Longshan Temple, Taipei, Taiwan

Rooted deeply in the Chinese customs and worldview, Taoism is an ancient tradition of religious beliefs and philosophies that emphasize living in harmony with the Tao. The Tao, usually translated as “the way” is the ultimate creative principle of the universe and is ineffable. Originated in China 200 years ago, this religion propagates unity and opposites, the pursuit of spiritual immortality and self-development. Few practices include meditation, fortune telling, fengshui and chanting of scriptures. After a long period of condemnation, Taoism became a recognized religion with due recognition being given to Taoist universities. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, much support has been given for the restoration of Taoist temples and their traditional practices.

A few recent events have certainly got this religion into the limelight and given it the attention that it deserved. Alongside Buddhism, Taoism is one of the most dominant religions in Taiwan. Recently, about one hundred Taiwanese plunged into harbor emulating an old practice which took place centuries ago wherein status of local goods were immersed in water for good luck. This jump was the start to their annual yehliu festival which celebrated good luck and gathered blessings for all local residents. According to local folklore, this event had started about 100 years ago when a sea god’s request to immerse his statue into water was fulfilled by the residents of the country. This somehow led to the fisherman having a great year with their catch and hence it was mutually decided by the locals to continue this festival to ensure that everyone was bestowed with good fortune for themselves.

Another recent event which led to widespread anguish and as a result, recognition of the religion was the entire conflict with a pastor in a Christian church in Singapore who mocked the Taoist beliefs. The second such incident in the year in a city where making speech on religious beliefs is closely controlled, was a shock for the citizens. A sermon was conducted by a pastor in a Christian church in Singapore which was against the Taoist beliefs. This sermon reached over to around twenty thousand worshippers and also found itself on the online platform with it being showcased on websites frequently. After being picked up by local media websites, the video clearly showed a pastor making fun of some of the Chinese traditions and making comparisons to non-holy objects. For this, the pastor had to apologize publically and issue a statement. He explained how his intention was to highlight his personal views and not to offend any religion whatsoever. All was resolved after a period of time but Taoism gained a lot of popularity.

Fifty years ago, before the Communist revolution, Taoism was considered one of the strongest and most followed religions in China. But, after a campaign held to subsequently destroy non-Communist religion, there had been a significant reduction in the number of followers. However, it is now a religion which has come up in countries and is slowly starting to gather followers.