Taoism, or Daoism, is the indigenous religion of ancient China. The beginnings of Taoism can be traced back to the era of the Yellow Emperor some 4,700 years ago, Promoted by Laozi during the Spring and Autumn Period, it was formally established as a religion some 1,800 years ago by Zhang Daoling during Ihe Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220).’
Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism are the three main pillars of traditional Chinese culture, and influenced ancient Chinese society politically, economically, culturally and ideologically.
The great writer Lu Xun, who is generally regarded as the most influential writer of the twentieth century, said “The roots of China are entirely to be found in Taoism. Reading history from this point of view, many problems can be solved easily.”
United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has praised Taoism for containing ideals of the world. “Taoism’s philosophy of harmony, goodwill and cooperation encapsulates essential ideals for our global society. These values alsounderpin the United Nation’s own efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation between civilizations,” he said.
The religion is named alter the “Dao”. literally known as the way or the path. “Dao” (pronounced as “Dow”) is the source of the Universe, a force which existed before the beginning of time, The Dao is regarded as the underlying force in the universe which governs the movements and changes in the Universe, which follows a set of rules and order. How planets orbit, day and night, and the birth cycle – these are the manifestations of the “Dao”, which is also known as the “Heavenly Dao”, or the ‘Heavenly Way”.
The eternal and interminable life-force of the universe has the ability to create and nurture. Taoist believe that all things in the universe are created by “Dao”. “Dao” is the mother of all creations, just like our parents, “Dao” creates us and allow us to live our own life. “Dao” gives us the sense of direction in life and allow us to live together harmoniously. Everything in the universe is interdependent of one another.
The key purpose or the religion is to learn the “Dao” cultivate and practice the “Dao”, and eventually attaining the “Dao”. A Taoist begins his journey by learning about the philosophy of Taoism, after which he will explore the mysteries of the “Dao”, and practicing it.
Taoists believe the “Yang” and the “Yin” energies are created by the force of the “Dao”, and it describe how polar or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. Many natural dualities – e.g. dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot – are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang (respectively).
“Yin” and “Yang” – the Taiji Symbol
Yin and Yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, although yin or yang elements may manifest more strongly in different objects or at different times. Yin yang constantly interacts, never existing in absolute stasis. The concept of yin and yang is often symbolized by various forms of the Taiji symbol, for which it is probably best known in western cultures.
Taoist Rituals are also known as Ke-Yi. “Ke” refers to the scriptures end religious text, while “Yi” depicts the ceremonial protocol and procedures of the ritual. There are mainly two kinds of rituals – “Yang” rituals for blessing the living, and “Yin” rituals for the deceased. Grand Taoist rituals of Fasts and Offerings. known as “Zhai-Jiao”, may last for several days or weeks.
There are two main Taoist traditions in 1he world today – the Orthodox Oneness Tradition, and the Complete Perfection Tradition. The Orthodox Oneness Tradition was established in the Eastern Han Dynasty (126-144) by Celestial master Zhang Daoling. The Complete Perfection Tradition was founded by Patriarch Wang Chongyang during the Yuan Dynasty (960-1368).
The Chinese immigrants brought the Taoist beliefs and traditions to Singapore during the colonial years, and built temples and shrines resembling those in their hometown here. Many temples sprouted in Singapore and many observed the customs and traditions. The Taoist priests came to Singapore around 1950s, and they set up Taoist groups and preside over the religious services. The Taoist Federation (Singapore) was established in 1990 to unite the Taoist groups and temples in Singapore, and today more than 400 Taoist temples are united under the umbrella of the Taoist Federation. You may contact the Taoist Federation.