China is a land known for its history, bundled with many mysteries, ancient legends and stories with a population of over 1.3 billion people, the most popular tourist attraction lies beyond a historical structure that spans over 21,000 kilometres. From being the birthplace of fireworks to acupuncture to martial arts and kung fu that originated and developed in the famous Shaolin Temple, China is known for its many world changing innovations that have emerged as an economic superpower.
One of the most famous holidays in China is Chinese New Year, with fireworks shot into the air, iconic red lanterns, and dragons seen in the streets. It is considered an important event known as the spring festival, which marks the beginning of Spring for the people of China, the first Emperor of China when it was Unified more than 2,000 years ago. In the third century BC was Qin Shi Huang.
He is well known for his public project on uniting the diverse states walls into a single great wall, famously known today as the Great Wall of China. It is one of the most iconic and tourist attraction sites in modern-day China. It is the longest recorded wall in the world, stretching at a length of 21,196 kilometers. The emperor was known for his search for the Elixir of Life, a potion that is meant to grant the drinker eternal life. He is also well known due to his rediscovered tomb and Mausoleum in the 20th century, which had the three pits containing the well-known and popular Terracotta Army. The pits contain more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses, all created for the purpose of protecting the emperor in the afterlife. China has contributed a great number of inventions which are used today.
Lao Tzu pbuh was the founder of one of China’s most influential religions, Taoism, in which he taught his followers about the ‘Tao’ which can be translated as the “Way” or the “Path.” Taoism is therefore known as “the Religion of the Way,” Lao Tzu pbuh is also credited to be the author of the book Tao Te Ching which can be translated as “The Book of the Tao and Its Virtue.” It is considered to be the second-most translated book in the world after the Holy Bible. Lao Tzu pbuh was the curator of the Royal Library of Chou. However, he was disgusted by the ineptitude and cruelty of the politicians of the time, and the endless suffering of the people. He resolved to leave China completely and find a place of peace and solitude. On his way through the western pass of the frontier, he encountered the gate-keeper, Yin Hsi, who said to him, “So you are going into retirement. I beg you to write a book for me.” Lao-Tzu pbuh promptly sat down, wrote the Tao-Te-Ching, handed it to Yin Hsi, and walked on through the pass, disappearing into the mists.
Confucius pbuh was the founder of Ruism or Confucianism, the text that his followers use is known as the ‘Analects,’ meaning ‘Selected Saying.’ The book is attributed to be a collection of composed ideas and sayings of Confucius pbuh. He became known as “A King without a crown.” He could not find a ruler to serve during his lifetime who would honor themselves with righteous behavior. It is known that the state of Qi was worried that Lu was becoming too powerful, while Confucius pbuh was involved in the government of the Lu state, and was an advisor to the Duke of Lu. The state of Qi had sent 100 good horses and 80 beautiful dancing girls to the Duke of Lu. The Duke indulged himself in pleasure and did not attend to official duties for three days. Confucius pbuh was disappointed when the Duke also neglected to send Confucius pbuh a portion of the sacrificial meat that was his due according to custom. Confucius pbuh resigned and left the state of Lu. Although he could not influence the rulers of his time, he became a teacher, and passed his teachings down to them. It is believed that Confucius pbuh had over 3,000 students, but only 72 or 77 of them were able to receive his teachings and comprehend them. His legacy was in the hands of his disciples and descendants, and his sayings are still alive in the Analects.
Both Taoism and Confucianism originated in Modern-Day China and is still practiced today. And although separated by name and identity, these two religions have many beliefs and practices in common. And how can it not be as such, when it is popularly known that Confucius was a Contemporary of Lao Tzu. The Chinese Historian Sima Qian, the author of ‘Records of the Grand Historian,’ wrote about an encounter that had taken place between these two great minds. He states:
“Lao Tzu was from Quren Village in the southern state of Chu. His name was Li Dan (Lee Dan), and he was the Zhou Official Archivist. Confucius went to Zhou to ask him about the Rites. Lao Tzu said to him:
“You speak of men who have long decayed together with their bones. Nothing but their words has survived. When a Gentleman is in tune with the times, he rides a carriage; when he is out of tune, he makes his way disheveled as he is. I have heard that just as the best merchant keeps his stores hidden so that he appears to possess nothing, so the True Gentleman conceals his abundant Inner Power beneath an appearance of foolishness. Rid yourself of Pride and Desire, put aside your fancy manner and your lustful ways. They will bring you nothing but harm. That is all I have to say.” – Sima Qian, ‘Records of the Grand Historian’
After he had taken his leave of Lao Tzu, Confucius said to his disciples:
“Birds fly; fishes swim; animals run. These things I know. Whatsoever runs can be trapped; whatsoever swims can be caught in a net; whatsoever flies can be brought down with an arrow. But a Dragon riding the clouds into the Heavens—that is quite beyond my comprehension! Today I have seen Lao Tzu. He is like a Dragon!” – Confucius
If Confucius pbuh indeed admired Lao Tzu pbuh and considered him to be wise and great, and that he was wiser and greater than himself, wouldn’t Confucius pbuh take heed to the wisdom, lessons, and perhaps even the beliefs which Lao Tzu pbuh held?
