a Chinese religious tradition- used to be spelled "Taoism"
emphasizes harmony with the universe- Dao="Way"
Daoism is diverse, comprising rituals, philosophy, meditation techniques, diet, exercise,
o acupuncture, acupressure, herbal remedies
Daoist practices and beliefs have influenced all religious traditions in China (be a
Buddhist but still make use of Daoist medicine)- misleading to say that you either belong
to it or you don't- one doesn't have to be a "Daoist" to make use of these practices
Daoist medicine places huge emphasis on a healthy body- connected with idea of
bringing body into state of smoothly functioning harmony
philosophical vs religious Daoism
o philosophical- Dao as cosmic power in universe
o religious- involves rituals
o etic perspective helps separate early Daoism from later, emic perspective does not
Daodejing (Tao Te Ching)
o attributed to a 4th century BCE sage named Laozi
o largely philosophical focus on the Dao (Way)
o here, the Dao is a principle of harmony underlying all things, as well as the
comsmic origin of all things
o the Dao is acyobe in the world as De, "virtue" or "power", especially the virtue of
the sage who can rule in harmony with the Dao
o contains criticism of Confucian virtues as unnatural and artificial
o most translated text into English
o "Laozi"- "old master"- leaves village, confronted by a bridge, gives his teachings,
the Daodejing in exchange for passing
o ultimately, the Dao is mysterious, beyond human language and concepts:
"Tao called Tao is not Tao
Names can name no lasting name."
o and yet, the Dao is the origin of all things:
"Tao is empty-
Its use is never exhausted.
The origin of all things."- because it is empty, it can be filled with all things
o "Something unformed and complete
Before heaven and earth were born
Solitary and silent,
Stands alone and unchanging,
Pervading all things without limit.
It is like the mother of all under heaven,
But I don't know its name-
Better call it Dao." o the Dao "gives birth" to yin and yang- polar and complimentary principles of
male and female, from these two principles in different combinations, come
everything in the universe
the yang principle is male, bright, hard, firm, unyielding- not so much a
principle of gender
the yin is female, dark, soft, yielding
two forces constantly changing into eachother- as one force becomes
strong, it changes into the other
characterizes the changing of the universe
do not resist change
each principle contains a part of the other within itself
the constant interaction produces everything in the universe- "ten thousand
the yin and yang are constantly changing into each other, so the sage
clings to neither and achieves harmony with the Dao, and returns to the
"One" before all polarity
"Crippled becomes whole,
Crooked becomes straight,
Hollow becomes full,
Worn becomes new,
Little becomes more,
Therefore the Sages cling to the One."
o the sage, in harmony with the Dao, does not cling to ideas, actions, or virtues, but
"goes with the flow"
the sage acts through wu-wei, "non-action"- the sage is spontaneous and
natural, and is not attached to artificial social codes of behaviour- example
of bamboo contrasted to old knarled pine trees- bamboo will sway in the
breeze and break, if you are the old pine tree and set in your ways, you
o "Recognize beauty and ugliness is born.
Recognize good and evil is born.
Is and isn't produce each other.
Hard depends on easy,
Long is tested by short,
High is determined by low...
Therefore, the sage is devoted to non-action (wu-wei)"
o like the Daodejing, important document of so-called "philosophical Daoism"
o attributed to sage Zhuangzi (c. 370-290 BCE)
o human concepts like "right" and "wrong" are relative
o we cant be sure what the human mind tells us
o encourages a life of simplicity with few desires:
"Let there be a small country with few people-
They might have plenty of utensils,
But nobody would use them. They might have boats and carriages,
Yet nobody would ride them."
o "Two neighbouring villages... might be visible to each other,
They might even hear each other's dogs and roosters,
Yet the people in either would grow old and never go back
o human ideas are relative, and we cannot be 100% sure of anything, it's better to
leave evaluation and comparison behind, and to spontaneously enjoy life
o gives example of an ugly tree, he say this is the best tree in the universe, because
it is so ugly and bent, nobody will cut it down- initial concepts of useful or
useless, good or bad, not really dependable
o the sage accepts change and uncertainty with happiness... he welcomes sickness
and death just as he enjoys health and life
o look for: Zhuangzi Speaks, a comic book by Tsai Chih Chung
contrast bad chefs who just hack off meat, to good chefs who cut with the
grain of the meat, avoiding the bones
just as the Daoist goes with the flow, so the good chef is attuned with the
cosmos, act in harmony with the cosmos (the structure of the cow, meat
natural as always good
craving material things can imprison you
Han Dynasty Developments
o in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE -220 CE), new developments supplemented the
philosophical ideas of Daodejing and Zhuangzi:
the belief in, and goal of becoming, an "immortal" (xian)- striking contrast
to Buddhism- Buddhist quest for enlightenment is to transcend life,
samsara; Daoism is focused on the body and matter, when they picture the