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World Religions: Taoism    

Use this primer with the lesson The World's Religions to teach about the diversity of faiths in the United States and around the globe.

Taoism (also spelled Daoism) is an organized religious tradition that has been developing in China, and elsewhere, for over 2,000 years. Its roots in China are believed to lie in the ancient traditions of shamans (people who were believed to have access to the spirit world). Today, Taoism has followers from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Taoism followers aim to align with the patterns of the natural world by increasing their sensitivity to qi (chi), which they believe to be the life-force energy within all living things. Those who achieve this alignment are thought to be on a path to immortality and have the ability to gain health and happiness for themselves and others. Taoist practices include special physical movements and using breath, attention, sound and/or visualization to activate flowing energy (qi/chi).

Daode Jing (Tao Te Ching) is Taoism’s most famous scripture. Taoist beliefs are associated with the practices of meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and Kung Fu.

Some religious observances:

Tomb Sweeping Day

Time of Year: March or April. This festival’s purpose is: (1) celebrating the arrival of spring, and (2) honoring deceased ancestors. Families may go on outings, sing, dance or fly kites. Another popular ritual is coloring eggs, and then breaking them open to symbolize the opening of new life. Graves of ancestors are swept clean, and the plants growing around them are trimmed. Offerings such as food, tea, chopsticks and wine are presented. Many also burn symbolic joss paper—also called “spirit money,” as a way of asking for the relatives’ continued guidance.

Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Jie)

Time of Year: May. This festival, also called “Poet’s Day,” honors Qu Yuan, a poet and minister to the Zhou emperor who died in depair, having failed to prevent war between feudal states in ancient China. People mark the anniversary of his death with activities that include dragon boat races and the eating of zong zi (rice balls filled with egg, beans, fruits, walnuts, sweet potato, mushrooms and/or meat).

Dragon boats are long canoes made to look like dragons and which can be powered by up to 80 rowers. A popular festival activity—along with others believed to bring health and good luck—is creating pouches filled with herbs or spices believed to ward off disease.


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Article by Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor
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