A short history of Taoism and its meaning: Part 2/2

May 14, 2013

The video’s narrator, Jean Delumeau (born 1923) is a professor of history at the College of France in Paris and is widely regarded as one of the leading historians of Christianity. Sin and Fear, one of his books, is a monument of flawless scholarship, says Wendy Doniger for the New York Times

Delumeau says that Taoism was a philosophy and a religion, which offered salvation for the individual and responded to the need for the immortality of its followers.

Confucianism, however, was somewhat abstract and didn’t offer a reward of immortality since ancient China did not have a concept of a spiritual soul that survives a physical death.

Taoism believed that the physical body only contains the personality. There were rules for food, hygiene, breathing techniques and different forms of gymnastics, which were designed to suppress the causes of death and allow each follower to create an immortal body to replace the mortal one.

After the mortal body died, the immortal body went elsewhere to live.

In ancient China, the pathway of sanctity preached by Taoism evolved in Chinese Yoga and was recognized some 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the second century AD, Taoism became a true church venerating immortals as saints.

About 200 AD, a Taoist scholar taught that virtue, avoidance of sin, confessions of sins and good works were the most important aspects and took precedence over diet and hygiene.

One major difference from religions in the West is that Taoism does not have leaders on a national scale—like the Catholic Pope—and is more like a federation of linked communities.

In 110 BC, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty made Confucianism the state religion to strengthen and centralize his power.

Nevertheless, Taoism continued to be practiced as a parallel popular religion.

Religious Tolerance.org says there are about 225 million followers but the exact number is impossible to estimate since many Taoists also identify with other regions such as Buddhism and Confucianism.

Return to A short history of Taoism and its meaning: Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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A short history of Taoism and its meaning: Part1/2

May 13, 2013

Jean Delumeau, that narrator of the video, is an honorary professor of the College de France. He says by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been widespread for several centuries.

Taoism was the popular religion of China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

However, certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, which are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao — Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

The moon and the sun are the manifestations of Yin and Yang and all change is a result of these two dynamic forces such as day and night, the seasons, and life and death.

These two principals alternate in the five phases of a cycle, which are represented by water, fire, wood, metal and earth, which serve to define the five cardinal points, which are north, south, east, west and the center.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, which have had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

One example says, “The wise man does not seek to be known as a wise man but of his own free will remains in obscurity. Those who seek much knowledge enrich themselves daily. Those who seek Tao become poorer each day. Eventually, they become so poor they are incapable of action. Without action, nothing can be achieved.”

Continued on May 14, 2013 in  A short history of Taoism and its meaning: Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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China’s last Empress Dowager-regent

April 8, 2013

The Last Empress of China ruled the Qing Dynasty as a coregent after her husband, the Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, and her son, The Tongzhi Emperor (1856 – 1875), was too young to rule China.

Technically, The Empress Dowanger Tzu Hsi (Cixi) wasn’t the last empress.

However, she was the last empress to rule China as a regent for her son, and then her nephew after her son died at age 19.

Sterling Seagrave, the author of Dragon Lady, writes, “Absurdly little was known about her life. The New York Times printed a long, error filled obituary calling her Tzu An, the title of her coregent, who had died twenty-seven years earlier.”

Many current history texts have slandered the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi (1835 – 1908) without much evidence as one of history’s most monstrous women—a ruthless Manchu concubine who seduced and murdered her way to the throne in 1861 to rule China through prevision, corruption and intrigue.

This is how many still think of Tzu Hsi. In addition, she has been accused of murdering her son, and then years later her nephew, who died the day before she did.

Instead, her son may have died of syphilis because it was rumored he preferred prostitutes to the hundreds of virgin concubines that belonged to him.

Some rumors claim that Tzu Hsi had her nephew poisoned, but Yuan Shikai may also have poisoned him. There is no evidence to support either theory.

How did the Tzu Hsi earn such a bad reputation? It seems that she earned this reputation similar to how today’s China has been smeared in much of the Western media.

To understand how this came about, I will make a comparison to Jayson Blair, a young reporter for the New York Times who wrote more than 600 articles for the newspaper. During his short career with the New York Times, Blair committed repeated “acts of journalistic fraud”, including stealing material from other papers and inventing quotes.

Blair’s fraud was revealed in 2003, while he was still working for the newspaper. Source: BBC News

However, Jayson Blair was not the first reporter to commit “acts of journalistic fraud”.

Edmund Backhouse did the same thing writing about Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi at the beginning of the 20th century, and his lies and deceit wouldn’t be discovered until Sterling Seagrave was researching for his book Dragon Lady decades later.

