Taoism is one of the greatest religions of the world.It is a variety of related religions and philosophical traditions,which has influenced the Eastern-Asia for last two millennia.Sice the 19th century,it has also influenced the western world.It was established by 'Er',who was popularly known as 'Lao-Tze'.He was born in 604 B.C,under a plum tree (Li) in the village of Chu-Jhren in Li country,in the State Chu.
He was born.His hair was white when he was born,hence he was called Lao-Tze (old boy) or philosopher.People named him 'Tan' after his death,since he had peculiar long ears(Tan).He was a keeper of the secret Archives in the Royal court of Chore and was a state Historian.
As per Lao-Tze,Tao is one,it will remain for ever,it is eternal,nameless,indescribable immutable, omnipresent, bodiless,immaterial,it cannot be perceived by the senses and it is the mother of all phenomena, of heaven and earth,which existed before the Personal God.It is the father of God,the mother of all things and it is the producer of God.There is an aroma of Indian Vedantic philosophy in the teachings of Lao-Tze.
Taoism Founder Lao Tze
There is no proper english term for 'Tao'.But, In Chinese,'Tao' means- 'way', 'way of Heaven', 'Path' or 'method',the 'Eternal Being' which indicates the line of conduct.It has a spiritual sense in the folk religion and the chinese philosophjy.It has about 220 million of followers all over.Many of its followers are also connected with Buddhism and Confucianism.
After the victory of Communist in China in 1949,and during the cultural revolution from 1966 to 1976,Taoists were heavily persecuted in China.However,over the last three decades.some religious tolerance and freedom has been experienced.
Lao-Tze believed in the immortality of the Soul and he advocated the study of reincarnation of the soul after death.He also explains that the meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises) are helpful in the path of Tao.However,the kindness towards all living creatures,purity,humanity,compassion,higher knowledge,contentment and self-control are the means for attaining the Tao.Sincerity is the first step to gain the knowledge of Tao,which is maintained by silence.
On some holidays,street parades are organised,with the firecrackers and flower-covered floats broadcasting traditional music.Lion and Draggon dances are also performed.Kung-Fu fighting honor guards in demonic makeup,called Bajiajiang also participate.Pallanquins carrying god-images are carried by the devotees.The participants are possessed by the spirits and God.
On perticular days,like the Qingming Festival,food may be set out as a sacrifice to the spirits of the ancestors, deceased or the gods,which may contain fruits and the animal-flesh( pigs and ducks).Another form of sacrifice involves the burning of Joss Paper, or Hell Banmk Notes,believing that images thus consumed by the fire will reappear,as the actual item,in the spirit world, making them available for revered ancestors and departed loved ones.
A vegan diet or full fast may also be observed. The martial arts practitioners consider their art to be a means of practicing Taoism.Astrollogy,I Ching, and other forms of Divination,are also considered as a traditional Taoist customs.
Qingming Festival is a pleasant time to celebrate the arrival of spring-season,when everything is green and new.Qingming,is one of the 24 solar terms in China,which means - clear and bright,which falls in early April every year.The 24 solar terms represent the climatic changes in a year and the farmers organise their farming activities accordingly.
Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day),also called Saomu - to sweep the grave, is an annual tradition when people go to their ancestral grave-yards to honor their departed loved ones.The gravesites are cleaned and new soil and plants are replaced.The relatives offer food,wine,fruits and burn the zhiqian ( dummy-money-paper is burned) as an offering to the dead person.After the rituals the food is eaten.
As per the legend,Qingming Festival first started at Mian Shan (Mian Mountain),located in central China.Mian Shan is also called Jie Shan (Jie Mountain).Jie Zhitui is reputed to have made so up with the flesh of his own leg for the duke when he was starving.
After Jie had resigned his service to the duke, he lived on Mian Shan.The duke who wanted to reward him, could not find him and finally he burned the mountain to find out Jie.However, Jie with his mother were later found dead on the mountain.In comomorartion,the Duke of Jin instituted 'Hanshi' (Cold Food) Day in 636 BC. which later became the Qingming Festival.