tze was then one
hundred and four years old.

The family name of Lao-tze was Li, his name Eul (meaning "Ear"), his honorary title Pe-
yang, and his posthumous name Tan (meaning "Flat-eared"). He was one of the "Sze",
recorders, historiographers, keepers of the archives of Lo, the Court of the princes of the
Chou dynasty. Foreseeing the decay of this dynasty, he gave up his office, and undertook
a journey; at the Han-kou Pass, Ho-nan Province, the watchman, Yin Hi, begged him to
write his thoughts for his own instruction before he retired from the world; consequently,
Lao-tze wrote his work in two parts in the Tao and the Te, and having entrusted it to Yin
Hi, he disappeared; the time of the death of the philosopher is not known. Lao-tze had a
son Called Tsung who was a general of the Kingdom of Wei and who obtained the grant
of land at Twan-kan. His son named Chu had himself a child Kung; Hia, grandson of
Kung, was an official under Emperor Hiao-wen-ti, of the Han dynasty. Kiai, son of Hia,
became a minister of K'iang, King of kiao-si, and, owing to this circumstance, settled
with his family in the Kingdom of Ts'i.

This story is too matter of fact and lacks the marvellous legend which should surround
the person of the chief of a new religion. Legend was provided for. Ko Hung, already
mentioned, had placed the legend of Lao-tze at the beginning of the "Shon-sion-ch'-wan"
(Records of Spirits and Immortals), and he says: "His mother carried him after the
emotion she felt in seeing a large shooting star. He received from Heaven the vital breath;
as he was born in a house whose proprietor was called Li (Pear tree), so he was named
Li". Some authors say that Lao-tze was born before heaven and earth. According to
others, he possessed a pure soul emanated from heaven, He belonged to the Class of
spirits and gods.

The chief work of Lao-tze, in fact the only one which has been ascribed to him with some
probability, is the "Tao-teh-king". In the "China Review" (March-April, 1886), Dr.
Herbert A. Giles wrote a sensational article, "The Remains of Lao Tzu", to show by
various arguments that the "Tao-teh-king" is a spurious work and that its now spurious
portions have been mostly mistranslated. It was the starting-point of a controversy in
which Dr. Chalmers, Dr. Legge, Dr. Edkins, and some other sinologues took part. The
authenticity of the work has been admitted by most of them. Wylie says (Notes on
Chinese Literature, new ed., p. 216): "The only work which is known to be truly the
production of Lao Keun is the 'Taòu tih king', which has maintained its reputation and
secured a popularity to a certain extent among reading men generally of every
denomination. " Legge writes (Religions of China, p. 203): "No other writing has come
down to us from the pencil of Lâo-tsze, its author", and (Brit. Quart. Rev., July, 1883, p.
9): "We know that Lao Tzu wrote the 'Tao Tê Ching'", and (p. 11): "The 'Tao Tê Ching' is
a genuine relic of one of the most original minds of the Chinese race, putting his thoughts
on record 2400 years ago. " The German E. Faber (China Rev., XIII, 241) says that "there
is little room left for doubts regarding the authenticity of our Canon."

Besides the "Tao-teh-king" a good many works treat of Taoism: the "Yin-fu-king-kiai"
which professes to be an exposition of the oldest Taoist record in existence; "Ts'ing-tsing-
king" (The Book of Purity and Rest); the "T'ai-hsi-king" (Respiration of the Embryo); the
"T'ai-shang-Kan-ying-pien" (Tractate of Actions and their Retributions).

