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Tao of China: “My author’s exploration into the history of Taoism raised more questions than it answered. He was more confused than ever. His curiosity aroused he began doing some more research.
Author: “Hmmm? The first mention of Taoism was by the Confucians during the Han dynasty. Who were these Confucians? And what was the Han dynasty? And Confucianism was the religion of the state, while Taoism was the religion of the people. What does this mean? I need to do some research on the supposed founders of these two philosophies, Lao Tzu and Confucius.”
Tao of China: “In his research he discovered that neither man founded his religion, but instead were both just points on the way. This led to more questions.”
Author: “Hmmm? If Confucius and Lao Tzu didn’t start their respective religious philosophies then who did? Or at least what are their origins? What went before?”
Tao of China: “This inspired another exploration, this time into the origination of these philosophies.”
Author: “Hmmm? All my sources point to the Shang dynasty for the roots of both Taoism and Confucianism. But that’s the prehistoric Bronze Age of China. What is this Bronze Age? I need to dig deeper into the past for some answers.”
Tao of China: “He discovered that China’s Bronze Age was influenced by even more ancient developments on the Eurasian landmass.”
Author: “Hmmm? Great!? Just great!? All I have from this research is more questions. Bronze Age, Iron Age, Neolithic and Paleolithic? What do these ages of humankind signify? And why did they develop as they did? Let’s start at the beginning with the Paleolithic, the beginning of the Stone Age. Wow! I’m back at the origin of the human species. Amazing! And it seems that this whole shebang, all these cultural ages and such, was incredibly influenced by the geography of the area. Before I do anything else I need to explore China's geography. This will certainly yield some clues into the context of her cultural development.”
Tao of China: “Now that he had done all this research, he started writing it up to digest it and so that he wouldn’t lose the information. He started with the geography and then followed with the Stone and Metal Ages of Europe as they influenced China. He then moved into the Chinese Neolithic and Bronze Age. That is when the Shang dynasty emerges on the scene, the first dynasty of China.”
Author: “Hmmm? It seems that the Chinese organize their history into discrete sections, loosely based upon the dynasty that is in power. I will follow this same organization in my discussion. Hope it’s not too long.”
Tao of China: “One research book led to another, one page led to another, and one dynasty led to rest, until 800 pages later he reached modern China. To consolidate what he had written under one banner, he then wrote this introduction tying in Journey and justifying his lengthy tome. But this was written after the fact with reasons created by the Brain. Before boring you to tears I would like to introduce you to the main character of the next 600 pages, China. Truly an amazing lady. Here she is to speak for herself.”
China: “Greetings from the East. I live on the other side of the planet from your Western civilizations. Because we are so separated from each other geographically, we have developed somewhat separately. Some of your writers even refer to my people’s way of thinking as mysterious. As such the following words are meant to shed some light on our mysteries - to act as an introduction to our way of thinking. You might benefit from my people’s spiritual technology just as my people have benefited from your Western technology. It is our hope that your day-to-day life will benefit from the wisdom that we’ve accrued during our long stay on this planet.
Because we are such a historical people, our history has shaped the way we view the world. Accordingly this part of the book has been organized according to the historical foundations of my culture. Hopefully this will illuminate the ins and outs of my Way - my Tao. So if you’re interested in getting to know me a little better, settle down for some extended reading. My complexity can’t possibly be covered in a few pages or even a few chapters, but has instead inspired my Author to write this 2 million character volume. His words are justified. After all I’m the oldest continuous historical civilization on the planet. Nothing simple about me.
This exploration into my history, which has determined my culture, will also help you to better understand one of my classic novels, The Journey to the West. I know you’ve already delved into its content, but it is also necessary to understand its historical and cultural context. This book was written during the Ming dynasty. But this doesn’t mean much for most Westerners, to whom my history is obscure at best. Therefore to understand the Ming dynasty we need to understand more about my history. Of course to understand my history, we need to understand the religions that are its underpinnings. As mentioned my religion, until recent times, has been characterized by the ‘Three Doctrines': Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The interplay of these 'Three Doctrines' or religions determines the One, which is my unified culture. The understanding of the interplay of the ‘Three Doctrines’ is especially important in Journey.
Taoism and Confucianism originated on my soil, while Buddhism is an import from India, which has been 'sinofied'. Traditionally the three founders, i.e. Confucius, Lao Tse and Buddha, of the three religions all lived during the same time period, the sixth century BC. However none of the three religions had a church or temple on my soil until 200 AD. Over 700 years later! While the founders each supposedly lived in sixth century BC and had no temples until the third century AD, the roots of each doctrine were entrenched deeply in prehistoric times. We will see that the 'three founders' were merely steps along the Way, representing trends of thought rather than the beginning of a way of thought. Each of the three ways of thought grew from specific geographical roots in prehistoric times. Each has aligned itself with one against the other during different historical time periods. Buddhism and Confucianism are essentially patriarchal manifestations, while Taoism is aligned with the 'mysterious feminine'.
A previous chapter in this mess of a book already touched upon the history of Taoism. This provided you with an introduction to the complex phenomenon, which is my ambiguous culture. Hopefully this just whetted your appetite for more. As you shall see my Three Doctrines are so interlocked that to study one is study them all. Further Taoism is so deeply embedded in the thought and culture of the Chinese populace, that to study its history we must study the history of the Chinese people.
