Culture Shock! China - A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette, 2nd Edition

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Enjoying the Culture 153

is said to have originated with Laozi, the old philosopher. It
is commonly believed that Laozi was a mythical figure, the
last he is rumored to have been seen was riding his ox into
the sunset toward Tibet. Laozi is attributed with producing
the Tao Te Ching, ‘The Way and Its Power’.
Two others played a more significant role in shaping
Daoism into a religion, Zhuangzi (4th century BC) and Zhang
Daoling (143 BC). Zhaungzi, regarded as one of the greatest
Daoist writers, produced The Book of Zhuangzi, which
practically addresses the proper way to approach ethical
disputes. Though practical, describing something as a dao or
a way need not be to recommend it. The Zhuangzi tells us
that every act, even thievery has a dao. The terms dao and
‘way’ can be used to describe a course of action—as when
a person says “I saw the way you did that.”
Zhang Daoling turned Daoism into a religion. He formed
the Celestial Masters movement in 143 BC, which later split
into two divisions: ‘The Cult of the Immortals’ and ‘The Way
of the Heavenly Teacher’. Through ‘The Cult of the Immortals’,
one could achieve immortality through use of alchemy,
meditation and exercise. ‘The Way of the Heavenly Teacher’
relied more upon divine intervention, asking the favour of
gods and saints to enhance life.
There are five main ethical concepts put forward by
Daoism. The first is dao, the way. The second is de, which can
be described as the power or virtue to transform something.
A common example would be the ability of an actor to bring
a story to life through a character. The third is ming, which
means name. What something is called is as important as
what it is not called—it is defining the reality of something.
The fourth is chang, or what is eternal and true, regardless
of situation. For example, something that should be applied
equally to all people of all cultures, times and levels of social
development. The fourth is wei or wu-wei, intended or non-
intended action. The fifth is pu, purity.
One of the most dramatic ways that Daoism continues
to influence modern life in China is through the belief in
qi. Pronounced ‘chee’, this is the Chinese term for vital
energy or life force. It is a core concept in traditional Chinese

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