Lao Tzu pbuh is famous for his belief which all Taoists and admirers focus on today, the belief which has puzzled the minds of the practitioners and the seekers, the ‘Tao’ or ‘Way.’ In Taoism, it is a must to live by the Tao, to be in harmony with the Tao, and to be one with the Tao. But what is ‘The Tao or The Way?’ The Way cannot be described by words, and it is seemingly incomprehensible. At the very start of Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu pbuh states that:
“The Tao (Way) that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao (Way). The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”
– Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1
He also declares that:
“The Tao (Way) is shadowy and intangible.”
– Tao Te Ching, Chapter 21
Yet at the same time, Lao Tzu pbuh does add a description of the Tao, he says that it is:
“Something formless yet complete, existing before heaven and earth. Silent and limitless, it stands alone and does not change.
Reaching everywhere, it does not tire.
Perhaps it is the Mother of all things under heaven.
I do not know its name so I call it “Tao.” (Way)
When I have to describe it I call it “great.” Being great it flows.
It flows far away. Having gone far away, it returns.
Therefore, the Tao (Way) is great. Heaven is great. Earth is great. People are also great.
Thus, people constitute one of the four great things of the universe.
People conform to the earth. The earth conforms to heaven. Heaven conforms to the Tao. The Tao (Way) conforms to its own nature.”
– Tao Te Ching, Chapter 25
Many believe that the Tao is exclusively in the Taoist religion, whereas the main focus in Confucianism is to be in harmony with society, but this is simply not the whole truth.
As a matter of fact, Confucius pbuh believed in the idea of the Tao that Lao Tzu pbuh had taught, and Confucius pbuh had without a shadow of a doubt spoken about the Tao.
When you look at Confucianism, there is a great emphasis placed on being ‘Chun Tzu’, the ideal man, the superior man, or the gentleman. But for one to be the ideal man, he has to attain the attributes of what defines one to be such, and it is all linked back to the Tao.
Confucius pbuh said,
‘The gentleman devotes his mind to attaining the Way (Tao) and not to securing food. Go and till the land and you will end up by being hungry, as a matter of course; study, and you will end up with the salary of an official, as a matter of course. The gentleman worries about the Way (Tao), not about poverty.’
– Analects 15:32
Confucius pbuh also said:
‘The gentleman seeks neither a full belly nor a comfortable home. He is quick in action but cautious in speech. He goes to men possessed of the Way (Tao) to have himself put right. Such a man can be described as eager to learn.’
– Analects 1:14
Yu Tzu, a disciple of Confucius pbuh said:
“The gentleman devotes his efforts to the roots, for once the roots are established, the Way (Tao) will grow therefrom. Being good as a son and obedient as a young man is, perhaps, the root of a man’s character.”
– Analects 1:12
If a gentleman must go to men possessed of the Tao in order to be put right, as Confucius pbuh had said, is it not obvious that he himself had gone to Lao Tzu pbuh as his student, as many have claimed due to their recorded encounters?
It is entirely self-evident that the center of Philosophy for both of these religions is the Tao.
Although Confucius pbuh did believe and follow the Tao, most people believe that the difference between Lao Tzu and Confucius pbut is that the former focused more on nature and harmony with nature, in contrast to Confucius pbuh, who is well known for his focus on Ren and Li. Ren is ‘Benevolence’. One must be a virtuous person, having the principle and moral concern for others. Li means ‘Rituals or Rites’, which can be described as having the right way of behavior – among people, in the right situation, right time and place… great focus is placed upon social harmony, social order, and social hierarchy. For example, Confucius pbuh said:
“When abroad behave as though you were receiving an important guest. When employing the services of the common people behave as though you were officiating at an important sacrifice. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire. In this way you will be free from ill will whether in a state or in a noble family.”
