Taoism (道教) was very first created by Lao Zi about 2500 years ago, it was more a philosophy rather than a religion. There wasn’t much record about Lao Zi. He is older than Confucius and Confucius once asked him for knowledge. He used to be the Curator of the Central Library of the Zhou dynasty. The only work that Lao Zi left to us is the 5000 Characters, known as Dao De Jing (or translated as Tao Te Ching). The second important figure in the development of Taoism is Zhuang Zi (around 399 - 295 BC). He picked up where Lao Zi stopped and wrote another important book, the Book of Zhuang Zi. Both Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi didn’t intend to turn their philosophy into a religion. It was Zhang Daolin, who turned Taoism into a religion at the end of the Eastern Han dynasty (late 200’s AD).
The core of Taoism is the concept of Dao (道), which means ‘the Way’ and can’t be felt physically but can be appreciated through meditation. The fundamental principle of Dao is to keep the way as is with the nature. Taoists pay great attention to the relationship between the nature and the human beings. To the Tao believers, Tao is regarded as the origin of the universe. Therefore, they try every best they can to create an environment which is pleasant and pleasing to the nature. Taoism encourages people to be in harmony with nature instead of taking control of nature.
Dialectic Taoism cares greatly about the balance of the world. They regard everything in our universe consists of two elements, Yin and yang (阴阳), or the negative and the positive, both of which can’t exist without the other. In order to have a harmonious world, Taoism claims that we all have to keep our world a balanced one.
One of the fundamental rules in Taoism is Wuwei, the non-action. It actually doesn’t mean to tell people not to do anything, instead, it warns people not to offend nature. In additional to non-action, Taoism also promotes Wuyu, non-intention, meaning not to desire too much from life. It promotes a simple and moderate life-style.
Yin and Yang Theory (阴阳学说)
Ancient Chinese philosophers believed that everything in the universe was interrelated. Everything in the universe has an opposing, yet inseparable counterpart. The counterparts refer to Yin (阴) and Yang (阳).
In ancient China, Yin and Yang were considered to be the basic law of the universe. The original Yin and Yang referred to the shady and sunny sides of a mountain. From very early times, Yin and Yang represented not only darkness and brightness, but also female and male, and gentleness and stableness. Yang, the strong, male and creative power, was associated with the heaven, whereas yin, the dark, feeble, female and maternal element, was related with the earth, in the old geocentric view, is down below and motionless. Yin is the quiet, contemplative stillness of the sages; Yang refers to the strong, creative action of the kings. Yin and Yang permeate into Chinese culture and feature the way of life. Being in an agricultural country, the Chinee have been very familiar with the law of the movements of the Sun and the Moon and the changes of the season. Seasonal changes and the resulting phenomena of life and death of the living things were thus seen by them as the clearest expressions of the interplay between Yin and Yang. They also have seen the relations of the interplay between the cold and dark winter and the bright and hot summer. The seasonal interplay of the two forces is also reflected in the food we eat, which contains elements of Yin and Yang. A healthy diet should also pay attention to the principle of balance Yin and Yang.
Traditional Chinese medicine, too, is based on the balance of Yin and Yang in the human body, and an illness is considered as a disruption of this balance. Therefore, the doctor is to help the patient to balance his/her Yin and Yang. The human body is with the elements of Yin and Yang in the internal organs. The balance between all the organs is maintained by a continuous flow of Qi (气), means “air” or vital energy, along a system of channels. Whenever the flow between Yin and Yang is blocked, the body falls ill. There are many ways to cure people of their illness. Acupuncture is one of the common ways. The principle is that by sticking needles into the acupuncture points, the flow of Qi can be stimulated and restored. We can say that Chinese medicine is the most practical embodiment of Yin and Yang.
Yin and yang have always been in a state of continuous change. Taijitu is the best presentation of the movements of Yin and Yang with the black for Yin and the white for Yang. The two dots in Taijitu symbolize the idea that when one of the two forces reaches its extreme, the seed of its opposite has already been born.
Looking at the world in terms of Yin and Yang gives one a real sense of how dynamic and ever-changing the Universe is. No matter how you are feeling today, it will change. The ancients say one never step into the same river twice; one never awakens to the same day twice.