Daoism has existed as a tradition in China for at least 2,500 years. It takes its name from the Dao or “The Way,” as described in the Dao De Jing, “The Classic of the Way and Its Power,” attributed to the legendary Laozi, which means simply “the Old Master.” This work of great depth and beauty is one of the most translated books in the world.
Principles of Daoism
There are four main principles that should guide the relationship between humanity and nature:
1. In the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching), the basic classic of Daoism, there is this verse: “Humanity follows the Earth, the Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows the Dao, and the Dao follows what is natural.” This means that the whole of humanity should attach great importance to the Earth and should obey its rule of movement…
2. In Daoism, everything is composed of two opposite forces known as Yin and Yang. Yin represents the female, the cold, the soft and so forth; Yang represents the male, the hot, the hard and so on. The two forces are in constant struggle within everything. When they reach harmony, the energy of life is created. From this we can see how important harmony is to nature.
3. People should take into full consideration the limits of nature’s sustaining power, so that when they pursue their own development, they have a correct standard of success. If anything runs counter to the harmony and balance of nature, even if it is of great immediate interest and profit, people should restrain themselves from doing it.
4. Daoism has a unique sense of value in that it judges affluence by the number of different species. If all things in the universe grow well, then a society is a community of affluence. If not, this kingdom is on the decline. — The Daoist Faith Statement: The Chinese Daoist Association.
Daoism has existed as a tradition in China for at least 2,500 years. It takes its name from the Dao or “The Way,” as described in the Dao De Jing, “The Classic of the Way and Its Power,” attributed to the legendary Laozi, which means simply “the Old Master.” This work of great depth and beauty is one of the most translated books in the world. Its influence in China and beyond is deeply embedded in spirituality, philosophy, and popular culture. Profound insights on the great Way of Nature are also expressed in the second Daoist classic, by Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), who is thought to have lived in the 4th century B.C.E, perhaps about two centuries after Laozi.
The Way is the origin of all things — the Mother of Heaven and Earth. It is also the right pattern and the spontaneous, effective functioning of everything in nature. The Dao nourishes life and the balance of Yin and Yang. A person with full knowledge of the Dao is a Sage or enlightened person. Daoism gives the highest importance to living in accord with the order of nature and the virtues of simplicity, restraint, and humility. Daoists today seek to apply their ancient value system to engage contemporary environmental problems.
What is the Dao?
Something unformed and complete
Before heaven and earth were born,
Solitary and silent,
Stands alone and unchanging,
Pervading all things without limit.
It is like the mother of all under heaven,
But I don’t know its name —
Better call it Dao,
Better call it great.
The world has a source: the world’s mother.
Once you have the mother,
You know the children.
Once you know the children,
Return to the mother.
Great Dao overflows
To the left
To the right.
All beings owe their life to it
And do not depart from it.
It acts without a name.
It clothes and nourishes all beings
But does not become their master…
You won’t see it.
You won’t hear it.
Use it —
You will never use it up.
acting like the Dao
Trying to control the world?
I see you won’t succeed.
The world is spiritual vessel
And cannot be controlled.
Those who control, fail.
Those who grasp, lose.
Nothing in the world is soft and weak as water.
But when attacking the hard and strong
Nothing can conquer so easily.
Weak overcomes strong,
Soft overcomes hard.
Everyone knows this,
No one attains it.
Heaven is long, Earth enduring.
Long and enduring
Because they do not exist for themselves,
Therefore the Sage
Steps back, but is always in front.
Stays outside, but is always within.
Self is fulfilled.
Understanding the ordinary:
Not understanding the ordinary:
Blindness creates evil.
Understanding the ordinary:
Mind opening leads to compassion,
Compassion to nobility,
Nobility to heavenliness,
Heavenliness to Dao.
Humans follow earth
Earth follows heaven
Heaven follows DAO.
Dao follows its own nature.
— Selections from Lao-tzu. Dao De Jing.
Environmental protection in the Chinese Daoist Community
Developed by local Daoist communities, the proposal below is subsequent to the China Daoist Ecology Protection Eight-Year Plan 2010-2017, which was launched in 2009. The Daoist Ecological Temple Network (DETN) has now spread to 28 provinces, with 200 member temples. The Daoist community and local Daoist temples and associations are initiating the following specific actions:
1) Ecological Demonstration Sites and Educational Programmes
Create ecological model demonstration sites and educational programmes; Daoist temples in the network will serve as demonstration sites for best environmental practices by taking these steps:
- Promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies such as solar and biomass
- Collect and recycle rainwater, improve drainage and sewage systems and adopt water-saving practices while promoting water saving in the Daoist community and wider society
- Plant trees in temple grounds
- Adopt ecologically positive waste and recycling practices
- Encourage Daoist followers to adopt green low-carbon lifestyles in food, energy consumption, waste and travel
2) Environmental Protection
Actively participate in programmes to address climate change and assist the local government and the public in addressing climate change in such key areas as agriculture, forestry, and water resources
Protect the ecosystems and natural landscapes around Daoist temples, sacred mountains, and holy sites, helping local authorities to effectively protect rare and endangered wildlife, ancient trees, famous trees, and natural habitats.
Promote the construction of beautiful ecological villages and work with the local tourist departments and the agricultural sectors for the development of organic Chinese medicine nurseries and green tourism to help protect the local environment, as well as to reduce poverty.
3) Protection of Wildlife
Chinese medicine shall not use endangered animal parts which are forbidden by the government. Daoists should advocate the use of herbs as much as possible and avoid as much as possible the use of animal parts for medicine. The Daoist community encourages temples to train Daoist doctors and believers accordingly and resist the illegal wildlife trade. The following should not be used: pangolin, rhino horn, ivory, and ivory products.
Mercy release of animals should be rational and scientific, avoiding harm to the released animals or release of invasive species; believers should avoid mercy release when uncertain of the ecological consequences and replace mercy release with other forms of charity.
4) Collaboration with All Parties
Actively assist relevant government departments and the business community in promoting ecological ethics, and put ecological values into action.
Strengthen international exchanges promoting dialogue about environmental protection and exchanges with countries around the world in the field of ecological civilization; strengthen cooperation with international environmental protection agencies in advancing ecological protection.
Establish Daoist ecological volunteer groups. Where possible, temples will set up Daoist ecological volunteer groups among believers to participate in environmental awareness campaigns and education.
For more information, visit “Proposal of the Seven-Year Plan (2019 to 2025) for Environmental Protection in the Chinese Daoist Community,” See http://www.arcworld.org