An Introduction to Taoist Philosophy
An Alternative Way to View Life, Society, and the World

1. Cultural difference between East and West 2. Taoism as a religion

You-Sheng Li ; website: taoism21cen.com




Culture background is different  A way to see different cultures is to look their visual arts in history. Visual arts represent what they saw and what they wanted to see in their world. The artists represent their culture and their people, not only themselves .

1/13/2013 4

















Richard E. Nisbett, (University of Michigan) and D. Park(U. of Illinois)his in cooperation with Chinese did some comparative studies to show the difference between Chinese and Western people. They found:
Chinese and English native speakers use different parts of brain when they are doing simple arithmetic. The Chinese use a brain region involved in the processing of visual information while the English speaker, language processing area of the brain.  Chinese use both left and right brains to process language but Western, only left side.  When watching a photograph, American students pay more attention to object in the foreground of the scene while Chinese spend more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene. Conclusion: Chinese see the world as something to live in, and enjoy, and Western, something to work on, and so they need a focus. 1/13/2013 13

Comparisons of India, West, and China
Frame of thinking God
Universe Neither Religion Caste Invasion

West World
God souls Science Secondary expansion

Sky+ancestor souls+bodies philosophy Two levels uprising


Other authors My Talk

Backward Caste

forward club

stay there clan

Spiritual pursuit


Self 14 Well-being

The main stream culture in Chinese history is Complementary Confucianism/Taoism, and Taoism is the basis and is the key


Confucianism developed on the basis of Taoism, Lao Tzu was Confucius’ teacher. In Chinese history, intellectuals were Confucians in the government office but Taoists at home. To understand Chinese culture from the Western view, Taoism is the key, which marks the difference between the East and the West. 15

What is Taoist philosophy

Taoism is a philosophy, a religion, and a way of life. It emphasizes the natural way, harmony, and effortlessness. Taoism aims at the opposite direction in comparison with the Western civilization. It was founded by LaoTzu, Chuang Tzu and other philosophers from the sixth century to the third century BC based on ancient Chinese traditions In the second and third centuries AD, it developed into a major religion. From then, there were three major religions, namely Confucianism, Buddhism, and 1/13/2013Taoism in China 16

Taoism in Comparison with Marxism ---Opposite ways to view life and society

Taoism: Spare time, relaxing, the whole human nature. Only two things to aim at: Aesthetic pursuit (pure enjoyment), and a long healthy life. From the view of individuals, emphasis on psychological experience( a tiny hair on the body is worth more than all the wealth and power of the whole world put together ). Marxism: Working time, economic pursuit, the part of human nature which helps us to compete and survive. From the view of society, emphasis on materialism, economic growth .








Civilized people can fight forever, which becomes the history of civilization


1. With time passing, the way of fighting, weapons, strategy …. are all changing. That is the history of our civilization. Civilization is the result when humans are forced to fight for survival. 2. In Human history, wars were upgraded continually in terms of numbers of people involved as more nations joined in. The maximum size of war humans could have entered was when all humans on earth joined in and when all nations divided into two huge campuses. This was the two world wars and the cold war era. So the peak time 1/13/2013 21 of human war is over.

Scientists predict: War is fading out, a new way of life is needed

The political situation we are facing now is similar to that in ancient China when Taoist philosophy was first founded. We now have a United Nations as a platform for countries and social powers to work out their differences while ancient China, during Hsia Shang Chou (2000-221BC), had a super state structure with a powerless king and his royal court, allowing vassals and local powers to compete with each other in a relatively peaceful environment. UN and the ancient Chinese super state play a critical role in creating a peaceful environment, in which Taoist philosophy is one of the most suitable life 1/13/2013 22 styles.

New Era, New Life, & New Culture: Taoism for the twenty first century Website: taoism21cen.com

When wars are going on, humans are urged to work hard for survival. When wars are over, people care for themselves. They take time to enjoy life, and life becomes more humanized. From baby boomers to generation X, and to generation Y, people seem becoming more relaxed, more distanced from materialism but closer to self-happiness or spirituality. Modern technology of communication has brought humans on earth closer than before, and the world has become a globe village. People can chat with each other on the internet no matter where they are. The wealth-building culture, which started with the Renaissance and hallmarked with the capitalist system, seems that it will be cut off by resource limitation and environmental problems, and especially by the final realization that wealth provide us convenience and comfort but not happiness. It is most apparent if we consider that in Canada and USA, the suicide rate was double during the last century. 1/13/2013 23

The striking features of Taoism as a religion (Ancient & Modern)
The fundamental belief of Taoist religion is that you do not have to die physically, which is essentially what behind the modern medicine and science. (long healthy life)  Taoist religion is based on the ancient Taoist philosophy, which is famous for their atheistic view against Mohism and Confucianism  The birth of Taoist religion in the second and third centuries was associated with a massive uprising of peasants.  One of the major parts of religious practice of 1/13/2013 24 Taoism is sex.