The chief Taoist philosophers are: Tsou-yuen (400 B. C.), author of a work on the
influences of the five ruling elements, influenced by Buddhist doctrines; Kweiku-tze (380
B. C.), a mystic, astrologer, and fortune-teller; Ho-kwan-tze (325-298 B.C.), an orthodox
Confucianist when writing on jurisprudence, a Taoist in other writings; Chwang-tze (330
B. C.), the author of the "Nan-hua" classic, the adversary to Mencius, and according to
Eitel "the most original thinker China ever produced"; Shi-tze (280 B. C.), a Taoist writer,
influenced by the heterodox philosopher, Yang-chu (450 B. C.), the Apostle of Selfishness;
the statesman Han-feitze (250 B. C.); Liu-ngan or Hwai-nan-tze (died 112 B. C.), a
cosmogonist. But the first disciples of Lao-tze were Kang-sang-tze (570-543 B. C.), the
first expositor of Taoism as a distinct system, the sceptic Li-tze (500 B. C.), and Wen-tze
(500 B. C.). The historian Sze-ma-ts'ien speaking of Chwang-tze says: "He wrote with a
view to asperse the Confucian school and to glorify the mysteries of Lao Tze. . . His
teachings are like an overwhelming flood, which spreads at its own sweet will.
Consequently, from rulers and ministers downwards, none could apply them to any
definite use." Giles (Chinese Literature, 60) concludes from this passage: "Here we have
the key to the triumph of the Tao of Confucius over the Tao of Lao Tze. The latter was
idealistic, the former a practical system for every-day use."
As De Groot observes (l. s. c., IV, 67): "Taoism being fundamentally a religion of the
Cosmos and its subdivisions, old Chinese Cosmogony is its Theogony. It conceives the
Universe as one large organism of powers and influences, a living machine, the core of
which is the Great Ultimate Principle or T'ai-kih, comprising the two cosmic Breaths or
Souls, known as the Yang and the Yin, of which, respectively, Heaven and Earth are the
chief depositories. These two souls produce the four seasons, and the phenomena of
Nature represented by the lineal figures called kwa". In fact the Yang and the Yin produce
by the power of their co-operation all that exists, man included. Ancient Chinese
philosophy attributes to man two souls:

1. The shen, or immaterial soul, emanates from the ethereal, celestial part of the
Cosmos, and consists of yang substance. When operating actively in the living
human body, it is called k'i or 'breath', and kwun; when separated from it after
death, it lives as a refulgent spirit, styled ming.
2. The kwei, the material, substantial soul, emanates from the terrestrial part of the
Universe, and is formed of yin substance. In living man it operates under the name
of p'oh and on his death it returns to the Earth" (De Groot, IV, p. 5).

Thus the kwei is buried with the man and the shen lingers about the tomb. Marking the
distinction between the two souls, there existed in the legendary period, according to the
"Li-ki", a sacrificial worship to each soul separately: the hwun or k'i returns to heaven,
the p'oh returns to earth. These two souls are composite; in fact all the viscera have a
particular shen. "There are medical authors who ascribe to man an indefinite number of
souls or soul-parts, or, as they express. it, a hundred shen. Those souls, they say, shift in
the body according to the age of the owner; so, e. g. when he is 25, 31, 68 or 74, and
older they dwell in his forehead, so that it is then very dangerous to have boils or ulcers
there, because effusion of the blood would entail death. At other times of life they nestle
under the feet or in other parts and limbs, and only in the 21st, 38th, 41st, and 50th years
of life they are distributed equally through the body, so that open abscesses, wherever
they appear, do not heal then at all. Such pathologic nonsense regulates, of course,
medical practice to a high degree" (Do Groot, IV, p. 75). The liver, the lungs, and the
kidneys correspond to the spring, to the autumn, to the winter, as well as to the east, the
west, and the north. The soul may be extracted from a living man; the body may still live
when left by the soul, for instance during sleep; the soul of a dead man may be reborn
into other bodies. Ghosts may enter into relation with the living, not only in dreams, but
they may take revenge on their enemies.

At the head of the Taoist Pantheon is a trinity of persons:

1. Yuen-shi-t'ien-tsun, "the honoured one of heaven, first in time", residing in "the


jade-stone region", who created the three worlds;
2. Ling-pan-t'ien-tsun, "the honored one of heaven who is valued and powerful",
residing in the "upper pure region", collector of the sacred books, calculator of the
succession of time, and the regulator of the two principles yin and yang;
3. Lao-tze himself, who exposed to mankind the doctrines uttered by the first person
in the trinity and collected in the form of books by the second.
Next come: Yuh-hwang-ta-ti, "the great jade-stone emperor", who governs the physical
universe; Hen-t'u-hwang-ti-k'i, "Spirit of imperial earth, ruler of the soil"; the star gods,
whose lord (sing-chu) resides in a star near the pole; T'ien-hwang-ta-ti, who lives in the
pole star, etc.; Liu-tsu, the "father of thunder". "While he discourses on doctrine, his foot
rests on nine beautiful birds. He has under him thirty-six generals, t'ien tsiang" (Edkins,
"Journ. North China Br. Roy. Asiat. Soc.," III, Dec., 1859, p. 3l1); the sun and moon; the
San-yuen or San-kwan, "the three rulers" who preside over three departments of physical
nature, heaven, earth, and water; Hiuen-kien-shang-ti, "high emperor of the dark heaven",
who is described as the model of the true ascetic. He has transformed himself eighty-two
times to become the instructor of men in the three national religions (Edkins, l. c., p.
312). A number of personages were worshipped under the name of tsu, patriarchs.
Confucius himself has a place assigned him among the deities of this religion, and he is
addressed as " the honoured one of heaven who causes literature to flourish and the world
to prosper" (Edkins). Some men have been worshipped as gods after their death: Kwan-ti,
the god of war; Hu-tsu, a physician; a medical divinity, Ko-tsu Sa-tsu ; etc.

