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Philosophy 

철학 - 지혜의 탐구

IV. Influence

도교의 영향

 

1. TAOISM AND CHINESE CULTURE

1) Taoist contributions to Chinese science.

Taoist physiological techniques have, in themselves, no devotional character. They have the same preoccupations as physicians: to preserve health and to prolong physical life. Medicine developed independently from about the 1st century AD, but many Taoist faith healers and hygienists added to medical knowledge. (see also  science, philosophy of)

The earliest surviving medical book, the Huang Ti nei Ching, or "The Yellow Emperor's Esoteric Classic" (3rd century BC?), presents itself as the teachings of a legendary Celestial Master addressed to the Yellow Emperor.

Experiments with minerals, plants, and animal substances, inspired to some extent by Taoist dietetics and by the search for the elixir of life, resulted in the 52 chapters of pharmacopoeia called Pen-ts'ao kang-mu, or "Great Pharmacopoeia" (16th century).

This interest in science is considered a reflection of the Taoist emphasis on direct observation and experience of the nature of things, as opposed to Confucian reliance on the authority of tradition. Chuang-tzu declared that tradition tells what was good for a bygone age but not what is good for the present.

The Taoist secret of efficacy is to follow the nature of things; this does not imply scientific experimentation but rather a sensitivity and skill obtained by "minute concentration on the Tao running through natural objects of all kinds." This knowledge and skill cannot be handed down but is that which the men of old took with them when they died (Chuang-tzu). The image for it is the skill of the artisan admired by the Taoists in their numerous parables on wheelwrights, meatcutters, sword makers, carvers, animal tamers, and musicians.

Though extolling the intuitive comprehension and skillful handling of matter, the Taoists did not observe nature in the Western sense and rejected technology out of their aversion to the artificial. Any new idea or discovery in China was phrased as "what the old masters really meant." This ideology of rediscovery makes it hard to study the evolution of scientific thought. Some progress over the ages (for example, in alchemy) can be seen, but the Taoist contribution to Chinese science might be smaller than it has been assumed.

2) Taoist imagery.

Taoist literature manifests such richness and variety that scholars tend naturally to seek the symbolic modes of expression that served as points of unity within its historical diversity. No image is more fundamental to all phases of Taoism than that of the child. Tao-te Ching praises the infant's closeness to the Tao in its freedom from outside impressions, and Chuang-tzu describes the spiritual beings nurtured on primal substances, air and dew, as having the faces of children. Thus many of the spirits, both indwelling and celestial, in the esoteric system are described as resembling newborn babes, while the Immortals who appear in visions, though hundreds of years old, are at most adolescent in appearance. Other persistent images are those of mountain and cavern. Present in the older texts, they are carried over, with particular connotations, into the later works. The mountain as a meeting place of heaven and earth, gods and men, and master and disciple (as already in Chuang-tzu), takes on a vast downward extension. Beneath the mountains are the great "Cavern-heavens" (tung-t'ien) of esoteric Taoism, staffed by a numerous immortal hierarchy. Thus, for example, while Mao Shan is only some 400 metres (1,300 feet) high to the gaze of the profane, the initiate knows that its luminous grottoes plunge thousands of metres into the earth. And light is everywhere in Taoist revelation: spirits and paradises alike gleam with brilliance unknown in the world of men. (see also  religious symbolism)

3) Influence on secular literature.

