A man named
Laozi, who was an archivist for the Chinese government, created Taoism
in the 6th Century. Taoism is based on the concepts of 'tao' (the way
or path), and 'wuwei' (passivity). Fellow Taoists believe that the 'tao'
is a guide to the principle of truth and reality, which is sought with
humility, and through a life of simplicity. The forces of 'yin' (feminine,
weak, dark, and passive) and 'yang' (masculine, bright, activity and heaven)
determine the events of the world.
debate on whether Laozi ever existed continues to linger even though there
have been numerous legends based on the sage. The book, 'Daodejing' (The
Way and Its Power), by Laozi contains his philosophies, but certain scholars
believe that it was written not only by Laozi, but also by other philosophers
like him. Laozi had a few disciples with him. Amongst them were Liezi,
who upheld the relativity of experiences and strove to grasp the 'tao'
by meditating. Another disciple, Zhuangzi, was famous for his poetic parables.
popular during the Han period (206BC - AD220). With the rise of Buddhism,
ideas from Taoism and Buddhism overlapped each other. Both religions perceived
the great paradise to be in the far west of China, thus its name, Western
Paradise. The concept of hell was also adopted from Buddhism. Taoists
often devoted their time to meditation and priests were known to be medicine
men and interpreters of oracles. The priests also conducted exorcism and
funeral rites, and prayed for the dead with occasional sacrificial offerings.
of Taoist gods is based on historical and legendary figures. At the top,
there are the three Commendables, with the Jade Emperor as the highest-ranked.
A popular god is the God of Longevity, 'Shouxinggong', a pleasant old
man with long white beard and a bald, elongated head. Others include the
God of Wealth (Caishen), the God of Fire (Huoshen), the Kitchen God (Zaoshen),
the God of Literature (Wendi), and the God of Medicine (Huatou).