Taoism notes

Taoism notes - Early Chinese worldview assumptions Chinese...

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Early Chinese worldview assumptions Chinese can be, simultaneously, a Buddhist, Confucian, and a Taoist. • Universe is lawful, but no outside lawgiver , no Almighty God who judges the sins of each person. • Stress on cyclical processes (day and night, seasonal rotation), growth and decline ( waxing and waning of the moon, plant life). Life is bi-polar . Opposites are necessary and complimentary, they merge with each other, become the opposite. Yin : passive, female, receptive, dark, night, cold, soft, wet, winter. Yang : active, male, creative, light, day, heat, hard, dry, summer. Everything a combo of these two, contain the seed of the opposite tendency within themselves. Ceaseless flow of change. Constantly turning, interchanging places. All dualities, however, are resolved in the symbol of the all-embracing circle, the unity of the Tao . Explicit duality expresses an implicit unity. Opposites are phases of a revolving wheel. Life is not linear, but circular. Five elements : wood (east, green, liver); fire (south, red, heart); earth (center, yellow, spleen); metal (west, white, lungs); water (north, black, kidneys). Everything, physical and mental, made of combinations of these elements. Not static. Rather, ceaselessly interacting, transforming and replacing each other (e.g., water overcoming fire, fire burning wood). Animistic worldview : everything has a spirit. The world is not purely material, not something foreign. Humans are an integral part of natural order. Their actions (morally good or bad) affect the external world. Therefore, need to look for signs. Signs are important: they tell people whether they are in line with the Tao of nature. So if people (esp. important people, like emperor or local rep of emperor) perform good actions, are just, perform the correct sacrifices/rituals in the correct way at the correct time: then sunshine and rain in the right amounts, good crops etc. However, if bad actions, then natural disasters, plagues, droughts, diseases, etc. Many different spiritual beings : Personified forces of nature, heavenly bodies, ghosts, demons, spirits of ancestors, gods and goddesses. All live in an unseen but very real spiritual world that can and does interact with everyday reality. Spirits of ancestors are the most important, but also spirits of animals, plants, stones, stars, rivers, 1
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mountains. Very local understandings of spiritual beings. And these understandings change: they can move up or down the spiritual hierarchy, depending upon their success in this world. (E.g., popular general dies, becomes an ancestor. But then, when prayed to, helps people win battles. So then seen as captain of celestial armies). There are also no utterly clear cut divisions between spirits – given different names and roles and myths, but often one seen as an emanation from another, higher, spiritual being. Demons
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This note was uploaded on 05/08/2008 for the course RELI 3382 taught by Professor Billbarnard during the Spring '08 term at SMU.

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Taoism notes - Early Chinese worldview assumptions Chinese...

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