Confucianism and Daoism are Chinese religious traditions. While they are considered by some to be very different they are often actually woven together (Mou, 78). The teachings of one are often relatively consistent with the teachings of the other and because of this those who believe in one of these religious traditions do not discount the other one or feel that it is unworthy. Both of them indicate a reverence for Chinese ancestors and a striving for harmony with nature, although they often look at achieving this in slightly different ways (Mou, 85). These concepts of reverence for ancestors and striving for harmony with nature are important parts to both traditions, but they are also elevated to a higher level by the ideals and ethics that they embody (Mou, 96).
Both traditions have a peaceful coexistence, and this is true even within those who follow one tradition or the other. Daoism, which is considered to be based on the teaching of Laozi, is a way in which people can achieve personal enlightenment (Kohn, 92). Confucianism, which is based on the teachings of Kongzi, deals more specifically with education and ethics (Wei-Ming, 93). Daoism has provided an alternative to many of the traditional Confucianism teachings yet they are so similar in scope that there are no difficulties between those who enjoy one tradition or the other (Shun, 28). Both creators of these religious traditions were contemporaries in China in the sixth century B.C (Mou, 144). Kongzi was born in the state of Lu and was a reformer (Wei-Ming, 95). He traveled to China and gave advice to rulers about ethics and morality in the hopes that the most refined elements of the societal and governmental traditions could be brought forth and would prevail (Wei-Ming, 96). Laozi founded Daoism in the hopes that it would help to end the constant state of feudal warfare (Kohn, 93). Many of his writings describe how a ruler should lead his particular life and the ways that can be utilized to find peace (Kohn, 93).
Legend has it that Kongzi visited with Laozi and found his superior intellect to be very impressive (Shun, 58). Laozi disappeared in his old age but he left behind the Book of The Way of Virtue (Kohn, 96). It is believed that both creators of these religious traditions serve and assist the people of China and the planet as Archangels of the Universal Lightrays (Mou, 134). Those who believe in Dao have focused themselves on nature and what type of insights can be taken from it (Kohn, 102). Those who follow Confucianism look at a rational and intellectual approach to issues and believe in strong education (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). It is believed that the reason that these two traditions have been able to coexist together for such a long time is because of the ‘I Ching’ (Mou, 138). This has to do with the union and the cosmology of these traditions, which is believed to be included in both teachings and has a strong metaphysical aspect (Mou, 139).
In Daoism, individuals are taught to become one with the Dao (Kohn, 98). The Dao is considered to be the force that flows through everything and is therefore the original cause of life (Kohn, 104). In Confucianism, the main goal is an ethical transformation from within the individual (Wei-ming, 114). This must be done at the same time that one is contributing to the future attainment of a harmonious and ideal society (Wei-ming, 114). Daoists believe that most people are good by nature and that being kind to others is important because others will then be kind in return (Kohn, 115). Becoming one with the Dao is the ultimate goal of Daoism (Kohn, 115). Part of the way that this oneness is created is through the use of Tai Chi (Kohn, 116). Many people believe Tai Chi is a type of karate or other martial art, but it is actually an exercise which uses very slow and deliberate movements (Kohn, 116). It is believed that all parts of the body are worked when these exercises are done and that these types of exercises also massage the internal organs (Kohn, 116).
Another belief of Daoism is that the development of virtue and the seeking of compassion, humility, and moderation is something that all people should strive for (Kohn, 117). Actions should be planned in advance and they should be achieved through minimal action (Kohn, 117). In other words, a Daoist does not expect to do a great deal of work to achieve a minor result. Instead, he would determine how best this particular achievement could be created with the minimum of effort. This does not mean that those who practice Daoism are lazy, but only that they think through what they do before they attempt to do it. In order to have long life and virtual immorality, those who practice Daoism look for the great pattern of nature and seek a union with it (Kohn, 117). They believe that they gain a virtuous power from this and will eventually become nameless, formless, and simple (Kohn, 117).
