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Daoism

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 16 December 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Daoism. An ancient Chinese tradition of philosophy and religious belief, Daoism first appeared more than two thousand years ago. For centuries it was the most popular religion in China; in the West its religious aspects are not as well known as its practices, which include meditation and Feng Shui, and for its most celebrated text, the Daodejing.

The central aim in Daoism is to follow the 'Dao', a word which roughly translates as 'The Way'. Daoists believe in following life in its natural flow, what they refer to as an 'effortless action'. This transcendence can be linked to Buddhism, the Indian religion that came to China in the 2nd century BC and influenced Daoism - an exchange which went both ways. Daoism is closely related to, but has also at times conflicted with, the religion of the Chinese Imperial court, Confucianism.

The spirit world is of great significance in Daoism, and its hierarchy and power often take precedence over events and people in real life. But how did this ancient and complex religion come to be so influential?

With:

Tim Barrett
Professor of East Asian History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Martin Palmer
Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture

Hilde De Weerdt
Fellow and Tutor in Chinese History at Pembroke College, University of Oxford

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

  • FURTHER READING

    Eva Wong, 'Taoism' (Shambhala, 1996)

    Martin Palmer, 'The Elements of Daoism' (Element, 1991)

    James Miller, 'Daoism: A Short Introduction' (Oneworld, 2003)

    Ronnie L. Littlejohn, 'Daoism: An Introduction' (London: I B Tauris, 2009)

    Martin Palmer, 'The Book of Chuang Tzu (Compass)' (Penguin, 1996)

    'Daodejing', translated with Notes by Edmund Ryden, with an Introduction by Benjamin Penny (Oxford: OUP, 2008)

    'Tao Te Ching', translated by D.C. Lau (Penguin Classics)

    Arthur Waley and Li Chih-Ch’ang, 'The Travels of an Alchemist: Journey of the Taoist Ch’ang-Chun from China to the Hindu Kush' (SMC Publishing Inc, 2000)

    Fabrizio Pregadio, ed., 'The Encyclopedia of Taoism' (London: Routledge, 2008)

    Stephen Little, ed., with Shawn Eichman, 'Taoism and the Arts of China' (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 2000)

    A. C. Graham, 'Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China' (La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1989)

    Livia Kohn, ed., 'Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching' (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1998)

    Harold D. Roth, 'Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism' (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999)

    Edward Slingerland, 'Effortless Action: Wu-wei as Conceptual Metaphor and Spiritual Ideal in Early China' (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)

    Isabelle Robinet, 'Taoism: Growth of a Religion' (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997)

    Livia Kohn, ed. 'Daoism Handbook' (Leiden: Brill, 2000)

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