Questions Taoism and Confucianism

 Numbers in bold type refer to the 8th edition of Fisher, Living Religions. Italicized page numbers refer to the 7th edition of Fisher. Non-italicized page numbers refer to 6th edition of Fisher, and italicized page numbers in parentheses refer to the 5th edition of Fisher, Living Religions.

            I divide each page up into 30 lines and estimate approximately the line that the citation refers to. When you see something like 201.20, for example, this is my notation that the citation is approximately on line 20 of page 201.



1. What are the basic myths or origin stories (cosmogony) associated with the religion?

2. What virtues does the religion advocate?


192.5 189.1 183.8  wu-wei actionless action

 (194)  wu-wei   “In Taoism, ‘not doing,’  in the sense of taking no action contrary to the natural flow.” 

(194.7)  butcher’s knife always sharp.

(201.20)   honesty, benevolence toward all beings, and forbearance


203-204 201-202 194-195   (204-205)  jen (yen) humanity, benevolence—the central Confucian virtue.

205.28 202.15 195.15    (205)  Filial piety:  the heart of moral rectification, filial piety includes deference to one’s parents and ancestor veneration. In Neo-Confucianism (198.2), filial piety includes the belief that heaven is my father and earth is my mother (198.6).

207.14 203.20 196.17  (206)  Yi—righteous conduct (as opposed to conduct motivated by desire for personal profit), a Confucian virtue stressed by Mencius.

Analects  XV.23  Tzu-kung asked, saying, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” The term ‘reciprocity’ translates the Chinese notion of shu. The word shu in this passage from the Analects has been given various translations: consideration, altruism, forgiveness, fairness, and empathy.


 3. Does the religion prescribe a way to enlightenment or salvation? If so, what does it call this state?


202.3 198.10 (197) ch’i-kung  “A Taoist system of harnessing inner energies for spiritual realization”

201.18 197.25 190.8  (199 ) T’ai-chi ch’uan  “An ancient Chinese system of physical exercises, which uses slow movements to help one become part of the universal flow of energy.”


4. Does the religion hold that everyone or only some people can attain enlightenment or salvation?


197.15 192.16 185. 20  Highest Purity Daoism—elite tradition of Daoism.

(194): higher level of consciousness 


5. Does the religion hold that clerics belong to a higher moral or spiritual order than lay people?


204.20-23 198.11-13 The humane person can transform not only himself/herself but also society and the cosmos itself. Such a person is regarded as noble.



7. What are the major political divisions of the religion? (In Christianity, for example, major divisions would be Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicanism and Protestantism.)


197.18 192.20 185.25  Numinous Treasure School (4th century CE), succeeded in 12th century by Complete Perfection School, the dominant monastic school to the present day.

8. Does the religion have a central authority that determines orthodox beliefs?

9. Has the religion at any point in its history accepted the status of an official state religion?


197.24 192.24 185.29  (196) government-approved Chinese Daoism Association (or Daoist Association of China)

202.10 198.16 191.12  (201.21) Falun Gong presently persecuted


204.25 201.12 194.14 The state since the 13th century has used the Confucian Classics as the basis for the Civil Service Examination. Since education traditionally has been for government service, Confucianism may be described as the basis for the educational system. Also see 197.10.


10. Does the religion accept a just war or does it advocate non-violence?


            War indicates that the ruler has failed to anticipate and prevent conflict.


Analects (XII:7): Tzu-kung asked about government. The Master said: “The requisites of government are that there be sufficiency of food, sufficiency of military equipment, and the confidence of the people in their ruler.” Tzu Kung said: “If it cannot be helped, and one of these must be dispensed with, which of the three should be foregone first?” “The military equipment,” said the Master. Tzu Kung again asked: “If it cannot be helped and one of the remaining two must be dispensed with, which of them should be foregone?” The Master answered: “Part with the food. From of old, death has been the lot of humanity; but if the people have no faith in their rulers, there is no standing for the state.”


