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I've just built a website on Chinese Culture and History, and updated my comprehension about Tao. You can find it at: In addition, my English is not good enough to make a professional thesis. Hope you guys can understand it. rolleyes.gif Here are some abstract:



Tao Te Ching was written by philosopher Lao Tzu in 600 BC. He had been the librarian of Zhou royal court. The most important explanation on world are probably not summarized by Lao Tzu himself, because with then low conditions of social and scientific development, it's absolutely impossible to give a grand explanation about the universe. The most important points in Tao Te Ching are listed as follows:



①The tao that can be told is not the eternal tao.---Human beings will never achieve tao which is beyond the reach of human understanding.



②The unnamable is the eternally real. Naming is the origin of all particular things. Free from desire, you realize the mystery.. Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source. This source is called darkness.---It would be accurately translated in this way:

Null is the start of universe while being is the mother of everything. From null, we realized the mystery, while from being, we see manifestations. Yet null and being arise from the same source with different names. They are both called Xuan.


Null means the spiritual world. Being means the physical world. Xuan means world.




③Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.---It would be accurately translated in this way:

The two Xuan(world) are interpenetrating each other. The gateway to all understanding.


That means the integration of both physical world and spiritual world forms the world where human beings are living.




④There was something formless and perfect before the universe was born. It's serene. Empty. Solitary. Unchanging. Infinite. Eternally present. It's the mother of the universe. For lack of a better name, I call it Tao. It flows through all things, inside and outside, and returns to the origin of all things. The Tao is great. The universe is great. Earth is great. Man is great. These are the four great powers. Man follows the earth. Earth follows the universe. The universe follows the Tao. The Tao follows only itself.


The word "itself" of last sentence is the Chinese characters of "自然". Thus we can conclude Tao is the force of tzu-jan(Great Nature). The Great Nature runs dynamically with the participation of four great powers: Tao, Universe, Earth and Man.




⑤Wu Wei---The tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done.


"无为"(Wu Wei) is generally known as "doing nothing", but because everything is following the Great Nature where Tao is working. Therefore, every individual has its diverse rhythms corresponding to the Great Nature. The "Wu Wei" state is exactly the real inherent rhythm of every individual. Any behavior, not showing the real essential part of individual belongs to "You Wei"(doing something). Wu Wei is absolutely not non-action, but to return to the real intrinsic state of every individual.




⑥Ritual is the husk of true faith, the beginning of chaos.


Lao Tzu is bitterly opposed to Western Zhou ritual, but confucian always tried to seek methods to achieve Tao through rituals.




⑦The Tao give birth to one. One gives birth to two. Two gives birth to three. Three gives birth to all things. All things have their backs to the female and stand facing the male. When male and female combine, all things achieve harmony.---It would be accurately translated in this way:

Tao generates one. One generates two. Two generates three. Three generates all things. All things have the properties of both yin and yang. The qi is the connection between yin and yang to reach harmony.


We can see the Tao made big bang, then emergence of both spiritual world and physical world, these two worlds integrated each other to form the 11 dimensional world in the string theory where everything is living. Everything has both physical property(yang) and spiritual property(yin) with the qi as their bridge. The qi might be various types of human's rhythm corresponding to Great Nature.




⑧The master doesn't try to be powerful, thus he is truly powerful. The ordinary man keeps reaching for power, thus he never has enough. The master does nothing, yet he leaves nothing undone. The just man does something, and leaves many things to be done. The moral man does something, and when no one responds he rolls up his sleeves and uses force. When the Tao is lost, there is goodness. When goodness is lost, there is morality. When morality is lost, there is ritual. Ritual is the husk of true faith, the beginning of chaos. Therefore, the master concerns himself with the depths and not the surface, with the fruit and not the flower. He has no will of his own. He dwells in reality, and lets all illusions go.--- It would be accurately translated in this way:

The highest morality doesn't take it for granted, thus there is virtue. The lowest morality tries not to lose it, thus there is no virtue. The highest morality does nothing(Wu Wei) and believes everything is done by Tao; The lowest morality deliberately does nothing(Wu Wei) and believes everything is done by its intention; The highest benevolence does something and believes everything is done by Tao; The highest righteousness does something and believes everything is done by its intention; The highest rituals does something, and when no one responds he rolls up his sleeves and uses force. When the tao is lost, there is morality. When morality is lost, there is benevolence. When benevolence is lost, there is righteousness. When righteousness is lost, there is ritual. Ritual is the husk of true faith, the beginning of chaos. The prophets touch upon the beautiful surface of tao, beginning of ignorance. Therefore, the true man dwells in depths and not the thin, he dwells in reality and not the beautiful illusion. Thus remove that part and acquire this part.


Because all things are more of parts of a natural process from the perspective of grander scale cosmos where the great natural force is mainly working, not only involving human factors. Therefore, people, who perceive the great natural power to be consistently loyal to their real intrinsic character, have the real virtue. And those who tried to achieve virtue without noticing the great natural power, have no virtue. The true man engage in Wu Wei, persisting in their inherent part and having illusions gone. Whereas most of modern good people always believe they have done the right things to reach their purposes without noticing the Tao is working, they can only be counted as highest righteousness. Indeed, most of people are engaging in "You Wei", doing something with breaking away from their real intrinsic character. And the morality, benevolence, righteousness packaged by rituals are fake and thinnest. Actually, the evolving result of Great Nature can't be accurately calculated, thus the so-called prophets have been lying.