Already during the Warring States period and the early Han, Taoism had made its appearance in the works of the other schools. Both direct quotations and patent imitations were frequent, and citations from Tao-te Ching and Chuang-tzu abound throughout later Chinese literature, as do reminiscences of both their style and their content. Esoteric Taoist writings, too, held great fascination for men of letters. Their response might vary from a mere mention of the most celebrated Immortals to whole works inspired directly by specific Taoist texts and practices. Many a poet recorded his search, real or metaphorical, for Immortals or transcendent herbs or described his attempts at compounding an elixir. A certain number of technical terms became touchstones of poetic diction. The revealed literature of Mao Shan came to have the greatest effect on secular writings. As works of great literary refinement, the Lives of the Perfected directly inspired a very famous tale, the Intimate Life of Emperor Wu of Han (Han Wu Ti nei-chuan; late 6th century), which in highly polished terms describes the visit to the emperor of a goddess, the Queen Mother of the West. This work, in turn, made a decisive contribution to the development of T'ang romantic fiction. Literary accounts of fantastic marvels also drew heavily on the wonders of Mao Shan hagiography and topography. The Mao Shan influence on T'ang poetry was no less important. Precise references to the literature of the sect abound in the poems of the time, while many of the greatest poets, such as Li Po, were formally initiated into the Mao Shan organization. As awareness of these influences increases, scholars are faced with the intriguing question of the possible religious origins of whole genres of Chinese literature (see also CHINESE LITERATURE ). (see also  T'ang dynasty)

4) Influence on the visual arts.

A number of early Chinese books of spiritual interest claim to have been inspired by pictures seen on the walls of local temples. A similar tradition attaches to the Lives of the Immortals, which is said to derive from a pictorial work called Portraits of the Immortals. As has been noted, the Immortals were depicted on Han mirrors. Other illustrative materials were in close relation to the earliest esoteric Taoist literature. Graphic guides existed from early times to aid in the identification of sacred minerals and plants, particularly mushrooms. A later specimen of such a work is to be found in the Taoist Canon. This practical aspect of Taoist influence resulted in the exceptionally high technical level of botanical and mineralogical drawing that China soon attained. In calligraphy, too, Taoists soon set the highest standard. One of the greatest of all calligraphers, Wang Hsi-chih (303-361), was an adherent of the Way of the Celestial Master, and one of his most renowned works was a transcription of the Book of the Yellow Court. The efficacy of talismans, in particular, depended on the precision of the strokes from which they were created. Figure painting was another field in which Taoists excelled. China's celebrated painter Ku K'ai-chih, a practicing Taoist, left an essay containing directions for painting a scene in the life of the first Celestial Master, Chang Tao-ling. Many works on Taoist themes, famous in their time but now lost, have been attributed to other great early masters. Of these, some may have been painted for use in ritual, and religious paintings of the Taoist pantheon are still produced today. The Taoist scriptures, with their instructions for visualization of the spiritual hierarchy, including details of apparel and accoutrements, are ready-made painter's manuals. Finally, the language of speculative Taoism was pressed into service as the basic vocabulary of Chinese aesthetics. Consequently, many secular artists attempted to express their own conceptions of the "natural spontaneity" of Chuang-tzu and Lao-tzu's "spirit of the valley." Here Taoism found still wider imaginative extension, and the efforts of these painters are embodied in those magnificent landscapes that have come to be thought of as most characteristically Chinese.

2. TAOISM AND OTHER RELIGIONS

1) Confucianism and Buddhism.

Confucianism is concerned with human society and the social responsibilities of its members; Taoism emphasizes nature and what is natural and spontaneous in man. The two traditions, "within society" and "beyond society," balance and complement each other. This classic definition is generally correct concerning orthodox Han Confucianism; it neglects some aspects of Confucian thought, such as the speculations on the I Ching, that are considered to be among the Confucian Classics and the prophetic occult (ch'an-wei) commentaries to the classics. As far as Taoism is concerned, this definition neglects the social thought of the Taoist philosophers and the political aspects of Taoist religion. Chinese Buddhism has been viewed not as a Sinified Indian religion but as flowers on the tree of Chinese religions that blossomed under Indian stimulus and that basically maintained their Chinese character.