11. Does the religion accept spiritual leaders--such as ordained clergy, shamans, and the like?


185.4  195.28  Kan Ji a visionary revelation: yin and yang were no longer in balance on the earth

197.4 192.6 185.10  (196.6) Chang-Tao-ling a vision of Lao-tzu in which Chang was appointed Celestial Master, representative of the Tao on earth. The Celestial Master priesthood led by Chang’s family had control over demons associated with the old religion of the Han dynasty.

197.12 192.15 185.20  (196.15) Lady Wei

197.18 192.21 185.22  (196.20) Highest Purity Taoism elite group of celibates (mid-fourth century CE) à Numinous Treasure School (late fourth century CE 196.23 à 196.25 Complete Perfection


205.8  201.26 194.28  Trust in the leaders is essential; the leaders must cultivate virtues to win the people's trust.

205.15 202.10 195.10 Leaders are like parents; the state is akin to a family.

206.15 203.3-8 196.1-4 Series of mutually interdependent relationships.

207.22 204.8 197.5 Leaders are the link between heaven and earth.

198.30 The family mirrors the cosmos.


12. Does the religion take a position on class division in society?


196.30  192.3 185.9  (196.3)  “egalitarian ideas”

Peasant rulers: Liu Chi head of Han dynasty (202 BCE-222 CE)

                        Head of Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE)

                        Mao Zedong (20th century)

13. What is the role of women in the religion? Has the role changed over the years?


197.12 192.5 185.13  Both women and men served as libationers under the Celestial Priesthood led by Zhang Daoling’s family


204.22 198.14  "Women were encouraged to offer themselves in total sacrifice to others."

209.26 206.7 199.30-200.1 "What [Mao] so disliked [in Confucianism] was...the oppression of lowest members of Chinese hierarchical society—women and peasants."


14. Does the religion permit a married clergy?


197.14 192.15 185.17    Followers of Lady Wei, Highest Purity Daoism, are celibate.


15. Has the religion increased or decreased in numbers during the past century?


201.15 197.20 189.12  (200.27) “has boomed” in the West

16. Does the religion advocate social engagement or personal salvation—or both? If both, which is given greater emphasis?


196.30 192.3 185.9   (196.3) egalitarian rebellion


203.12 199.18 192.5  "...political involvement [is] the way to transforming the world."



17. Does the religion accept a belief in a soul, spirit, or the like?


187.18 183.26 178.24 (189)  Far Eastern Esoteric traditions, including Taoism, accept a notion of qi (ch’i), “the vital energy in the universe and in our bodies.”

195.22 194.16 186.27 (197) chi (life force) ching/jing (generative force) shen (spirit)


            Confucius does not address such issues since they lie beyond practical concerns.


18. Does the religion hold there is one God (monotheism), many gods (polytheism), or no god (nontheism)?


187.7 183.20 178.15  (189)

Shangdi (Shang Ti)  “In ancient China, a deity (or perhaps deities) with overarching powers”

Shangdi conceived as masculine and closely involved in human affairs, thought not as a Creator God.

187.21 183.29 178.26 Dao (Tao)  “The way or path, in Far Eastern traditions. The term is also used as a name for the Nameless.”

194.25 191.10 (190) ceremonial deities from the Jade emperor to the household deities

(191) Immortals

199.17 196 (200) Golden Mother of the Celestial Pool

(200.12)  Golden Mother: also under question on whether the ultimate reality could be female.

19. What evidence or proof is offered in support of the existence of God?

20. Does the religion hold that God is something to strive for?

21. Is faith or reason given greater emphasis in the religion?

22. What position does the religion take on the question of belief in an afterlife or immortality--such as heaven, hell, and reincarnation?


187.12 183.23 178.20  (189)

Mandate of Heaven  the self-existing moral law of virtue, the supreme reality that confers on the rulers a moral duty to maintain the welfare of the people and a spiritual duty to conduct respectful ceremonies for the highest heavenly beings


(190) Indifference counseled in some scriptures, but others teach ways of attaining immortality

(198) Variations: heaven or hell beyond life

 189.26 186.6  “…some Daoist scriptures counsel indifference about birth and death; others teach ways of attaining physical immortality.”