Taoism is based on primary society, and Taoism advocates the separation of primary and secondary societies

Primary society is genetically coded society, some 150 in size. Tribes and bands were primary society. Any secondary society, like modern society, is created by man with a designed ideology, laws and social power to control human behaviour. (Both Mesopotamia and Greece started with city states while China and Egypt were not) Primary society suits human nature well, and secondary society does not. In the primary society, pursuit: aesthetics+health (Taoism). 1/13/2013 25







The Universal Evolutionary Pathways
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6 Level 7 Level 8 Level 9 Level 10

1 Physical world
Non-being Being
Elementary particles

2 Life

3 Culture

4 Conscious

Atoms/electrons Molecules Objects Stars and planets Galaxies Universe DNA Cells Tissues Organs Organisms Primary society
Secondary society
Culture Unconscious

Level 11
Level 12
1/13/2013 Level 13


Rational thinking systems Spirituality 29

The function of religion or spiritual pursuit

Replace what we miss from loss of primary society, where members are psychologically and emotionally integrated into a whole. Mitigate the uncertainty secondary society has brought to us. The course of the evolution of secondary society is apparently not in the control of human beings but controlled by nature or by God. The religion is fundamentally different between primary and secondary societies.
1/13/2013 30

In the ancient time, yin and yang were in harmony. Gods and spirits were quiet and did not interfere with people. The four seasons followed their own course. Animals and plants were not harmed. Humans lived to their full life span. People had knowledge but there was no use of it. This is called the big One. Chuang Tzu Chapter 16
1/13/2013 31

Comparison between Egypt (United in 3000BC) and Mesopotamia in 2400BC) religion (Sumerians, Phoenicians, Hittites, Babylonians; United in

Egyptians believed in a continuation of one’s earthly condition in one’s earthly body after death…The cult of Osiris, which grew rapidly during the Middle Kingdom (c 1900BC), promised resurrection and eternal life to all, regardless of social status…did not really have a hell… Not much going on in Sumerian heaven unless you were a god…the dead spent eternity in a dreary, poorly lit, depressing shadow world…where they wished they were dead or deader……deity whose importance was measured by how well his soldiers performed in battle and how much land they conquered…immortality wasn’t among them… From Gregg Stebben: everything you need to know about RELIGION


Wealth does not spell Happiness

To determine how happy a people or a nation is: Parameters which are supposedly leading to happiness, such as wealth, education, health. Adrian White (Leicester, UK) studied and ranked 178 countries, and concludes: Denmark is the happiest, and Canada, the 10th. New Economic Foundation (London, UK) used the happy Planet Index including ecological footprint to rank 233 countries with Vanuatu the first, Canada the 111st.
1/13/2013 33

Concluision: Happiness is not the same as Natural Joy, which is advocated by Taoism

Happiness cannot be measured by social parameters such as wealth, education, and so on, since happiness is very much a subjective matter. Happiness cannot be measured by subjective feeling either. How happy we feel depends how our culture has taught us. From a physician’s perspective: real happiness makes our body healthy but the pseudo-happiness with a burning effect harms our health. The incidences of heart attack, stroke, cancer, psychosis, suicide can serve as an indicator of happiness. Suicide rate doubled in the twenty century in Northern America.






The life in Chinese countryside is close to Taoist ideal compared to cities

Characteristics: peace, quiet, no goals except for aesthetic pursuit (pure enjoyment) + health. Chinese countryside is different from the Western countryside because it was shaped by the Taoist influence. The Taoist life style in Chinese countryside was not ruined by emperors, not by wars, not by Communism or cultural revolution but wiped out by Capitalism.












When I asked them, “Do you feel happy?” They say, “How much more can you get from life? It’s better than before.” The question for us to ponder is: How much more do we get from life in comparison with that old Chinese couple? If not, we certainly can.

The End
1/13/2013 43

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful