Wu Wei In Taoism

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Wu wei is one of the most important concepts of Taoism. Wu is translated as none and wei is translated as doing, so literally wu wei means doing nothing. The word seems to be paradoxical because Lao Tsu was teaching people to do things to achieve the state of wu wei. In fact, wu wei means not to do things that violate the natural law. The Taoist notion of wu wei provides individuals a harmony way of living and a peaceful way of governing nation.
Lao Tsu was born in 571 BC in the state of Chu during the Spring and Autumn (also called Ch’un ch’iu, 770BC-476BC). He was one of the greatest philosophers in the whole Chinese history. During that time, there were seven states in the country. Although these states all belonged to Zhou Dynasty, they
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(Chapter 57, Tao Te Ching) In his point of view, people would be in poverty if the tax rates are too high and the taboos are too much in the state. To improve citizens’ living standards and happiness, wu wei should be used. When using wu wei to govern the state, the taboos would be reduced and citizens would be taxed at a proper rate so that they could maximize their wealth and government could collect enough tax to run the country. In the meantime, government policies would not change much because another purpose of wu wei is to building a harmonious society and that requires a stable social condition. Rulers should follow the natural rhythms and people then would keep their order.
In Chinese history, the wu wei was only used in Han Dynasty since the Confucianism dominated afterwards. At the beginning of Han Dynasty, the founder of Han—Liu Bang implemented wu wei in governing the country. Since it was post-war period, people were tried and lacked of food, Liu believed that the thing people needed most was rest. He halved the tax just as the way Lao Tsu said and asked the officers to ignore unimportant issues. Eventually, he succeeded and the state developed quickly during that
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The answer is that wu wei still has great impact on the society, but in a different way. Wu wei was brought out nearly 2500 years ago when it was in agrarian society. At that time, economy is based on subsistence agriculture and Lao Tsu, to some degree, did not like technology because he thought that technology would block the way for people pursuing “Dao”. (Tao) However, things are quite different in these days, the two industrial revolution totally changed the world. Manufacturing is the first industry and new techniques are invented. Humans started burning fossil fuels which would release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In order to develop in a faster pace, a great number of countries are willing to sacrifice environment. In Edward Slingerland’s words, we are currently not practicing wu wei. (Slingerland, 2000) Human beings and the natural world are not in a proper relationship nowadays. Global warming, climate change, air pollution, and sea level rising are all influencing humans’ living conditions. From Taoism’s view, human beings and the natural world are interconnected, therefore, we have to seek the harmony with the nature. Wu wei is telling us that human being should stop exploiting natural resources and violate the ecological laws. Human beings are now learning that relationship is the key to the survival of our species on the social level. (Garver & Brown, 2009) People should search for the balance

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