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nac

Taoist Demographics

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Before modern times, was Taoism practiced in any country other than China and Vietnam? (other than that brief period in Korea where it was wiped out by the invading Japanese, I mean)

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Taoism was practiced in Japan during the Heian Period by a group of people known as the Onmyoji (Yin-Yang Masters). They were officials in government paid positions and their job was to perform feng shui, astrology, Taoist ritual magic, exorcism, and other Taoist techniques. After the Heian Period they lost their jobs and mostly took the the mountains, where they eventually helped to form the Shugendo tradition (a fusion of Taoism, Vajrayana Buddhism, and Shintoism).

 

Even today anyone who goes into the wilderness to practice spirituality in Japan is called a sennin (仙人) or what in Chinese would be a Taoist immortal.

 

Of course Folk Taoism also traveled to Japan, but most of that mixed in so thoroughly with Shinto in the last 1,000 years that it has become indistinguishable.

 

And (whether some people believe it or not) it also went to Tibet and influenced Tibetan Buddhism. All you have to do is look through a book on Tibetan Buddhist symbolism to see countless examples of this.

 

The best example is the Six Signs of Long Life, which were pulled directly from Taoism (and often actually depict Lao Tzu himself in addition to Taoist cranes and deer). Other good ones are their use of Cinnabar and the Taoist longevity symbol.

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Taoism was practiced in Japan during the Heian Period by a group of people known as the Onmyoji (Yin-Yang Masters). They were officials in government paid positions and their job was to perform feng shui, astrology, Taoist ritual magic, exorcism, and other Taoist techniques. After the Heian Period they lost their jobs and mostly took the the mountains, where they eventually helped to form the Shugendo tradition (a fusion of Taoism, Vajrayana Buddhism, and Shintoism).

 

Even today anyone who goes into the wilderness to practice spirituality in Japan is called a sennin (仙人) or what in Chinese would be a Taoist immortal.

 

Of course Folk Taoism also traveled to Japan, but most of that mixed in so thoroughly with Shinto in the last 1,000 years that it has become indistinguishable.

Unfortunately, most of these Japanese mountain-ascetic traditions were wiped out as "superstition" during the Meiji era, not long after their anti-Buddhist persecutions. A few survived by taking refuge in Shingon temples and pretending to be Shingon practitioners. They look very similar, apparently. Shinto, on the other hand, bears a greater resemblance to Confucianism if I remember correctly.

 

And (whether some people believe it or not) it also went to Tibet and influenced Tibetan Buddhism. All you have to do is look through a book on Tibetan Buddhist symbolism to see countless examples of this.

 

The best example is the Six Signs of Long Life, which were pulled directly from Taoism (and often actually depict Lao Tzu himself in addition to Taoist cranes and deer). Other good ones are their use of Cinnabar and the Taoist longevity symbol.

The indigenous Tibetan Bon religion is a distant relative of Taoism, both of which have their roots in ancient Sino-Tibetan shamanic and divination practices. Bon was also strongly influenced by Zoroastrianism since ancient times via the neighboring Zangzung civilization, an originally Sino-Tibetan member of the Persian cultural sphere. Tibetan Buddhism is, in turn, heavily influenced by Bon. Some of the esoteric practices you mention are also found in India, (like ingestion of alchemical substances, for example) although I didn't know Tibetan Buddhism had actual depictions of Lao Tzu. :) Maybe Taoism borrowed some of these practices from Indian traditions as well? It's a little hard to believe that these esoteric traditions, spread over such a wide area and separated by natural barriers, all happened to borrow them from Taoism to such a great extent that certain Taoist and Buddhist traditions became superficially indistinguishable from each other. Do you know if Taoism made it further west beyond Tibet?

 

PS. You seem to know an awful lot about Buddhism. Eg. I didn't even know Tibetan Buddhism cared about longevity. If they have teachings on that, I'm sure those were ripped off off Taoism. :lol: Were/are you also a Tibetan Buddhist?

 

Marblehead: Yeah, Taoism is very popular in China and Vietnam.

Edited by nac

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