Those who follow Daoism live mostly in Taiwan, but there are about 20 million of these Daoism followers worldwide (Mou, 144). Some are in North America, and often these individuals are found where meditation, martial arts, herbalism, acupuncture, and holistic medicine are to be found (Mou, 144). There are specific tenets of Daoism which can help others to perform well in their lives (Kohn, 118). One of the things Daoism believes is that problems should be solved peacefully, and that violence and conflict are not necessary (Kohn, 118). When individuals truly believe in the Dao and they are in tune with it they will accomplish a great deal while still doing less (Kohn, 118). Virtuous deeds should always be performed without regard to whether a reward will be received (Kohn, 118).
Simplicity is also very important in Daoism and every day should be effortless and uncomplicated (Kohn, 118). In the modern world this is often very difficult, but the idea of working toward this appeals to many, whether they follow Daoist teachings or not (Kohn, 118). Intuition should be utilized in order to look past what can be seen by simply using logic and insights will often come from living in this way rather than from gaining knowledge that comes from books (Kohn, 118). Humility is one of the basic tenets of Daoism as well, as these individuals believe that the more one individual learns the more that he or she will realize that there is so much more left to learn (Kohn, 118). Duality is another issue that Daoism believes in, meaning that everything is defined by the existence of something opposite to it (Kohn, 118). In other words, something is only it wet because of a comparison to something that is dry (Kohn, 118). Confucianism, on the other hand, is a way of life that looks mainly at standards and ethical relationships (Wei-ming, 99). These issues are both for the administration of the state and for the family life (Wei-ming, 99).
According to Confucianism, change is important but only if the motive of change is correct (Wei-ming, 112). The motive of change must be good for the whole as well as for the self or it is not the proper motive (Wei-ming, 112). The teachings of Confucianism say that there should be very deep reverence for the powers not only of Heaven but of Earth as well because these powers not only regulate nature but affect the course of many human events (Wei-ming, 112). There are only around 6 million followers of Confucianism in the world (Wei-ming, 112). About 26,000 of them are in North America and most live in Asia and China (Wei-ming, 112). There are several ethical teachings that are included in Confucianism and individuals who follow this path are encouraged to include the following virtues and values in their daily lives (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). First, they should have loyalty to the state (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). Second, they need etiquette and propriety (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). Third, love within the family is seen as very significant (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). Fourth, these individuals must have humaneness and benevolence toward others (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). Sixth is the concept of righteousness, and seventh is trustworthiness and honesty (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30).
It is also believed in Confucianism that four of the passages of life are regulated by tradition (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). These are birth, the reaching of maturity, marriage, and death (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). Within these concepts, marriage itself has six stages (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). These are proposal, engagement, dowry, procession, marriage, and reception (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). Those who practice Confucianism believe in very strict rules and ethical ideas for many of life’s concepts (Wei-ming, Confucius, 30). This is not necessarily a bad thing, given the way that society appears to be falling apart in many different ways. Both of these religions were much more popular when they were first began then they are today, but their popularity has changed somewhat (Shun, 59). The religions remain very popular with certain groups of people in certain countries but are not widely noticed by those in countries where these teachings did not originate, such as the United States and most of the Western world (Shun, 59). However, what made individuals interested in these religions originally still continues to interest some individuals, even in the Western world. Those who do not believe in the Christian concept of God are often attracted to these types of religions because they do not teach from the Bible about the Christian God. Others are attracted to these religions simply because it is what they have grown up with (Shun, 59).
In general, however, most people who are attracted to these religions come to them because of the simplicity and the idea of being one with nature and completing accomplishments with the least amount of effort (Shun, 59). Even those who consider themselves Christians sometimes follow some of the traditions of these religions because they are extremely peaceful and simplistic in their nature. This returning to nature and feeling as though one is a part of it has much to do with the reason that individuals who practice these religions are so content. Lives are strongly affected by the harmony and peacefulness that these religions can evoke.
Kohn, Livia. “The date and compilation of the Fengdao kejie: The first handbook of monastic Daoism.” East Asian History (13/14) (1997): 91-118.
Mou, Bo. Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy. Antonio S. Cua, Ed. New York, Routledge: 2003.
Shun, Kwong-loi. “Mencius and Early Chinese Thought.” Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997
Wei-ming, Tu. “Centrality and Commonality: An Essay on Confucian Religiousness.” In Walter H. Slote and George A. De Vos, eds., Confucianism and the Family. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.
Wei-ming, Tu. “Confucius and Confucianism.” In Walter H. Slote and George A. De Vos, eds., Confucianism and the Family. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.
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