“The Ancient Masters were profound and subtle. Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it; all we can describe is their appearance.”
“The best athlete wants his opponent at his best. The best general enters the
mind of his enemy. The best businessman serves the communal food. The best
leader follows the will of the people .” The teachings from the book, Tao Te
Ching helped influence both the social and moral aspects of the Chinese way of
life. The teachings have provided hope, and inspiration for the Chinese people.
In ancient China, the people were self-providing farmers who lived exclusively
off the land. They rarely took the time to intermingle with their neighbors, and
the family stood independently. The people had little knowledge about the
outside world and had no desire to learn. Far travel was avoided at all costs,
due to the strong attachment to one’s own home. The people believed that,
“No man could be full grown without his roots in his home .” The people
referred to their homes as “tien, yuan, lu mo”, which meant fields, gardens,
houses, graves. The Chinese thought that the causes of crime were soldiers and
wanderers. They were considered evil beings for venturing away from they home.
The people believed that all things, living and un-living, had spirits in them.
They felt that the spirits if disturbed, could drastically affect one’s life.
They used amulets, spells, prayers, incantations, and special rites to ward of
misfortune. This is a direction to a later Lao Tzu’s teaching stating,
“Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place .” The home did not
limit its members to the current living members; the dead and the future were
also considered family. Around 650BC, during the Chou Dynasty, the value of
knowledge changed. Although communication between towns was still difficult,
many Sages were in desire of knowledge. Some of the most well known sages were;
Mencius, Mo Tzu, Confucius, and Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching. Confucius
wrote about the problems of man, and proposed many solutions. He also wrote
about authority and respect, and proposed “submissiveness.” His works helped
influence the way that government was run, and Confucius actively participated
in government. His teachings were present in the Chinese government for many
years, until the belief in Tao. A sage named Lao Tzu created the Tao religion.
Very little is known about Lao Tzu. Even the meaning of his name is a mystery;
“the Old Master” or “the Old Boy”? The only thing we do know about Lao
Tzu is that he wrote the book, TAO TE CHING, and created a thought revolution.
His reference to the eternal force he called Tao, gave people inspiration, and a
new method of thinking. Lao Tzu described Tao as, “The Tao that can be told is
not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The
unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things.
Free from desire, you realize mystery. Caught in desire, you see only the
manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.
Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding. ” and later went
on to say, “The Tao is infinite, eternal. Why is it eternal? It was never
born; thus it can never die. Why is it infinite? It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings. ” Taoism believed in little governmental
interference. This is best described through the belief that, “the meek would
inherit the earth. “. Another example would be from the passage by Lao Tzu
stating, “Throw away holiness and wisdom, and the people will be a hundred
time happier. Throw away morality and justice, and the people will do the right
thing. Throw away industry and profit, and there won’t be any thieves. “
Taoism is most described as that which is striving for equality. The thought of
remaining in the middle, is the general belief in Taoism. . The creation of Yin
and Yang derived from the belief of Tao. Tao is not only tangible things, but
also what cannot be comprehended. What cannot be seen is also know as the
ultimate principle or truth. Tao proposed a new thought pattern for the Chinese
people. The people now realized that they need each other. “Being and
non-being create each other. Difficult and easy support each other. Long and
short define each other. High and low depend on each other. Before and after
follow on each other. ” The tradition family values were modified to a lesser
dependence upon the home. Tao also provided a direction for which the Chinese
people could follow, and achieve happiness. The direction that Lao Tzu
prescribed was to maintain a neutral area. His expressed this belief when he
wrote the following; “The Tao doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both
good and evil. The Master doesn’t take sides; she welcomes both saints and
sinners. The Tao is like a bellows; it is empty yet infinitely capable. The more
you use it, the more it produces. The more you talk of it, the less you
understand. Hold onto the center. ” During the Han Dynasty, they attempted to
blend the Taoism and Confusism. Although this dynasty was one of the most
successful of all of Chinese history, this blend turned into a complete failure.
Confusism implied that the “old ways” were only old ways. The idea that the
new way was the right (only) way caused all of the ancient books to be burned.
The possessors of these books were severely punished. Another outcome was the
creation of the Great Wall. This wall was created to protect from attack from
neighboring Barbarians, but this also sheltered the Chinese people from outside
knowledge. Now Taoism was held exclusively to China. This allowed this belief to
be pondered and modified. This helped to create Buddhism. Buddhism also is a
more optimistic religion, compared to Confusism. Buddhism is now the most
popular religion (based on percentage compared to population) in Asia. It is no
longer in just China, it has since spread to India, and the Americas. In
conclusion, the teachings from Tao Te Ching changed the way that the Chinese
think. The idea of expanding one’s knowledge was partially due to the creation
of Taoism. Now the belief of equality is an issue that many areas are facing,
such as the Americas, and African countries.
1. Fairservis, Walter A. Jr., BEFORE THE BUDDHA CAME, New York, New York,
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972, pp. 7-64. 2. Lao Tzu, TAO TE CHING, Edited and
Translated by Stephen Mitchell, New York, New York, HarperColilins Publishers,
Inc., 1988 3. Yutang, Lin,: THE CHINESE WAY OF LIFE, Cleveland, Ohio, The World
Publishing Company, 1959, pp. 82-123.