Laozi: The Saint and Founder of Dao16 January, 2012 at 07:21 | Posted in Chinese culture | Leave a comment
Tags: Chinese culture
Laozi about BC 571-470 is regarded as a saint in China and known as a great philosopher and founder of the Dao School. Dao means “way” in Chinese and is also called Tao.
Laozi’s real name is Li Er. It is said that he had white hair and white eyebrows when he was born. This is why he came to be known by the name Laozi, which means “old wise man” in Chinese. From his youth onward Laozi was very clever and diligent at learning things.
Laozi served as a curator in the history museum during the Spring and Autumn Period (BC 770–481) of the Zhou Dynasty. He was familiar with the historical background of customs and rituals and had extensive knowledge of nature.
When the Civil War for the throne broke out in BC 520, Laozi was dismissed from office due to his involvement in the war. At that point he chose to obscure his identity and become anonymous. He also began wandering to different places.
Laozi thought that Dao is the root of all things. He told people that the law of heaven and earth would not be changed by people’s thoughts and wishes. The life and death of all things and people’s daily life must follow the natural way.
It is said that a military officer guarding a pass on the border observed a purple aura rising in the east, suggesting the arrival of a saint. Looking towards the east, people saw Laozi appearing on a water buffalo.
Realizing Laozi was about to leave, the officer requested he write down his wisdom. Laozi left five thousand words. This is the well-known classic “Dao De Jing” (also called “Tao Te Ching”)–which means “the way and its power.”
Laozi pointed out that bad fortune was the premise of good fortune and good fortune contained the elements of bad fortune. In other words, good and bad things were interchangeable.
In certain conditions, good fortune might turn into bad fortune, and vice versa. His basic political idea was to rule with inaction. In governing a state, everything should be in accord with nature, and achievements could be made through inaction.
Laozi mentioned that the development of civilization led to man’s pursuit of fame and profit, and thus people had lost their innocent nature. The disappearance of kindness, righteousness, filial piety and loyalty indicated the deterioration of social morality.
If everyone could be kind to each other and government officials were decent and honest, Laozi believed, morality would be part of daily life, and there would be no need to promote it.
To enable people to return to their true nature, Laozi disseminated Dao during a chaotic period. In just five thousand words Laozi told people the meaning of this Dao, the relationship between Dao and the formation of the universe, and the origin of all things. He also mentioned how to behave as a human being and how to finally return to your original, true self. His work on other issues was precisely to pave the way for his final purpose.
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