The Many Faces Of Taoism

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Lao Tzu Riding An Ox

Laozi - The Founder Of Taoism. Wikimedia Commons

A visual tour through various aspects of Taoist practice.

The founder of Taoism is Laozi (also spelled "Lao Tzu").

Laozi is also the author of the Daode Jing - the primary scripture of Taoism.

The symbol behind Laozi is called a bagua, which represents various combinations of Yin and Yang.

02
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The Eight Immortals

"Eight Immortals Crossing The Sea" from 1922 painting by E.T.C. Werner. Wikimedia Commons

The Taoist Eight Immortals are historical/legendary figures who have reached the highest level of mastery within the Taoist path.

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The Yin-Yang Symbol

A Dance Of Opposites The Yin-Yang Symbol. Wikimedia Commons

The most well-known of Taoist visual symbols, the Yin-Yang image portrays the mutual interdependence of all mentally-constructed pairs of opposites.

In the Yin-Yang Symbol - also known as the Taiji Symbol - we see the colors white and black each containing the other. According to the principles of Taoist cosmology, the same is true for all pairs of opposites: right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, friend and enemy, etc.

Through polarity processing techniques, we encourage rigid oppositions to begin to "dance" - to re-member their inter-relatedness. Our idea of "self" (as opposed to "others") begins then to flow freely in the space between existence and non-existence.

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White Cloud Monastery

White Cloud Monastery. Wikimedia Commons

The White Cloud Monastery in Beijing is home to the Complete Perfection (Quanzhen) lineage of Taoist practice.

The first Taoist "temples" were created simply within the beauty and power of the natural world. To learn more, see The Shamanic Origins Of Taoist Practice.

For more about the emergence of various streams of Taoist practice, have a look at this History Of Taoism Through The Dynasties.

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Taoist Priests

Taoist Priests. Wikimedia Commons

Taoist priests may or may not wear robes like these, which are associated primarily with Ceremonial Taoism.

What is the purpose, within Taoism, of the practice of bowing?

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Nei Jing Tu

Qing Period Illustration Of Inner Circulation The Nei Jing Tu - Illustration Of Inner Circulation. Wikimedia Commons

The Nei Jing Tu is an important visual symbol for the practice of Inner Alchemy.

The curved right-hand portion of this image represents the practitioner's spinal column. The various mountains, streams, springs, and fields within the diagram represent the energetic transformations that (with luck and skillful effort!) happen, in specific places within our energetic anatomy, as we awaken, gather and transmute the Three Treasures, and open the Eight Extraordinary Meridians.

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Internal & External Martial Arts: Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee. Wikimedia Commons

One of the greatest martial artists of our time, Bruce Lee embodied a mastery of both its internal and external forms.

Bruce Lee is most well-known for his stunning demonstrations of Shaolin kung-fu. All of the external forms, however, are based upon mastery of internal qigong (life-force cultivation).

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Shaolin Monastery

Shaolin Monastery - Main Gate. Wikipedia Commons

Shaolin is a Buddhist Monastery that is important also for Taoist practitioners of the martial arts.

See also: "Warrior Monks Of Shaolin" by Barbara O'Brien, our Guide To Buddhism.

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Wudang Mountain Monastery

Wudang Monastery. Wikimedia Commons

Sacred mountains hold a special place in Taoist practice. Wudang Mountain and its monastery are one of the most highly revered.

The Chinese martial arts are associated primarily with two temples: Shaolin and Wudang. Of these two, it is Wuduang Monastery that is generally known for its focus on the more internal forms of practice.

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Ming Dynasty Acupuncture Chart

Ming Dynasty Acupuncture Chart. Wikimedia Commons

Here we see an early rendering of the meridian system used in acupuncture practice.

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Chinese Herbal Medicine Market

Chinese Herbal Medicine Market. Wikimedia Commons

Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger and Licorice Root are just a few of the many hundreds of plant, mineral and animal substances that are used in Chinese herbal medicine.

The use of medicinal herbs is one aspect of Chinese Medicine, which also includes acupuncture, tuina (meridian-based massage), dietary therapy and qigong.

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A Fengshui Loupan Compass

Fengshui Loupan Compass. Wikimedia Commons

The Loupan Compass is one of the primary tools used in Fengshui - whose literal translation is "wind-water."

Fengshui is the Taoist art and science of balancing the flow of energy within a natural or man-made environment, and in doing so supporting the health, happiness and good fortune of those who reside within that environment. Fengshui can be used therapeutically, as a guide for arranging objects, colors or elements in a beneficial way. It can also be used as a kind of divination system, to predict the future of those living within a particular space.

The Yijing (I-Ching) is another well-known form of Taoist divination.

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Old Taoist Priest

Hermit, Sage, "Ancient Child" Old Taoist Priest. Tribe.net

Why is he so happy? Lots of Inner Smile practice, and Aimless Wandering, is my guess!

In the history of Taoism, we find not only formal lineages (e.g. Shangqing Taoism), but also a whole tradition of hermits: individual practitioners either living secluded in mountain caves, or traveling about in the spirit of wuwei, or in other ways remaining relatively hidden, and independent of any formal Taoist institutions.

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"Gathering The Light" - Taoist Meditation

"Gathering The Light" Taoist Meditation. Wikimedia Commons

Sitting meditation - as well as forms of "moving meditation" such as taiji, qigong or kung fu - is an important aspect of Taoist practice.

This image is drawn from a Taoist scripture called "The Secret Of The Golden Flower" which describes a basic Taoist meditation technique called "turning the light around."

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Reninger, Elizabeth. "The Many Faces Of Taoism." ThoughtCo, Jan. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-many-faces-of-taoism-4123201. Reninger, Elizabeth. (2017, January 13). The Many Faces Of Taoism. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-many-faces-of-taoism-4123201 Reninger, Elizabeth. "The Many Faces Of Taoism." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-many-faces-of-taoism-4123201 (accessed December 14, 2017).