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            A majority of the five
state-approved religions in China have been brought by missionaries with the
intention of promoting the rapid spread of new beliefs and ideologies. While
the number of adherents have increase, these religions have been targeted by
the Chinese Government for suppression, primarily during the Cultural Revolution.

Of the five official religions, Daoism remains the weakest regarding its
organization and places of worships. Daoism has remained a central part of the
daily life of the Chinese people, both culturally and spiritually, but its
future reign as a major religion is uncertain. The arguments presented in these
readings suggest the value the Daoist philosophy under the framework of reform,
which reflect the position of Daoism amongst contemporary Chinese society as it
influences the everyday actions of China’s individuals.

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            Understanding the ideas of Daoism
requires the understanding of the creators behind the religion and their
perspectives. Daniel Overmyer in History:
The Development of Chinese Religious Traditions Over Time focuses on the
basic ideas and practices of Chinese religions, many of which are still alive
today. The viewpoint of Daoism??, one of the major religions indigenous to
China, regards the core of Daoism as in the learning and practicing “The Way,”
the ultimate truth to the universe. The concept traces its roots to the fourth
and third centuries B.C., when two books called the Lao-zi and Zhuang-zi were
written to teach every person that “everything in the world is produced by the
cosmic Way,” a perspective that provides harmony and balance (30). The author
highlights that the Dao, aside from being a different approach of
non-interference, carries with it the interaction of natural forces such as the
qi, yin, yang and the five powers,
all of which contribute to the development of the universe in a nature of
balance, thus representing an understanding that would provide past rulers the
ability to noncompetitive manner, the very aspiration for “good health and long
life” (35). Additionally, the author mentions that development of Daoism during
the fourth century, which involved the accumulation of newly initiated priests,
“elaborate rituals, scriptures in classical Chinese, and scores of gods with
different levels of power” (39). Nevertheless, missing in this article are the
customs and traditions that are normally practiced in Daoism by people in
different living statuses. That Overmyer fails to provide such examples might
hint at the inherent identification of the chapter as a history, a fact that is
always changing.

            David Palmer develops these missing
examples in his attempt at relating Taoism to bodily health practices in The Body: Health, Nation, and Transcendence.

Natural science recognizes body cultivation techniques as generally having
beneficial health effects, but this Western-centric description does not
consider how different cultures perceive and enrich the body. Palmer challenges
this notion through a discussion of the spiritualist and nationalist dimensions
of Chinese martial arts and qigong,
as well as Daoist practices of longevity and immortality, reporting that experiences
can “include the sensations of flows of qi
in the body” and “the sensation of receiving or emitting qi between persons” both of which are labeled as hallucinations in
biomedical terminology. Supplementing matter, the author mentions that Taoists
engaged in bodily movements through jogging and, especially for seniors, the
slow movements of qigong or taijiquan. Herein lies the relevance of Daoism in
health practices as the body becomes a repository and an agent of traditional
wisdom and mystical representations. In Chinese cosmology, the body is a site
for refinement toward ever-higher levels of spirituality, nurturing health
through harmony with cosmic forces and processes, the same idea that which is
application to Taoism. Thus, the account opposes the perception of Taoism,
further advocating the necessity for exploration rather than the reductionist
approach of medical science. Utterly the higher caliber of maintaining balance
of qi is through a process of
meditational discipline, which is still practiced by the elderly even today,
Daoist or not.

            Lai Chi-Tim’s Daoism in China Today discusses Daoism regarding the revival of
destroyed Daoist temples and reform of the religion in modern day China.

Following the economic reforms in the 1980s, the government set out to rebuild
temples, which were wrecked during the Cultural Revolution, under the guidance
of the Regional Daoist Associations. Lai explains that these associations express
their concern over the administration of “temple activities, the religious life
of resident members, and most importantly , the ‘Daoists living at home'”
(417). Based on the National Daoist Association’s statistic from 1996, “there
were about 20,000 sanju daoshi in
local society” (424). Sanju daoshi belongs to the Zhengyi sect in Daoism, and
are described to be priests who perform Daoist ritual activities outside
monasteries in local communities across China. These priests are criticized
because they do not possess an official “Daoist certificate” from the Zhengyi
sect, though they are very much qualified to perform such traditional rituals
in rural villages. Lai explains these sanju
daoshi, howerver, “continued their liturgical life unhindered before the
destruction of Daoist sanctuaries between the late Qing period and the Cultural
Revolution,” they suggesting they were perhaps the people responsible for the
survival of Daoism amidst political unrest, and that perhaps Daoism is still
very much alive in China’s common people, even without the presence of places
of worship (425).

            Daoism’s influence in China
stretches back thousands of years. Its practices have instilled in previous
rulers the Way towards living a long, non-interfering life, further giving
birth to martial arts such as taijiquan and qigong
that are still being practiced today. Without doubt, Daoism’s indisputable rich
contribution to traditional Chinese thought is present today, though it is in
the middle of a controversial reform. Nevertheless, what has changed regarding
the future of Daoism and its position in Chinese society is thus equally
dependent on the regulations the Daoist Associations adopts between recognized
Daoism and the sanju daoshi. But
given the increasing numbers of Daoist priests and followers in general, it can
be rest assured that Daoism is surviving within contemporary China.

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