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The Rise of Taoism

Taoism originated in the 2nd century AD just as the Eastern Han dynasty began falling apart. As the empire fell into feuding kingdoms, two peasant rebellions broke out in Hebei and Sichuan provinces; one was based on Taiping Taoism and the other on Wudoumi Taoism. Laozi, a Chinese philosopher and scholar, became the forefather of Taoism.


According to the Tao Te Jing, which is attributed to Laozi, Taoism's core belief is to establish a eutopia where everyone lives in equality.


The rebellion in Hebei was defeated. However, Wudoumi Taoism in Sichuan and south Shaanxi provinces survived when the rebels surrendered to Cao Cao, the emperor of the Wei kingdom. After the 3rd century, many scholars and officials began to turn to Wudoumi Taoism, which gradually lost its peasant rebellion origins and became a religion based on the Tao.


Taoists worship Laozi as their forefather and Zhang Daoling, founder of Wudoumi Taoism, as the Celestial Master and use the Tao Te Jing as their bible. In the book, "tao" is the origin of the universe and the creator of all living beings. Taoism also adopted nature and ancestor worship from earlier Chinese beliefs, they also believed men could attain immortality and become celestial beings by living an austere life.


The emperors of past dynasties bestowed the title of Celestial Master to the descendents of Zhang Daoling in order to canonize Taoism where it became known as "Tianshi Dao" or "Zhengyi Dao". In the middle of the 12th century, the Taoist Wang Chongyang laid the foundations for the Quanzhen School of Taoism by proposing that Taoists should also adhere to tenets of Buddhism and Confucianism; that Taoists should remain celibate, only live with other Taoists, become vegetarians and adopt other austerities. Taoism then became divided into two schools, Quanzhen and Zhengyi.