One may well ask how the pure abstract doctrine of Lao-tze was turned into a medley of
alchemical researches, a practice of witchcraft, with the addition of Buddhist
superstitions, which constitute to-day what is called Tao-kiao, the religion or the teaching
of Tao. This was the work of a legendary being, Chang Tao-ling, a descendant of the
eighth generation of Chang Leang, a celebrated advisor of Liu-pang, founder of the Han
dynasty. He was born in the tenth year of the Emperor Kwang Wu-ti (A. D. 34) in a cottage
of a small village of the Che-kiang Province, at the foot of the T'ien-mu-Shan, in the
Hang-chou Prefecture. At an early age Chang studied the works of Lao-tze to which he
added researches of alchemy, a science aiming at "prolonging life beyond the limits
assigned by nature". He found the drug of immortality, and by order of Lao-tze he
destroyed the six great demons of the province; Lao-tze gave him also two books, two
swords, one male, one female, a seal Called Tu-kung, etc. Chang gave his swords and
books to his son Heng, bidding him to continue his pontificate from generation to
generation. At noon on the seventh day of the first moon of the second year Yung-shou of
the Han Emperor Heng (A. D. 157), Tao-ling ascended the Cloudy Mountain (Yun-shan)
with his wife and two disciples, and with them disappeared into heaven. Chang Heng, son
of Chang Tao-ling, continued his father's tradition both in spiritual and alchemical
researches, and Chang Lu the grandson, played an important part in the Yellow Cap
Rebellion at the beginning of the Han dynasty. During the fifth century A. D., when the Wei
dynasty was ruling in Northern China, a certain K'iu Kien-che tried to substitute himself
to the Chang family and received in 423 from the emperor the title of T'ien-shi,
"Preceptor of Heaven", which formerly belonged to Tao-ling. In 748 the T'ang Emperor
Hiuen-Tsung conferred this title upon the heirs of the latter, and a grant of a large
property near Lung-hu Shan was made to them in 1016 by the Sung Emperor Chen-
Tsung. Heredity in the charge of high priest of the cult was secured to the descendants of
Chang by the transmigration of the soul of Tao-ling's successor, at the time of his demise,
to the body of a junior member of the family, whose selection is indicated by a
supernatural phenomenon.
To-day, at the head of the Taoist hierarchy is the Cheng-i-sze-kiao-chen-jen, "Heir to the
founder of the Taoist sect"; this title was conferred by the Ming dynasty upon Chang
Cheng-shang, descendant from Chang Tao-ling of the thirty-ninth generation. This title
"belongs, by an hereditary privilege, to the firstborn descending in a direct line from
Chang Tao-ling. He lives upon the Lung-hu Mountain, in the Kiang-si Province. His
office consists in using his magical art to frighten demons away, to baffle diabolical
influence, and to refrain the evil-doing souls of the dead. He names the new Ch'eng-
hwang, 'tutelary deities of the cities', and for a fee, he gives to Taoists titles permitting
them to celebrate the ceremonies with more solemnity" (P. Hoang, "Mélanges sur
l'Administration", 34). In the capital of the empire the Taoist priesthood includes: two
Tao-lu-sze, superiors, a title corresponding with that of the Buddhists, seng-lu-sze; two
Cheng-i, Taoists of right simplicity; two Yen-fa, ritual Taoists; two Che-ling, Taoists of
great excellence, thaumaturgus; and two Che-i, Taoists of great probity, an inferior class
of priests. In the provinces at the head of the priesthood are: Tao-ki-sze Ton-ki, superior of
the Taoists of a fu (prefectute), and Tao-ki-sze Fou Ton-ki, vice-superior of the Taoists of
a fu; Tao-cheng, superior of the Taoists of a chou or a t'ing; Tao-hwei, superior of the
Taoists of a hien. The superiors are appointed by the governors-general (tsung-tu), or by
the governors (fu-t'ai), on the presentation of the prefect of sub-prefect of the chou, t'ing,
or hien.