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Chinese Ways

a Taoist Temple in Beijing


The term “religion” is problematic for the Chinese traditions.  Chinese speak instead of “chiao” or teachings, and ways “tao/dao.”  These patterns of practice and belief go back to the third century BCE when the veneration of clan ancesters first emerged.  The I Ching, or Book of Changes, is one of the world’s oldest writings and is a book of divination that continues to be consulted today.  In the 5th Century BCE, Confucius emerged to teach the Way of Goodness.  It surrounds the Five Great Relationships: Husband/Wife, Parent/Child, Elder Brother/Younger, Elder Friend/Younger, and Ruler/Subject and what each owes to the other.  It is in the context of these relationships that we are to cultivate jen or human-heartedness.  In the same period, Lao Tzu emerged to teach the Taoist Way.  For Lao Tzu, the Way is at once the Way of the Universe, Nature, and the Human being.  It involves the practice of being (not doing) in relation to the Tao, a life of naturalness and spontaneity in relation to life’s deepest rhythms.  Buddhism also came early to China, c. 100 CE.  It taught its Middle Way and there emerged in China the Ch’an and Pure Land traditions of Buddhism.  Elements of each of these great traditions have been woven into Chinese culture in an indelible way and persist into our time.


Inside a Confucian Temple in Kuala Lampur