So let us begin our study of my culture with an introduction to where I live and why I live there. This has to do with my geography. This is my body. As we shall see in more depth my physical attributes have had a lot to do with the development of my character - my personality. This will set the stage for my political, cultural, philosophical and religious development, which follows. This should help you to better understand me and my culture – which will enable you to better understand the historical context of my great novel, The Journey to the West. Hopefully these chicken scratches will also help you to understand yourself better as well.
But before proceeding forth, first these words from my author to set his personal context. The following section presents my author’s personal philosophy and has very little to do with China or Taoism. The metaphors are pretty much his own. This exposure to his underlying beliefs, his preconceptions, will put his interpretations of Chinese culture into perspective. In our first introduction my author projected himself as an empty vessel, a conduit for the gods. In this section we find out that my author’s cup is not quite so empty. He seems to be some kind of fertility worshipper. Very attached to Fruit.”
Author: “An underlying metaphor to this literary experience is agricultural. The purpose of the Soil is to nourish the Plant to grow the Fruit, which contains the Seed of the next generation. None of these is meant to transcend this realm of things to achieve enlightenment. We are simply born of this earth to bear our fruit and then die. Hence the only issue is the quality of the fruit. The issue isn’t how good the plant feels, how happy the soil might be, or how hard it is to lose our flowers. The quality of the fruit is everything under this metaphor. For the Fruit contains the Seed of the future generations. Regeneration of the species. This has nothing to do with individual enlightenment and has everything to do with cultural transmission.
As such I am a fertility worshipper. Strictly speaking this is not even close to traditional Taoism, although fertility is part of her trunk. Those of us who worship fertility casually believe that the pure yang of Taoism has been polluted by its interaction with Buddhism and Confucianism. In the west, at least, it has been pruned of its original agricultural orientation and has been turned into an escapist and patriarchal form - with little connection to the Mother who spawned her. It has been transformed and is now something different.
Most Taoist writings that are translated for the spiritual seekers of the West are mixed up enough with Buddhism that detachment to Fruit becomes part of the process. The internal state becomes everything. Also Taoism has been polluted enough with Confucianism to become patriarchal, at least externally. Thus we’re showing our bias and distortion by saying that we follow the branch of Momma Taoism who worships fertility. While Taoism is heavily associated for the quest for immortality, it has also been incredibly influential in Chinese art. This is our side of Taoism.
We’ve suggested that Taoism exists in a polar relation to Confucianism. Further we’ve seen how it emerged from shamanism, simultaneously of it and above it. There is one other complement that must be mentioned in this context. Shamanism is a catchall term referring to all of the ancient religions. Shamanism can be broken into at least two more components; one based upon ecstatic states and the other based around fertility.
Of course sometimes these polarities merge, i.e. the manifestation of fertility can be ecstatic. The crucial element is the intent. One group seeks ecstasy, while the other seeks fertility, while another focuses upon the fruit. While each of these intentions could end up in the same place, they might not. Let there be no doubt, we of this novel are fruit worshippers.
All of these components exist in different branches of Taoism. Momma Taoism welcomes anyone into her home. However with our words we are going to divide her into parts so that our illustrious Reader is not confused by the variety of manifestation all under one roof.
Under the agricultural metaphor, the seed becomes everything because it bears the regeneration for the Species. The Seed is contained in the Fruit. Thus to understand the Fruit of China, we will first look at the soil of China, its geography. Then we will look at the nature of the seeds, i.e. humans, that were planted in the soil of China. To understand the nature of the seeds we will first look at the Cultural Ages of the Species Homo.
After we have established the nature of the soil and the seed, we will then look at the roots of our plant as it grows in Prehistoric China. This will include a look at the Yangshao, Longshan, and Shang cultures of China in terms of Cultural Ages. Our plant in prehistoric China has not quite peaked above ground yet. Our next section will focus upon its initial growth above ground. We will focus upon the plant of China as it manifests in the crucial Chou dynasty.
Then during the Ch’in and Han dynasties we finally have the first flowering. In the previous Ages our plant didn’t even have a name. Now our plant bifurcates distinctly into Taoism and Confucianism, however still growing out of the same Chinese soil and the same human plant. The flowers burst yielding the fruit. At about the same time of the first flowering, an Indian cutting, Buddhism was grafted onto the Chinese plant. This graft takes and yields an unusual fruit called Zen. Isolated, these Chinese plants merge and grow for a millennium or more.
For centuries, if not millennia, most of this Chinese fruit was consumed upon Chinese soil where it was born. However due to an infestation brought from the West in modern times, some Chinese brought the seeds of their fruit with them to the west. They are planting these seeds throughout the Western Hemisphere. The seeds of the Chinese plant which contains a little of all parts of Chinese culture are called taiji.
While some of these seeds died; some of the seeds took hold. While some of the resulting plants bore no fruit, others flowered and bore fruit. This book is fruit from the Chinese seed. This grafted fruit is different from the Chinese fruit because the plant was grown in a different soil with a different climate. It is a unique blend of East and West. Hopefully this Fruit also has seeds that will be planted and grow upon the Reader’s soil.”