Is Taoism More a Way of Being or a Way of Becoming

Tsui Shu argues that Mencius who is known to be the orthodox representative of the Confucian school fought vehemently against the influences of Yang Chu and Mo Ti in his own time. Yang Chu’s thought has traditionally been connected with Taoism and considered a development of the thought contained in the Tao Te Ching. Yet Mencius, who attacked the teachings of Yang Chu, never mentioned Lao Tzu in his works.

Lao Tan, a wise old man who epitomized the ancient Tao, was aware of all the ancient rites held by Confucians to be the culmination of order and civilization. As it turned out, this man taught the virtues of softness and yielding, of ignorance and non-exertion, which did not quite harmonize with the Confucian enthusiasm for knowledge and form, for rites and fame. It also explained why Ssu-ma Ch’ien, a professed Confucian, fully aware that in his own time Taoism and Confucianism had developed into different, rival, schools, included the meeting of Lao Tzu and Confucius in both biographies. (Isabellee, 1997) The tradition that Confucius learned rites from Lao Tzu could have been perpetrated by the Confucians. Being historically minded, they had to show that their emphasis on ritual had deep roots in a venerated figure like Lao Tzu, the old master.

In recent years a surge of academic interest in religious Taoism is witnessed towards its contribution to the development of Chinese science, and its rituals and practices like Girardot, Kaltenmark, Lagerwey, and Welsh, etc. Though both are rooted in archaic Chinese religion, religious Taoism is a very different phenomenon from philosophical Taoism. Philosophical Taoism raised the ancient Chinese worldview to the level of thought. As a way of thinking it is clearly distinguishable from Confucianism, Mohism, Legalism, and other schools of thought in ancient China. Religious Taoism, on the other hand, is amorphous throughout its career. Tracing its roots to the practices of ancient shamans and&nbsp.diviners, as an organized religion, it came into existence in the 2nd century A.D.&nbsp.