Daoism and Cct

History and Sources

Has Daoism ever been identified with any political regimes?

During several periods of Chinese history, Daoism has enjoyed the considerable benefits of imperial patronage. One Daoist emperor in particular, during the mid-ninth century, launched a devastating persecution of Buddhism that did serious damage to many of that tradition’s institutions. There is a certain irony in that, given the classical Daoist teaching about law and government. According to the Dao De Jing and Zhuang Zi, the best hope for society is unobtrusive leadership that does not need to rely on law and force to lead. Governmental institutions are considered meddlesome and oppressive. According to early Daoist authorities, the ideal social setting is the small village in which no one carries weapons. Very unlike classical Confucian tradition in this respect, the ideal Daoist society does away with social stratification of all kinds. Where all are equal, ruling and military classes are unnecessary. Throughout Chinese history, however, Daoists and Confucians have competed with one another for imperial support and patronage. Confucianism generally has been far more closely identified with government than has Daoism. Despite classical Daoist aversion to formal structures of government, both the official and popular pantheons have retained a good deal of the imagery of imperial bureaucracy, as in the names of such deities as the Jade Emperor.


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