The first mention of Buddhism in China (AD 65) occurs in a Taoist context, at the court of a member of the Imperial family known for his devotion to the doctrines of Huang-Lao. The Indian religion was at first regarded as a foreign variety of Taoism; the particular Buddhist texts chosen to be translated during the Han period reveal the Taoist preoccupation of the earliest converts with rules of conduct and techniques of meditation. Early translators employed Taoist expressions as equivalents for Buddhist technical terms. Thus, the Buddha, in achieving enlightenment (bodhi), was described as having "obtained the Tao"; the Buddhist saints (arhat) become perfected immortals (chen-jen); and "non-action" (wu-wei) was used to render nirvana (the Buddhist state of bliss). A joint sacrifice to Lao-tzu and the Buddha was performed by the Han emperor in AD 166. During this period occurred the first reference to the notion that Lao-tzu, after vanishing into the west, became the Buddha. This theory enjoyed a long and varied history. It claimed that Buddhism was a debased form of Taoism, designed by Lao-tzu as a curb on the violent natures and vicious habits of the "western barbarians," and as such was entirely unsuitable for Chinese consumption. A variant theory even suggested that, by imposing celibacy on Buddhist monks, Lao-tzu intended the foreigners' extinction. In approximately AD 300, the Taoist scholar Wang Fou composed a "Classic of the Conversion

of the Barbarians" (Hua hu Ching), which was altered and expanded in subsequent centuries to encompass new developments in the continuing debate. Although there is no evidence that the earliest Taoist organization, literature, or ceremonies were in any way indebted to Buddhism, by the 4th century there was a distinct Buddhist influence upon the literary form of Taoist scriptures and the philosophical expression of the most eminent Taoist masters.

The process of interaction, however, was a mutual one, Taoism participating in the widening of thought because of the influence of a foreign religion and Buddhism undergoing a partial "Taoicization" as part of its adaptation to Chinese conditions. The Buddhist contribution is particularly noticeable in the developing conceptions of the afterlife; Buddhist ideas of purgatory had a most striking effect not only on Taoism but especially on Chinese popular religion. On a more profound level the ultimate synthesis of Taoism and Buddhism was realized in the Ch'an (Japanese Zen) tradition (from the 7th century on), into which the paradoxes of the ancient Taoist mystics were integrated. Likewise, the goal of illumination in a single lifetime, rather than at the end of an indefinite succession of future existences, was analogous to the religious Taoist's objective of immortality as the culmination of his present life.

Ch'an Buddhism deeply influenced Neo-Confucianism, the renaissance of Confucian philosophy in Sung times (960-1279), which in Chinese is called "Learning of the Tao" (Tao Hsüeh). In this movement Confucianism acquired a universal dimension beyond a concern for society. Neo-Confucian thought often seems as Taoist as the so-called Neo-Taoist philosophy and literature seem Confucian.

As early as the T'ang dynasty, there are traces of the syncretism of the "Three Religions" (San Chiao), which became a popular movement in Sung and Ming China. A mixture of Confucian ethics, the Taoist system of merits, and the Buddhist concept of reincarnation produced such "books on goodness" (shan-shu) as the Kan ying p'ien ("Tract on Actions and Retributions"). The school of the "Three Religions" was rejected by most Confucians and Buddhists but received wide support in Taoist circles. Many Taoist masters of those periods transmitted nei tan and other techniques of inner cultivation to their disciples while at the same time preaching the moralism of the "Three Religions" to outsiders.

2) Other Asian religions.

The affinities of Taoism with other Asian religions are numerous. If one distinguishes between universal religions of salvation, such as Buddhism and Islam, and the older, more culture-bound religions, such as Japanese Shinto and Hinduism, Taoism undoubtedly belongs to the second category.

The fact that no record of Shinto antedates the introduction of Chinese script makes it difficult to distinguish between Taoist affinities and influences on Shinto features, such as the cult of holy mountains, the representation of the human soul as a bird, bird dances, the representation of the world of the dead as a paradisiac country of immortality, and the concept of the vital force (tama, in objects as well as in man). Like Taoism, Shinto is the religion of the village community.