Zhang Daolin, in the eastern Han dynasty, absorbed some theories in Tao Te Ching, built many images of deities, then found Chinese taoism. However, in the Warring States Period and Qin dynasty before eastern Han, Tao Te Ching had nothing to do with religion. The Chinese ancients admired Tao very much, but with cultural and scientific conditions at that time, they had been misunderstanding the Tao, their misunderstandings are as follows:



①Achieve Tao

The taoists quiescently practised Taoism with ultimate purpose to achieve Tao. The wise emperors adored by confucians were considered as the emperors owning Tao. For instance, Mencius said: Getting tao enjoys much supports, whereas losing tao finds little support. Confucians artificially defined the ideal society where royal power would stay stable, people would be well-fed and well-clothed and obedient, the emperor would be the model of "Saint Inside, King Outside", bureaucrats would be loyal to kingdom, and this ideal society would be the society owning Tao. They completely artificially misunderstood and adapted the concept of Tao, basically the confucians regarded the Tao as a kind of ideal social ritual order. Once happened a serious natural disaster, such as famines, then this would be the result of tao deposed, the heaven prepared to dispatch a new Son of Heaven to descend on earth, and the previous emperor became the emperor losing tao. But according to Lao Tzu's tao theory, no matter how the world changes, peace or war, decay or culmination, they are all just parts of natural process where the tao has been working. Moreover, some eminent confucians were looking forward this kind of life: Refrain self and restore rituals outside, cultivate moral character and nourish the nature inside. They thought this kind of life was the life achieving tao, but they never knew this was only their wishfully and artificially ignorant manifestation restricted by ritual music logic. But in feudal china, when confucians managed to reach this kind of life state, under the culture of "refraining self and restoring rituals", they always got some privileges, then used legalist school's "imperial law, ruling art, influence", the eminent confucians began their meaningless power struggles and unconsciously oppressed the people. This is just their lives of achieving tao.




②Wu Wei

Chinese ancients always thought Lao Tzu's Wu Wei as "doing nothing", called it so-called quiescent non-action. They were enthusiastic into quiescent practising. One of taoism fans was Li Shimin, the famous Tang king believing in taoism. They were sure this kind of standstill status could bring personal long life, and even make themselves become deities. In ancient china, all things in nature were thought to be constructed by qi. The reason was probably because of qi concept mentioned in Tao Te Ching: When male and female combine, all things achieve harmony.(accurately translated as: All things are harmonious with qi working, or qi is the connection between yin and yang to reach harmony.) At that time the reason why jades were different from common stones was that jades had thousands of years of qi. Therefore, many kinds of skills to make elixirs appeared. Their principles were to pour in thousands of years of qi into elixir stoves, then to speed up the evolvement of material qi, then to finally make elixirs. They never knew these were only kinds of chemical reactions. Many of elixirs had the element of toxic lead. In addition, the confucians also adored Wu Wei, such as Self-preservation (bureaucrats tried not to give their opinions as much as possible), Golden Mean (to make simple fact complicated and to keep obscure status). This totally misunderstood the concept of Wu Wei.





Tao is the force of great nature which surpasses humans' cognition. In the condition of grander scale space time, it's impossible to predict event's development for human beings. There are no ultimate truth, no ultimate good and bad, there is only a scene of natural evolvement. Everyone and every group play their dynamic roles in this dynamic natural evolvement, their respective behaviors will cause countless butterfly effects. The final result is only known by Great Nature. The truth and kindness mentioned in people's daily life need a boundary condition, but many people are still trying to deduce wider scale world operation through their ritual music logic forming in the environment of closed farming society, that's wrong. Yet many Chinese ancients were fond of using tao art to predict the future. However, I think the feasible prediction will work under some boundary conditions which can be broaden through scientific development. Ultimate prediction is impossible.




I Ching and Yellow Emperor's Internal Medicine Classic are as ancient as Tao Te Ching. The former was used in divination while the latter was used in medicine. Both two books are involved in Tao concept. But they are all involved in the conclusion that Tao can be achieved. The trigrams analysis of I Ching are actually subjective experiential accumulation. To limit a world operation into 64 trigrams changes is contradicted with the concept in Tao Te Ching that Tao never be achieved. In addition, Yellow Emperor's Internal Medicine Classic artificially adapted the yin yang changes into human body to explain human body. The argument that heaven and man combine into one entity is also contradicted with the concept in Tao Te Ching that Tao never be achieved. The deadly defects of these two books are no logical reasoning basis and no provable basis, while modern mathematical philosophic basis is "1+1=2". The changes of both yin yang and five elements in I Ching and Yellow Emperor's Internal Medicine Classic find no logic and evidence in nature. Therefore, the theories developed from these two books are wrong and unreliable.




Anyway, I Ching and Yellow Emperor's Internal Medicine Classic have some mysterious areas, because the common I Ching is referred to as the Yi Zhuan narrated by Confucius, the most primitive version of I Ching is written in oracle bone scripts, and the Yellow Emperor's Internal Medicine Classic mentions the mysterious system of channels and collaterals in human body.




The traditional Chinese culture mainly evolved with integration of confucianism, legalism, buddhism and taoism. It didn't involve two basic elements of modern scientific philosophy: Logical reasoning basis and evidence basis. The whole Chinese traditional society presented closed farming culture, it operated following feudal hierarchy ritual system. Cultural and social development in the mid and late periods even followed the path of weakening people and strengthening royal power. Yet in the same period of Chinese Warring States, ancient Greek Plato, Aristotle and Euclid had sowed the seeds of modern scientific philosophy. Not until after Renaissance, Francis Bacon established experimental science, the integration of both logical reasoning and experimental evidence made human civilization take a qualitative leap.


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