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

_______________

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 Seven Wonders of China: Part 2/5

February 12, 2013

2. Hanging Monastery

Another popular tourist site is the fifteen-hundred year old wooden Hanging Monastery. The monastery is suspended fifteen stories above the valley floor on the side of a sheer cliff.  It is a mystery why the monastery was built there and why.

One reason might be the floods that once plagued the valley. Today, a dam controls the water. The monastery was built in an indentation in the cliff below an overhand.

What cannot be seen from the valley floor is the Hanging Monastery was built into the cliff’s face. More than forty caves and rooms were dug into the rock. This process allowed supports to be built into the cliff.  The thin wooden pillars are only there for decoration and were added in the last century.

3. The Great Wall

One of the world’s greatest treasures is the almost four-thousand mile Great Wall that took two-thousand years to complete.

The early great wall was made of layers of pressed earth and straw. The Qin Dynasty completed the first wall. The Han Dynasty extended the wall toward Mongolia. The Ming Dynasty built the wall stronger of stone and mortar. The Chinese used smoke and fire to send messages over long distances to warn of enemy attacks.

Continued on February 13, 2013 in The Seven Wonders of China: Part 3 or return to Part 1

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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Romance of the Three Kingdoms

December 10, 2012

When I was a kid, I loved reading historical fiction like those about Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. I still do. I also see historical movies and for that reason, I bought the movie version for the Romance of the Three Kingdoms—an epic from China’s history.

Don’t let the title fool you. This story is not about romance as Westerners think of it. It’s about the romance of politics, war and conquest. There’s even a love story with sacrifice.

The novel was written in the 14th century and was more than a thousand pages long with 120 chapters. The translated English version is longer. After the Han Dynasty collapsed (206 BC to 219 AD), China shattered into three warring kingdoms.

This story is about how China was reunified as one nation again. I’ve seen it once and plan to watch it again. The DVD version has 84 episodes and runs for more than fifty hours. It has even been made into a game.

Before starting this epic, you may want to read these posts to have a better understanding of the behavior of the characters.

Discover the First of All Virtues or Honor Chinese style in addition to the meaning of Face.

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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Chinese Poetry during the Tang Dynasty

October 22, 2012

The Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD) is regarded as one of the most prosperous times in China’s long history.

It was also the golden age of Chinese art and literature.

Crossing the Han River
Song Zhi-wen (656 – 712 AD)

No news, no letters – all winter, all spring —
     Beyond the mountains.
With every homeward step more timid still
I dare not even inquire of passerby
.

Song Zhi-wen, the poet, was found guilty of accepting bribes and executed. He had good reason to fear returning home from exile.


In this video is a famous Tang poem.

The classical form of Chinese poetry developed in the late Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty.

Most Tang poems have four or eight lines, with five and seven Chinese characters in each line following certain rules.

Another example of Tang Dynasty poetry is Spring Perspective by Du Fu (712 – 770 AD).

When the post of prime minister was awarded to a cousin of the imperial concubine, there was the military rebellion of An Lu–shan in 755 AD.

The nation has fallen, the land endures
Spring trees and grasses flourish in the town.
Troubled by the times — flowers bring tears;
Dreading parting — birds startle the soul.

With turmoil of battle three months on end,
A letter from home is worth a fortune in gold.
As it is, they can barely hold a pin.

This poem demonstrates what happens when the Chinese people get tired of nepotism and corruption, which should be heeded as a warning today to crack down on corruption in Communist China.

The next poem is one of many that Yuan Zhen (779 – 831 AD) wrote for his dead wife, who he married when he was poor. She did not live long enough to share his fame and fortune.

In former years, we chatted carelessly of death and what it means
     to die.
Since then, it’s passed before my very eyes.
I’ve given almost all your clothes away
But cannot bear to move your sewing things.
Remembering your past attachments, I’ve been kind to maids you
     loved.
I’ve met your soul in dreams and ordered sutras sung.
Certainly, I know this sorrow comes to all
But to poor and lowly couples, everything life brings is sad.

See Mao Zedong, the Poet

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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Taoism – Part 2/3

March 28, 2012

What I think of when I think of Taoism is this story from the Taoist tradition, an Eastern philosophy whose main image or metaphor is that of water that meets a rock in the river, and simply flows around it. Taoism suggests that a major source of our suffering is that we resist and try to control the natural movements of the world around us. The Tao literally means “The Way,” and it reminds us that the world is bigger than us, and we’ll enjoy it better if we humble ourselves to the natural flow of things.

You know: Go with the flow.

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. Confucius said, “The superior men are sparing in their words and profuse in their deeds.”

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 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.

The difference from religions in the West was that Taoism did not have leaders on a national scale and was 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.

Continued on February 27, 2012 in Taoism and Religion in Communist China – Part 3 or return to Taoism – Part 1

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared on December 5, 2010


Taoism – Part 1/3

March 27, 2012

“Those who know do not say; those who say do not know.” -Lao-tzu

I am no expert on Taoism.  I have a copy of Tao Te Ching and have read it in addition to a few pieces about it, but I was raised as a Christian in a Christian culture.  For this reason, Jean Delumeau, the narrator of the video and an honorary professor of the College de France, will tell you something about this religion.

Delumeau 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 serving 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 February 26, 2012 in Taoism – Part 2

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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Note: This revised and edited post first appeared on December 5, 2010


Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 1/5

October 21, 2011

Most people outside China only know of Beijing (once known as Peking) as the capital of China. However, another city was China’s capital for more than a thousand years.

In fact, Chang’ an (Xi’an) served as the capital for twelve dynasties, including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui and Tang dynasties, spanning more than eleven hundred years. It was also the cultural center of the Silk Road.

In 2008, the last time we visited Xi’an, subway construction was running behind schedule due to a law that does not allow the destruction of historical sites such as the tombs of emperors.  There are so many of these tombs below ground that the subway tunnels must be diverted to avoid them resulting in delays.

With such a long history, the Discovery Channel produced a documentary of Xi’an (Chang’ an) called China’s Most Honourable City.

To learn about Xi’an’s long history also teaches us much about China’s civilization. Discovery Channel’s Neville Gishford will take us on this historical journey leading to the present.

Gishford says, “It (Han Chang’ an) was more powerful than Rome. If any Roman army had actually gone there, they would have been absolutely annihilated.”

Han Chang’ an (Xi’an) was larger than Constantinople and richer than Egypt’s Alexandria.  It was a fortress so powerful that even 20th century artillery could not knock its walls down.

Today, Xi’an is home to millions of people and thousands of men made of clay, the Terra Cotta Warriors guarding China’s first emperor.

In addition, the massive city wall is more than six hundred years old and longer than 12 kilometers. Cracks are appearing and an engineering team keeps close watch and makes repairs

However, the Xi’an of today was first build over two thousand years ago and has been three cities—not one.  The Han Dynasty built the first city (Chang’ an), which is close to the modern city of Xi’an and the old eroding walls are still visible.

At 36 square kilometers, Han Chang’ an was more than one and a half times the size of Rome.

Continued on October 18, 2011, in Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 2

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______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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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