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Chinese philosophy: Daoism

While Confucian scholars turned towards society and tried to change it with their work if possible Daoism tended to be detached from the world and passive. The two most famous works of Daoism are the "Nan Hua Chen Ching" often named after its author Zhuangzi and the Daodejing (The Book of the Way of Virtue).

Especially the Daodejing with its ambiguity and insinuation has attracted many scholars. The Daodejing consists of about 5000 characters and is said to be written by Laozi. Many Confucian scholars were attracted by the teachings of Daoism after retiring from civil service.

The life of Laozi

There is not much record on the life of Laozi. He is said to be born in the state of Chu during the Zhou dynasty in the 6th century b.C.. His real name was Li Er but in later works there are only written records testifying his name as Laozi meaning "Old Master".

Confucius is supposed to have asked him for advice on the rites during his journey to Luoyang (capital of the Zhou dynasty) when he acted as archivist there. But this story was already doubted by the famous historian Sima Qian. They say the Daodejing was compiled when Laozi was on his way to the west to abandon China. A customs official stopped him at the border and asked him to leave a record behind. Thereupon he dictated the Daodejing and disappeared.

Though it is assumed that the Daodejing emerged not until the 4th century B.C., because many thoughts of the Daodejing appear in the works of other philosophers. The Daodejing became the main work of Daoism and Laozi was declared founder of Daoism. During the Tang dynasty Daoism was even made state religion. Daoist ideas had already been recorded long before Laozi. According to myth the legendary ruler of ancient times, the Yellow Emperor founded Daoism.

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