– Analects 12:2
However, Lao Tzu pbuh also taught behavior which indicates the importance of Ren and Li. Lao Tzu pbuh said:
“Help the people live! Nourish the people!
Help them live yet lay no claim to them. Benefit them yet seek no gratitude. Guide them yet do not control them. This is called the hidden Virtue.”
– Tao Te Ching Chapter 10
“I am kind to those who are kind.
I am also kind to those who are not kind.
Thus, there is an increase in kindness.
I keep faith with those who are in good faith.
I also keep faith with those who lack good faith. Thus, there is an increase of good faith.”
– Tao Te Ching Chapter 49
Religion stresses upon virtues, morals, manners, and faith because of the belief in the existence of an Omnipotent being who is able to reward or punish, whether it be in this life or the hereafter. Most people believe that Taoism and Confucianism are polytheistic religions which consist of belief in many gods, and that the worship of Ancestors is a common practice in these religions. However, this is simply not the case. Both Taoism and Confucianism are Monotheistic religions. They worship One God, Shangdi. Shangdi means ‘The High God’. He was worshipped in what is now Modern-China during the Shang Dynasty, before Lao Tzu and Confucius pbut had been born into this world.
However, during the time of the Zhou Dynasty, during which Lao Tzu and Confucius pbut were born, Shangdi was seemingly replaced by another Supreme God called ‘Tian.’ However, this is a misunderstanding. Tian is literally translated as “Heaven,” and it is believed that Shangdi resides in Heaven, thus Shangdi was just simply conflated with Heaven or ‘Tian’ because of Tian being the place where the Supreme Deity resided in. In the Confucian Classics known as the ‘Five Classics’, Shangdi is mentioned and referred to in a Monotheistic fashion.
In the Book of Rites “Liji”, it states:
“In this month the son of Heaven on the first day prays to God for a good year; and afterwards, the day of the first conjunction of the sun and moon having been chosen, with the handle and share of the plough in the carriage, placed between the man-at-arms who is its third occupant and the driver, he conducts his three ducal ministers, his nine high ministers, the feudal princes and his Great officers, all with their own hands to plough the field of God.”
– Book of Rites 6:5
‘At fifteen I set my heart on learning; at thirty I took my stand; at forty I came to be free from doubts; at fifty I understood the Decree of Heaven (Tian); at sixty my ear was attuned; at seventy I followed my heart’s desire without overstepping the line.’
– Analects 2:4
Isn’t the claim of Confucius pbuh no different than any founder of a religion who claimed to receive revelations and decrees from above? It is evident that Confucius pbuh believed in One Supreme God, who resided in Heaven and was even believed to be a Messenger of Heaven, according to the Chinese.
Lao Tzu pbuh also makes a reference to Heaven stating:
“The way of Heaven (Tian) is to benefit and not to harm.”
– Tao Te Ching, Chapter 81
Both Taoism and Confucianism believe in Shangdi, and that He is the same One Supreme God of the Indian religions Hinduism and Buddhism as well as the Abrahamic religions Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The gods in Confucianism and Taoism are not to be thought of as deities that are worshipped as partners with Shangdi, but they are revered and respected. As far as the so-called practice of “Ancestor Worship” goes, this practice is widely misunderstood. The adherents of both Confucianism and Taoism do not worship their Ancestors, rather they venerate them, just as any other Monotheistic may venerate their ancestors or religious figures. The Abrahamic faiths, for example, have shrines dedicated to Prophets, Messengers and Saints, the shrines are visited and respect is paid to the ones who are now in the grave. When a father dies, is it not the case that the body of the father is buried and marked on a tombstone, out of love and respect from his wife, children, and community? Don’t the living pay respects to him and perhaps leave behind flowers and mourn for him?
In both Taoism and Confucianism “Filial piety” is a virtue of respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors. In Confucianism, Filial Piety is important, and respect for parents and family as a whole and giving them their rites is a must. For example, Confucius pbuh said:
“When your parents are alive, comply with the rites in serving them; when they die, comply with the rites in burying them; comply with the rites in sacrificing to them.”
– The Analects 2:5
And Lao Tzu also spoke on this by saying:
“When there is no harmony in the family, filial manners are developed.”
– Tao Te Ching Chapter 18
Since there is a God or a Higher Power that resides in Heaven and Ancestors are honored and respected and prayed for after their death, wouldn’t it be safe to say that there must exist the belief in a hereafter, where the good are rewarded and the evil are punished?
