Confucianism and Taoism of Han Chinese

The Confucianism is established by Confucius, and it has controled the superstructure and its ideology in the Chinese feudal social for a long time. Also, some people consider it to be a special form of religion, namely the Confucianism. Confucius is the hierarch.

In the ancient times, the scholars are generally called the Confucianists. Not only the people who are knowledgable, but also those who teach the knowledge, both belong to the confucianists. Confucius is the first educationalist in the Chinese history to carry on the public teaching, disseminating the etiquette and other kinds of knowledge, only available to the the nobles before, to the common people. Gradually, a school of thought takes shape, and the latter generations call it “the Confucianists”.

The Confucianists took shape in the great transformation time of the late years of the Spring and Autumn Period and the basic characteristics of its thought is: attach importance to the practice, human affairs, ethics, and education, advocate the rule of ritual, emphasis on traditional moral human relations. Though its theory has been going through changes repeatedly, it always takes education and influence as the center. The confucianists is a political theory combing knowledge, psychology, ethics, and politics,  as well as an ethnic philosophy full of the idealism color taking “the benevolence” as the core.

The early representatives of the Confucianists are Confucius, Mengzi, Xunzi and so on. Till the reign of the Hangwu emperor of the Han Dynasty, the confucianist master Dong Zhongshu introduced the Taoism philosophy, Yin-Yang, and five elements thought into the confucianists, advocating the thoughts of “the three cardinal guides and the five constant virtues” and “the monarchial power is given by the god .”

The pre-Qin Confucianism and the Han study of Confucian classics feature the two important development stages of the Confucianists. By the Song Dynasty, it further evolves and develops a third important form, namely the Song and Ming Neo-Confucianism, which absorbs some thinking methods of the Buddhism and Taoism, puts people’s self-perfection on the most important position, emphasizes “saving the natural justice and extinguishing the human desires,” and has conducted a thorough research of the mutual relations between people. The Neo-Confucianism has also proposed a series of important moral standards and the practising methods, which constitute an entire set of idealism ideology with strict thinking stucture.

After the reigns of Qianlong and Jiaqing in the Qing Dynasty, the status and influence of the Confucianists declines day by day, and is gradually replaced by the emerging revolutionary ideological trend, especially after the May 4th movement of 1919.

As a native-born religion in China, Taoism is one of the traditional religious beliefs of Han people. It originates from the ancient witchcraft, the deity alchemy in the Qin and Han dynastes as well as Yin-Yang and five elements theories. In its developing process, it has absorbed some theories, canons and ceremonies of the Confucianism and Buddhism and has formed an extremely numerous and jumbled ideological system.

Huang-Lao Tao is the predecessor of the early Taoism, which is a kind of religion on the pretext of Huangdi’s and Laozi’s thoughts. It originates from the Warring States and prevails in the Western Han Dynasty. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, there starts the sacrificial offering ceremories for Laozi, which makes the Huang-Lao Tao have the religious rites. Also the religion becomes Wudoumi Tao’s and Taiping Tao’s predecessor. It is generally believed in the history and the Taoism circles that the Taoism is established in the mid of the Eastern Han Dynasty, i.e. Han Shun Emperor (AD 125-144). At that time, Zhang Ling preaches the Wudoumi Tao in He Mountain (In Dayi County of Sichuan nowadays), holding up Laozi as the hierarch and taking “Dao De Jing” as the main classics. Zhang Ling claims that the book is dictated by Laozi.

Later in the Taoism history, there has successively produced dozens of kinds of sects of Taoism, such as Taiping Tao and Tianshi Tao. When in the Tang and Song dynasties, Taoism prevails. After 13th centuries, Taoism is officially divided into two big religious sects, Zhengyi and Quanzhen. The taoists who believe in Zhengyi Tao need not renounce the family and can practise austerities at their own homes. They can also get married. However, those Taoists who believe in Quanzhen Tao have to renounce the family and live in the temples. They can not marry and eat meat, so its canons are similar to those of the Buddhist. The taoist wears the Taoist style of robe, scarf, and shoes. According to the scales, the places of performing the Taoist rites can be called Tao Gong, Tao Guan, and Tao Yuan respectively. For example, the Yongle Gong in Shanxi, Baiyun Guan and Dongyue Miao in Beijing. The places where carry on the comparatively large-scale chanting are called Daochang, while the ordinary ones are called Fatan.

After the mid of the Ming Dynasty, the practice of Taoism gradually declines. Especially in the Qing Dynasty, Buddism is worshipped while Taoism is damped, but the folk practice of Taoism is still very active. In 1957, the China Taoist Association was founded in Beijing. Nowadays, the Taoist temples all over the country all perform normal religious activities.

The core of the basic belief and doctrine of Taoism is “Tao”, which is believed to the orgin or the law of all things in the universe. Taoism believes that people can become a deity through practising austerities and their bodies will exist in the world forever. “Morals” is another side of the doctrine of the Taoism, referring to the special rules or characteristics obtained by “Tao” from the concrete things. It advocates that every one should practice the morals, which can make the country prosperous and the people living in peace. In taoism there is also the concept of “Xuan”, referring to the mental universe nonmennon. Taoism believes that “Xuan” is the first-cause of the universe and a spiritual body beyond the material. It also advocats the art of “Wu Wei” and “Qing Jiang”, which is the life philosophy of the religion and its basic attitude towards the social politics. It believes that let the society take its natural course when administering a country. As for the personal life philosophy, peple should not be tempted by their desires, and should not be perplexed by the affairs of human life.

Taoism is a polytheism, and believes that the universe can be divided into two parts, human being and gods. The latter can also be further divided into smaller groups, such as gods and ghosts. Each kind of god has its highest commander. The highest revered god is personalized into “San Qiang” gods, i.e. Yu Qing, Shang Qing, and Tai Qing. Tai Qing is Laozi.

In its long-term of developing process, Taoism has accumulated a great deal of classics, latter collected in Taoism Cang, which has produced varied influence on the philosophy, literature, art, medicine, chemistry, astronomy, and geography in the feudal time. Meanwhile, there has also formed its own unique religious culture system, which is an important part of Chinese civilization inheritance.

As the traditional religious belief of Han people, Taoism has been an important tidal current in the Chinese ideology history, which certainly flowes into the vast minorities inhabited areas and greatly influence the nationalities like Yao, Achang, Bai, Maonan, Gelao, Tujia, Zhuang, Buyi, etc.