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historical events of daoism

IV History of Daoism

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Daoism gradually changed from the philosophy of a small number of sages to a widespread popular religion followed by numerous individual believers and by many groups of monks and lay people. This change occurred from about the time of the Han dynasty (206 bc-ad 220) to about the 14th century. The old established ideas of philosophical Daoism were modified, and new elements were added.

Between the 3rd and 6th centuries, various sects developed that sought to prolong life and achieve immortality. Some groups experimented with alchemy and magic. One idea was that an individual can become immortal by replacing the destructible elements in the body with indestructible ones. Some Daoists tried to find the magic elixir, or drink, of long life by boiling concoctions of gold, cinnabar, and other chemicals. Many Daoists performed special breathing exercises devised to take in the finer or more durable parts of the universe. Some Daoists took to using magic charms and amulets to ward off evil spirits.

From the 4th century ad, as Buddhism was introduced from India and became prominent, changes also came from Buddhism. The development of religious Daoism was welcomed by Chinese emperors who wanted a strong popular religion as a check on growing Buddhist influence in the country. During many periods Daoism enjoyed imperial favor and Buddhists were persecuted. Even in periods when Buddhism was the state religion, Daoism continued to flourish among the common people of China.

Another major element of religious Daoism was belief in gods. Often the Daoist gods were identified with various Buddhist gods. In addition, there were figures from Chinese folklore such as the pair of guardian gods of all house gates and city gates, the god of kitchens (see Zao Shen), and many other gods of nature. Especially popular were the Eight Immortals, celestial beings who were believed to have been human but to have gained immortality.

In the Tang period, from the 7th to the 10th centuries ad, Daoism borrowed the Buddhist idea of isolated life in a monastery. Monastic monks and nuns, including many of the Chinese nobility, took vows to avoid meat, alcohol, killing, lying, and stealing, and to live in celibacy. They made sacrifices to Daoist gods in monastery temples. Some monks in northern China later formed a school of Daoism that, like Buddhism, stressed meditation. See also Monasticism.

In modern times, religious Daoism has continued to merge with Buddhism and other religions in China. China’s Communist government has suppressed individual Daoist sects. However, it recognizes Daoism as a Chinese religion devoted to universal unity and peace, and it has repaired some Daoist temples and monasteries that had been closed or destroyed. Many Western scholars believe that Daoism is still a strong force among the Chinese people, especially in rural areas.


Wow. Thanks, Lance.

Great information.

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