Many Confucians and Taoists do believe in an after-life, and just as Shangdi resides in Heaven, so too do the good spirits who have passed away. The evil souls, however, go to Diyu. It is the realm of the dead and it is similar to the Abrahamic faiths’ understanding of Hell. Those who reside in Diyu are tortured and punished for the bad deeds they have committed, and when their prescribed punishment is over, they reincarnate and return back into this world.
The Indian religions are not the only religions that profess belief in reincarnation. Many Taoists and Confucians believe that the soul returns to the earth again and again. It is believed that Buddhism influenced the adoption of reincarnation by Confucians into their religious belief and ideas, Zhuang Zhou, one of the most influential Taoist Philosophers who wrote the ‘Zhuangzi’ the second most important Taoist book, has given clear indication of the belief of reincarnation. He states:
“Birth is not a beginning; death is not an end. There is existence without limitation; there is continuity without a starting point. Existence without limitation is Space. Continuity without a starting point is Time. There is birth, there is death, there is issuing forth, there is entering in. That through which one passes in and out without seeing its form, that is the Portal of God.”
Not only do Confucians and Taoists share the belief of reincarnation with their Indian neighbors, but they also practice Meditation. Jing Zuo or Quiet Sitting is a form of meditation in Confucianism which is used as a form of spiritual self-cultivation for a more fulfilling life. Zuowang means “Sitting Forgetting,” the purpose of this meditation for the Taoists is to simply just Sit… and Forget… this meditation can be described as, “a state of deep trance or intense absorption, during which no trace of ego-identity is felt and only the underlying cosmic current of the Tao is perceived as real.” Although seemingly different by name, the principle is the same. In fact, in the Taoist literature Zuowang is just another name for Jing Zuo. It is a form of Meditation, with a different name. You will notice that when looking at Taoist practitioners meditating, it is identical to how Confucians would meditate.
The acts of Worship in Taoism and Confucianism are similar. In The Abrahamic faiths, and in Buddhism and Hinduism, you will find that one of the fundamental actions during worship is the act of Prostration. In China, you will find the adherents of both Confucianism and Taoism performing acts of Bowing and Prostration. It is clear that their worship is the same. It is as if their practices are coming from a universal source that can be linked to other religions as well.
Just as the Abrahamic religions and Indian religions believe in an End of Times scenario and a Saviour, who comes to Govern the age to come, Taoism is no exception.
In Taoism, a messianic figure known as “Li Hong” would appear in the end times, to set right Heaven and Earth, and to abolish the corruption and evil in the world.
According to the Taoist Canon, Tao-Tsang, it states:
“The empire will be abolished, but Heaven and Earth will be re-established; then the Perfect Lord will manifest himself. When he has come, all saints, sages, and immortals, as well as those who have received this sutra, will come to be assistants to the right and to the left…. You men of this age need only to receive this Sutra to be sure of getting to see the Perfect Lord.” – Tao-Tsang
In Confucianism, the End Times consist of what is known as “Three Suns” or “Three Ages”.
According to Confucians, these ages are; the Age of Disorder, the Age of Approaching Peace, and finally the Age of Universal Peace. During the final age, it is believed that benevolence will become fully realized as people transcend their selfishness and become one with “all under Heaven”.
There is no doubt that Taoism and Confucianism are very much identical. When you look at the three religions of China, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, you will find that these religions co-exist peacefully, it is believed that throughout Chinese History, these religions have fed and adopted one another’s spiritual practices and beliefs. Taoism and Confucianism are like two sides of a coin. Though heads and tails may be different in the apparent, they are in essence two sides of the same coin.
Both of these religions have had their beginnings in Modern-China, they both believe and practice the Tao, believe that God Almighty is One, they believe in morality and respect their elders and their ancestors, they believe that heaven and hell do exist and that the dead come back to this world through the reincarnation of the soul into new bodies. They both practice meditation and worship the creator the same way, and even their belief in the End Times, in which the idea of an age of corruption and evil before the coming of the great inevitable age of justice, equity and, peace in these two religions is undeniable.
Today, the New Age of Divine Justice and Equity is knocking on our doors. Calling us back to the way of Heaven. The one who follows and acts upon the decrees of Heaven is here now, the Saviour of Mankind who will usher in a new age and bring knowledge, peace, justice, and equity. His name is Imam Ahmad Al-Hassan fhip, and he has come to unify all of humanity under one call from Heaven and to destroy the illusion of division between all mankind. It is time to gather around the Perfect Lord… it is time to go back to the decrees of Heaven..it is time that we become, United.