Daoism and Cct

Religious Beliefs

Do Daoists and practitioners of CCT believe in Heaven and Hell?

Since long before the beginnings of religious Daoism, the notion of “Heaven” (tian) as an impersonal transcendent reality has been very important to the Chinese. Some Daoists have identified “Heaven” as the first materialization, or a kind of emanation, of the Dao’s spiritual power. In this sense, Heaven becomes an intermediary between the unmanifest Dao and all of creation, for Heaven is the source of all good things. Along with Earth and Humanity, Heaven is one of the “three powers” that bring about life as we know it. However, Daoists do not generally talk of Heaven as the eternal abode of those who lived virtuously on earth. One region beyond ordinary earthly experience is the Isles of the Blest (Peng Lai Shan), in the far reaches of the Eastern Sea, where the Eight Immortals dwell amid an idyllic landscape. Many Chinese express the hope of finally reaching the Isles and attaining immortality there.

Belief in retribution after death for a less-than-praisworthy life has given rise to a wealth of imagery. But Daoism and CCT call Hell a multistoried “earthly prison.” There are ten levels of Hell—some prefer to talk of ten separate hells—each with its ruling deity. They function rather like the circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, each designated for those who commit specific sins and crimes. Presiding over the first level is a sort of chief judge who wields authority over the other nine judge-kings. Some souls never make it to their assigned Hell, a difficult passageway to the hope of better things beyond that. They spend eternity wandering aimlessly and forever hungry, dependent on the kindness of the living to attend to their needs. Some sources talk of Hell much as many Christians describe Purgatory as temporary suffering with long-range benefits.

Daoist alchemy consists of countless intricate formulas and recipes involving jade and gold, like in this ornamental barrette, as well as cinnabar.


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