Daoist in the Modern World

Topics: Taoism, People's Republic of China, Chinese philosophy Pages: 7 (2818 words) Published: May 7, 2012
Daoism in Modern China
Since the warring states period, Daoism has had been an actor in Chinese politics and religious life. Daoism began as a way of life for Chinese people who discovered that through meditation they could free themselves from the burdens of this world. As the religion developed, many groups arose that specialized in certain aspects of attaining oneness with the Dao. Zhengyi or Celestial Masters was founded in the first century CE. This sect focused on the community and rituals, and still does today. Quanzhen or Complete Perfection was founded in the twelfth century CE. This sect focused on monastic life with specific rules regarding diet. In modern China, these two sects are most prevalent and the Longmen lineage of Quanzhen being the most common in China. These are the only prevalent sects due to harsh treatment of Daoists in the early twentieth century under the Republic of China and Mao Zedong. The first attacks against Daoism came with the Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth century. Then, during the Cultural Revolution in 1966 -1976 Daoism was almost completely destroyed. After Mao died and the revolution ended, in 1978 Daoism could be practiced again and started to recover. The Chinese government promoted the formation of the Chinese Taoist Association, which allowed the government to control the actions of Daoist temples and gave the Daoists the chance to rebuild their religion. Daoist temples were destroyed during Mao’s rule, so with the formation of the CTA, Daoists were able to reconstruct their temples and build new ones. The CTA oversees all that goes on in the temples including rituals and ordinations in order to ensure that the practices are in line with Chinese law. With the CTA watching and influencing every Daoist action, the religion is able to grow and spread across the world. However, the traditional Daoist thoughts and practices are skewed to fit the way the Communist Chinese government officials think Daoism should be practiced. This is problematic, because the first Daoists would not have liked so much commercialism since it does not help people become closer to the Dao. Modern Daoism is a result of western influence on Chinese culture and many years of negative treatment from the Chinese government. Jesuit missionaries arrived during the Qing Dynasty. Their intent was to convert the Chinese people, so naturally they demonized Daoism. This evolved to become a popular idea and Daoism became alienated. The Jesuits tended to lean toward the Confucian ideas about family instead. So, Daoism was not well liked due to the popularity of the Jesuits and their Confucian philosophies. The next event against Daoism was the Taiping Rebellion from 1851-1864. During the rebellion, Daoist temples were destroyed and many monks were killed. There was civil unrest throughout China as the dynastic rule came to an end. The many groups of people trying to form governments converted the Temples that remained standing to schools, offices, and hospitals. The Republic of China formed in 1912 to create order in the country. This did not mean Daoists were done suffering. The monastic life was attacked as an escape from a country in need of workers. The practices of the priests and lay people were seen as superstitious, remnants of the western influences. (Kohn p. 189) Spirit writing and martial practices continued in secrecy or on small levels. The Chinese government was focusing on turning China into a player in the rising industrial economy around the world. So, they pushed for modernization, and this meant anti-traditionalism. Conventional Daoist traditions were shunned, which did not allow the Daoists to openly practice their religion. After the Republic of China moved to Taiwan, China adopted communism, developed by Karl Marx. Marx stated that religion is something people use in hard times, but it is only temporary because when times are good religion will evaporate. Mao Zedong did not wait for...
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