There was never an attempt to implant a Taoist religion officially in Japan, but a random choice of Taoist beliefs and customs have, at various ages, been adopted and transformed at the Japanese court, in the temples, and among the people. Records from the early 7th century contain traces of Taoism, which was appreciated chiefly for its magical claims. The "masters of Yin and Yang" (ommyo-ji), a caste of diviners learned in the I Ching, Chinese astrology, and occult sciences who assumed importance at court in the Heian period (8th-12th century), probably were responsible for the introduction of Taoist practices, such as the Keng-shen (Japanese Koshin) vigil and the observance of directional taboos (katatagae). In the 8th century, disputations were held at court over Buddhism and the philosophy of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu. The Pao-p'u-tzu was known, and Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, reported (in 797) on Taoist physiological practices and beliefs in immortals. Buddhist (Shingon and Tendai) ascetics, wandering healers, and mountain hermits known as yamabushi probably came closest to Taoism in their techniques for prolonging life (abstinence from grains, etc.) and their magical arts (exorcisms, sword dance) and objects (mirrors, charms), which must have reached them through the Tantric elements in Shingon. Taoist mysticism lives on in that it has influenced the two Chinese Zen schools of Lin-chi (Rinzai) and Ts'ao-tung (Soto), introduced in the 12th and 13th centuries and still active in Japan. Popular Taoist moral tracts were printed and widely diffused in the Tokugawa period. Modern Japanese scholarship on Taoism (Dokyo) ranks very high in the world.

3) Western mysticism and religions.

The similarity of mysticism in all religions points to the fact that there is only one Inner Way, the experience of which is expressed differently in the respective cultural and religious environments. Lao-tzu's notion of "the One," which is not only primordial unity but the oneness underlying all phenomena, the point in which all contraries are reconciled, was spoken of by such Western mystics as Plotinus, a 3rd-century-AD Greek philosopher, and Nicholas of Cusa, a 15th-century French philosopher.

Taoism, like all other forms of Eastern mysticism, distinguishes itself from Western mysticism by its conscious techniques of mind and body designed to induce trance and to give access to mystical experience. These disciplines of learning to "sit in forgetfulness" are akin to Plotinus' concern to "be deaf to the sounds of the senses and keep the soul's faculty of apprehension one-pointed" and to the 16th-century Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila's state where "the soul is fully awake as regards God, but wholly asleep as regards things of this world and in respect of herself." Lao-tzu's strangely sober and abstract descriptions of ecstatic union with the Tao have been compared to the medieval German mystic Meister Eckeharts' "still desert of the Godhead" and his pupil Heinrich Suso's union of the essence of the soul with "the essence of Nothingness." One instance of Western physiological techniques is the Hesychasts, a sect of Greek Orthodox mystics on Mt. Athos in the 14th century who used respiratory practices and concentration on internal organs to prepare for the mental "Jesus prayer."

3. TAOISM IN MODERN TIMES

The principal refuge of Taoism in the 20th century is on Taiwan. Its establishment on the island is doubtless contemporary with the great emigration from the opposite mainland province of Fukien in the 17th and 18th centuries. The religion, however, has received new impetus since the 63rd celestial master, Chang En-pu, took refuge there in 1949. On Taiwan, Taoism may still be observed in its traditional setting, distinct from the manifestations of popular religion that surround it. Hereditary Taoist priests (Taiwanese sai-kong), called "blackheads" (wu t'ou) from their headgear, are clearly set off from the exorcists (fa-shih) or "redheads" (hung-t'ou) of the ecstatic cults. Their lengthy rites are still held, now known under the term chiao ("offering"), rather than the medieval chai ("retreat"). The liturgy chanted, in expanded Sung form, still embodies elements that can be traced back to Chang Tao-ling's sect. The religion has enjoyed a renaissance since the 1960s, with great activity being carried on in temple building and restoration. The most significant event in the past several centuries of Taoist history, however, probably is the ordination (in 1964) in Taiwan of a Dutch scholar, K.M. Schipper, as a Taoist priest. His systematic, first-hand researches into Taoist practices may very well revolutionize scholarly knowledge of the religion, which will thus acquire an unforeseen historical extension, in the West and into the future.

   


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