23. Does the religion accept that the ultimate reality is (or could be) female?


187.20 183.25 178.24  (189)

Yin  “In Chinese philosophy, the dark, receptive, “female” energy in the universe”

Yang  “In Chinese philosophy, the bright, assertive, “male” energy in the universe”


191.15 187.26 181.16 “It [the mysterious Unnamable] is capable of being the mother of the world.”

199.17 197.7 188.16  (200) Golden Mother of the Celestial Pool



24. Does the religion regard a particular locale (land, city, and so forth) as holy or sacred?


 185 179 picture of Mt. Huashan: certain mountains have been revered.

25. Does the religion have special places or locations for worship?


189 189 184 picture of temple: sites selected by feng-shui. Waterfalls and mountains have been regarded as sites conducive to spiritual practices.

26. What are the religion's major holy days or festivals?

27. What are the basic doctrines of the religion?


190-194  Teachings of Daoist Sages


203.5 199.18 191.30  (202)

Rujiao/Juchiao (jee tzu yow) “The Chinese term for the teachings based on Confucius”

203.6-7  Rujiao/Juchiao based on the ancient Chinese beliefs in Heaven, ancestor worship, and the efficacy of rituals.

 199.19-24 192.1-6  Juchiao based on ancient Chinese beliefs in the Lord on High, the Mandate of Heaven, ancestor worship, spirits, and the efficacy of rituals. Political involvement is the way to transform the world.

28. What are some of the major symbols associated with the religion?


186 183 178  picture of yin and yang interlocked


205.18 202.10 195.8  A web of human relationships—expressed as a series of concentric circles with the individual at the center—supports the individual.

29. What are the major texts or sacred documents?


190.15 186.20 180.15  (191) Laozi (Lao-tzu) is the traditional author of the Daode jing (Tao-te Ching) (The Classic of the Way and the Power) 


204.18 200.26 194.8  The Confucian Classics: the Yijing, poetry, history, rituals, and the Spring and Autumn Annals of events in his state.


30. What attitude does the religion advocate toward other religions? Is it exclusivist or universalist?

203.12 199.23 192.9  Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism have co-existed in China for 2,000 years. Confucianism may be regarded as inclusivist.

31. What is the nature of the service, ceremonies, or worship (format, participation of congregation)?


195.1-6 rituals performed in gratitude for the deity’s granting a prayer request

186.12 180.9  (190.29) Buddhist-like rituals


204.15 200.25 194.5 “[Confucius] proposed that the rulers should perform classical rites and music properly so that they would remain of visibly high moral character and thus inspire the common people to be virtuous.”

206.15 203.1 195.26  The rites should be simple and inwardly grounded in jen.


32. Who is regarded as the founder of the religion?

Daoism: no founder, but great teachers

187.6 180.29  (191.18) Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu) advocated detachment from a chaotic, absurd civilization

186.25 180.29  (191.21) Lao-tzu addressed those in leadership positions

33. Does the religion actively seek converts through missionary activity?


34. What is the religion’s position on prayer, meditation, exorcism, chants and dance?


194.12 186.25  (197) longevity techniques; 191.6  197.27 Qigong (Chi-Kung)—health exercises

35. What are some individual practices—such as confession?


189.20 183.22  (195)  feng-shui  “The Taoist practice of determining the most harmonious position for a building according to the natural flows of energy.”

190.23 184.27    alchemy, etc. (2nd century CE)

36. What are the religion’s attitudes toward healing and health—such as laying on of hands, “faith healing,” and the like?


190.25 184.28    (195.25-196.12)  faith-healing, sorcery, the use of power objects

197.3 192.5 185.10  Zhang Daoling…advocated healing by faith in western China in 2nd century CE.

37. What is the place of prophecy and oracles in the religion?

38. Is the religion critical of lack of religion—of secularism, for example?

39. What is the role of sacrifice in the religion?


206.15 202.26 176.28  (187)

li “ceremonies, rituals, and rules of proper conduct, in the Confucian tradition”

            sacrifices in honor of ancestors are part of li rituals.

203.4 195.28  li are the earthly expressions of the natural cosmic order.

 208.6-10 The emperor’s sacrifice of a bull the highest ritual