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Taoism

chinese, priests, deified, buddhism, god, china, taoist, temples and theodicy

TAOISM. Taoism ranks with Confucian ism and Buddhism as the three great religions of China, which amount in practice to one re ligious compound, wherein Confucianism is politico-moral and ceremonial, Taoism is re ligious and magical, while Buddhism deals in metempsy-chosis and the future life. Only the priests are exclusive followers of either Taoism or Buddhism. There are even °temples of the three doctrines,' where idols of Buddha and Laotze stand on either side of Kongtze. The Chinese ask about a religion not, °Is it true?* but °Is it moral?* Tested thus, all their re ligions seem to the Chinese acceptable.

Taoism is the folk-faith of the Chinese, primitive but receiving various accretions through the centuries, such as a corrupted form of Laotze's doctrine of the Tao (from which Taoism takes its name) in the 6th century a.c., a tnagician deified as Yu Hwang in the 7th century A.D. and Kwanti a soldier deified as War-god only in 1828. Especially in the three centuries a.c., emperors and folk alike, under the leadership of Taoist priests, neglected labor to search for the elixir of life and for power to transmute base metals into gold. Thus Taoistn came to include most of the national hero-worship and nature-worship (of a type lower than Confucianism) and most of the divination and magic, the latter including fanpshui, the Chinese geomancy, according to which the location of a house or a grave de pends on supposed magnetic currents, the azure dragon, the white tiger and the like. This folly is strong enough to form the chief obstacle to civil engineering in China, as when a telegraph pole would disturb the fangshui of a region or a railway that of a cemetery! The gods of Taoism furnish a good index to its heterogeneous origin. The San Ching, *Three Pure Ones,* are simply a triplication of Laotze, done to correspond with a Buddhist triplet. But, since these are sunk in contem plation, the superintendence of mundane affairs falls to Yu Hwang Shang Ti, °Gemmeous Sovereign God.* The first elements have souls v..hich rose to become the five planets and thus divine. Many stars are deified. The Dragon king, a familiar feature of Chinese processions, seen even in America, represents water in its varied forms and, therefore, has numerous temples beside seas and rivers and is discerned among rain clouds. Sun cult survives in the bonfires of the spring festival. Licentious fes tivals were long ago suppressed in accord with the politico-ethical nature of the dominant Con fucianism. Sacred animals are the fox, snake, hedgehog and weasel; sacred trees are the cas sia, willow, banyan, pine and peach. To the ancestral tablets and an image or picture of the Kitchen-god (originally a Fire-god) found in every Chinese house the Taoist adds certain other figures according to locality, trade and preference.

Taoism worships also certain culture-gods who preside over various vocations. Thus, students revere Wan-chang (a deified scholar) as God of Letters, soldiers worship a deified soldier as Kwanti the God of War, and trades people worship Tsai-Shin, God of Riches. Be sides such great gods there are innumerable shin °spirits,* of whom Chinese live in dread by day and especially night.

The priests of Taoism are probably cognate with the shaman of Siberia, but its monks, nuns, pope, monasteries and temples were copied from Buddhism. These priests conduct the ritual for the city and State gods, purify streets, houses and persons from evil spirits, and prepare paper amulets for pasting on door ways to exclude spirits. Though Taoist priests marry, their vocation is not hereditary, they are recruited from the lowest classes, are ignorant and Immoral, and are generally despised by the literati, the learned officials of China. From these priest-magicians one must distinguish the monks who 'observe Laotze's principles by celibacy, seclusion and mystical communing.

The Taoist scripture is far less the recondite (Tao Te King) (q.v.) of Laotze than "The Tractate of Actions and their Retributions,* an anonymous tract composed about the Ilth cen tury A.D., which is universally popular. Its 212 brief statements fall into five sections. The first of these declares that happiness follows virtue as misery follows vice; the second states that °spirits in heaven and earth,* in °the great Bear constellation' and within °men's person' execute this earthly theodicy by deducting some days from a man's life; the third specifies the virtues man must practice and their reward in making him an °immortal.; the fourth, and by far the longest, names the vices he must shun; while the fifth provides for repentance and enacts a new rule of theodicy. The tract is characteristically Chinese, agreeing with Con fucianism in its stress upon morality and in its belief in an earthly theodicy; but its doctrine of the immortals probably originated from Bud dhism. Another popular religious tract, the °Book of Secret Blessings,'" expresses in 541 words brief moral rules with a flavor equally of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, by all of which indeed it is approved. In subsequent centuries Taoism further adopted from Bud dhism its doctrine of hells and.it exhibits in its temples realistic figures of the damned under torture. Foreigners name such a temple "Chamber of Horrors,'" and its gruesome spectacles are well adapted to terrorize the ob tuse minds of the Chinese masses.

Consult Mayers, W. F., 'The Chinese Reader's Manual' (1874); Edkins, J., (Religion in China' (18f34); Douglas, R. K., (Con fucianism and Taoism) (1887); Legge, J., (The Texts of Taoism,' 2 vols., in (Sacred Books of the East.)