Taoism: Luck and Happiness

The Eight Inmortals Temple

The Eight Inmortals Temple

Xi’An, China, December, 2012

The legend says that right in this place in the Yu Xiang bridge in the heart of the 8 Immortal Palace in Xi’ An China, Wang Chongyan met his master Lu Dongbin who tutored him in the ways of the Dao. Consequently Wang Chongyan went on to establish the Quan Zhen Jia sect of Taoism, responsible in building this temple. Some years later monks from the temple rebuild this bridge to remind the future generations of the heavenly origin of their school.

Under the bridge the monks placed two bells, the bell of luck and the bell of peace. Then they decreeded that whomever threw a coin and hit the bell with enough strength to make it sound they would have a predestined relationship with Taoism. In addition luck and peace would accompany the “bell ringer” for the rest of his long and prosper life.

The Yu Xiang bridge

The Yu Xiang bridge

In China it is very hard to get 1 Yuan coins, and Annika happened to have one. I just had to try. I have been practicing Taoisim as a philosophy of life and was curious on the result of my coin toss. So I asked Annika if I could have the coin that she wanted to collect for his father and she said yes. I understood the relevance of her charity, grabbed the coin and tossed it.

It was the first time I had entered a Taoist temple. Taoism as a philosophy of life was introduced in my life by my Tai Chi master Eduardo Chavez. Under his tutorship I learned that Tai Chi is a form of meditation in movement that helps us connect with our natural sense of being and develop our connection with our Qi (vital flow of energy). When obtained we would find peace and harmony through the path of wu wei, the art of effortless action. This concept is hard to grasp for any western mind, but it’s teaching is beautifully made example in one of the most important books for Taoists the Tao Te King, written by Lao Tze, who is for many the founder of Taoism.

However, in the Taoist temple I learned that there was even more things to discover and unvail about this way of thought. Taoism is one of the five accepted religions in the People’s Republic of China along with Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam.

Taoist Temple Arquitecture

Taoist Temple Arquitecture

Taosim has been practiced here in China since the 4th Century and was considered the official religion in the Han, Tang and Song dynasties. It’s practice can be divided into two main roots, philosophical Taoism, non institutionalized, and religious Taoism, institutionalized. This last root is the one that can be seen being practiced in temples and ritual all along China. I then realized I was just familiarized with the philosophical root of Taoism.

Religious Taoism cannot be pigeonholed in only one school or stream of beliefs. It is made out of different revelations and teachings that have resulted in rituals and cults to deities or specific saints that surround the world of Taoism, Chinese folkloric belief and even Buddhist.

Many of the deities that appear in Taoism come from Chinese folk mythology dated back to the Han Dynasty, one of the most important dynasties in Chinese history.

A clear example of this connection in the temple of the Eight Immortals, the same temple where I am just about to through my coin. The temple gained it’s title due to an apparition in the main dinning room. It is said that one monk saw the Eight Immortals having dinner. These characters or deities are part of the Chinese folk culture that have the power to create or destroy evil through the use of their weapons that are represented by the everyday house utensils. Inside tone of the main rooms of the temples, you can see a representation of the apparition in the form of sculptures, every one in possession of the utensil that characterizes them.

Inside the temple you can feel an air of peace and tranquility, people burn incense and offer them to the Immortals. Within the other offerings that are given I could identify wine, apples, cakes and money. In the other rooms the story was the same, every room was dedicated either to a deity or a figure in Taoist history along with a place to pray and a table to receive offerings. Every deity was responsible for a certain aspect of someone’s life. I noticed that among the deities that received more offerings was that of the one called The Jade Emperor. He is the responsible for the mortals on earth and although he is the supreme deity among the mortals he is still below of The Three Pure Ones (the founders of Taoism and it´s purest manifestation) that also had their own altar.

A Taoist Deity

A Taoist Deity

Taoism also shares with Buddhism it´s principals, that can be summarized in the understanding of the three jewels: compassion, humility and moderation. Throughout time Taoism has adopted not only ideas and beliefs from Chinese mythology but from Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism as well. Resulting in a very complex ball or yarn difficult to untangle. Either way it´s end is very simple, to achieve peace and longevity in life.

On the other hand, the philosophical Taoism was conceived from an Oriental way of thinking. That is the reason why many of it´s concepts are very hard to translate to it´s original meaning for the western thought. Concepts like the Wu Wei in reality mean more than what you can grasp with it{s direct interpretation.

Learning about Taoism reminds me on how vast and different cultural differences can be, but also how rich and interesting we are as human beings. Even though religions like Protestantism, Judaism, Islam and Catholicism gain territory in the world. There still are a calculated 400 million people in this world that practice some sort of Taoism.

Me after successfully tossed the coin to ring the bell

I tossed the coin with an unexplainable certainty that I was going to hit it. The coin flew from my hand with such a strength that when it hit the bell it sounded very hard. According to the legend I had a true connection with Taoism. According to me that was unquestionable, but hitting the bell made me feel even more responsible to learn more about this philosophy of life.

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  1. Hector says:

    Very interesting and ilustrating. Congratulations for hitting the bell!

    • admin admin says:

      Roberto was so proud! That was a very special moment for him. Thanks for writing Hector!

  2. 万年筆 使い方

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