And Backhouse’s journalistic fraud served as the foundation for most history texts still used today that continue to slander Tzu Hsi.

To do Tzu Hsi justice and to discover the truth, one should read Seagrave’s Dragon Lady, The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China.

To learn who the real woman was we may want to consider what Robert Hart had to say about Hzu Hsi in his letters and journals.  Robert Hart arrived in China from Ireland in 1854 to learn the language and work as an interpreter for the British consulate in Ningpo. In 1859, almost five years later, Hart quit his job with the British and went to work for the Emperor of China as an employee. He returned to England in 1908.

For most of his stay in China after 1859, Hart was Inspector General of Chinese Maritime Customs and worked closely with the Imperial ministers and Manchu princes. Before returning to England, Hart met with the Dowager Empress in a private audience.

Hart referred to Tzu Hsi as “the Buddha” and later “the old Buddha” since she was a devout Buddhist and it is obvious that he thought of her with affection and admiration.

In fact, Hart, who is considered the Godfather of China’s modernization, at no time indicated in anything he wrote that Tzu Hsi was conspiratorial, sinister or manipulative. However, he did indicate that she was strong-willed and hot-tempered, clever and had ability.

Tzu Hsi died in 1908 a few weeks after Robert Hart left China. The Qing Dynasty collapsed in 1911.

Discover more of The Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911)

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Forbidden City’s Link to Tibet Revealed–by accident maybe?

February 25, 2013

Since the Western media is often critical of China and exaggerates events in Tibet to make China look bad, I was surprised while reading The Last Secrets of the Forbidden Citiy Head to the U.S. by Auston Ramzy.

I was surprised that evidence like this slipped past the Western media censors—sorry, it is politically incorrect to say that there are media censors in America. In the US, the censors are called editors.

The Time Magazine piece Ramzy wrote was about an exhibit traveling to the United States with treasures from the Forbidden City that have not been seen since 1924.

Ramzy wrote, “Many of the 18th century objects that will be displayed are symbols of the emperor’s devout Buddhism. They include a hanging panel filed with niches that hold intricate figurines of Buddhas, deities and historical teachers from the Tibetan Buddhist sect to which [Emperor] Qianlong belonged.” See Buddhism in China

I didn’t know the powerful Qianlong Emperor followed the teachings of Buddhists from Tibet. There are four Buddhist sects in Tibet. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four, the Yellow Hat sect.

Why would the Qianlong Emperor belong to a Tibetan sect of Buddhism if Tibet were not considered part of China at the time? There is even evidence that Tibetan Buddhist monks traveled to the capital of China to serve the emperors.

This is evidence that proves China considered Tibet a vassal state or tributary.  In fact, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty troops are known to have occupied Lhasa over the centuries.

I’ve written about primary evidence from the October 1912 National Geographic Magazine that described how the Imperial government in Beijing managed a difficult Tibet, and I’ve mentioned letters Sir Robert Hart wrote in the 19th century that also mention Tibet as part of China.

In 1890, a Convention between Great Britain and China was signed that offers more evidence that China considered Tibet part of its realm and Great Britain agreed.

Yes, Tibet did declare freedom from China in 1913 soon after the Qing Dynasty collapsed and China fell into chaos and anarchy while warlords fought over the spoils. Why did Tibet do this? Because the British Empire convinced Tibet to break from China.

Then in 1950, after World War II and the end of the rebellion between Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists and Chinese Communists, Mao Red Army invaded Tibet and reoccupied what the Chinese considered a breakaway province as mainland China still considers Taiwan.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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From China to India for Enlightenment

February 19, 2013

I mentioned Hsuan-tsang (Xuanzang) when I wrote about China’s Three “Journeys to the West”. However, in that post I did not go into detail about the real Buddhist monk who made the journey.

While doing some research about his life, I discovered an intellectual discussion at Philosophy and Marxism Today.  If this topic interests you and you want to learn more about Buddhism I recommend reading this conversation between Thomas Riggins and Fred.

Thomas starts with, “I’ll start with background based on Chan’s introductory remarks.

“Hsuan-tsang (596-644) was quite a character. He entered a Buddhist monastery when he was thirteen. Then moved around China studying under different masters. Finally, he went off to India to study Buddhism at its source and with Sanskrit masters.

“He spent over ten years in India, wrote a famous book about his journey, and returned to China with over six hundred original manuscripts.

“He spent the rest of his life with a group of translators rendering seventy five of the most important works into Chinese. All of this work was sponsored by the Emperor of the newly established T’ang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD).”

The book I have on Hsuan-tsang says he lived from 602 to 664 AD.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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