Daoism and Cct

Membership, Community, Diversity

How do Daoists view their tradition’s relationships to other traditions?

By the beginning of the first millennium, philosophically minded Daoists had rubbed elbows for several centuries with proponents of a cultural and ethical system often identified as Confucian. Together the Confucians and the Daoists were increasingly important elements of a larger cultural matrix. “Religion,” for which they had as yet no specific term, was a blend of ancient divinatory rites, ancestor veneration, exorcism, and offerings meant to secure blessings and protection from “Heaven” and several other fairly generic and non-personal divine powers. Religious Daoism evolved during the period when Buddhism was taking root in China. It was not until Chinese Buddhism was several centuries old that Chinese thinkers began to talk of “three ways” of being both Chinese and religious. It is as though the Chinese people had not thought of their ancient traditions as anything but “the way things are,” rather like the air they breathed, until an imported form of thinking and acting called “the Way of the Buddha” entered the scene.

Buddhist-Daoist relations have had a checkered history. At first many Daoists regarded Buddhism as a new Daoist school or sect, thanks to Buddhist efforts at translating key concepts into terms Daoists would understand. Before long, full-scale hostility developed when Daoists began to think of the missionary-minded Buddhists as a threat. Confucians often sided with Daoists in condemning Buddhism as “un-Chinese.” Periods of persecution of Buddhists alternated with rich interchange and mutual influence. Since the 1800s Daoist-Buddhist relations have been much more stable and peaceful, so that many Chinese now perceive few or no important distinctions or barriers between the two traditions. CCT has been a kind of meeting ground.

As for Daoist-Confucian relations, there has been intermittent rivalry for imperial patronage. The two traditions share a great deal in the way of broad doctrinal and cultural themes, such as the so-called Yin/Yang worldview and ancestor veneration. During the Confucian revival of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, in a development often dubbed Neo-Confucianism, there was renewed positive interaction and mutual exchange of ideas. Nowadays, relations remain generally cordial, but without much substantial discussion of core belief.


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