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Tai Chi | Ancient Art of Being One with Mind, Body and Soul

Tai Chi old art uses light moves that reduce the stress of a demanding lifestyle and improve overall health. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art based on a series of exercises involving gentle and balanced body movements.

Currently practiced by over 4 million people, Tai Chi enjoys much attention in the scientific literature due to the health benefits it demonstrates regardless of age and physical condition – from young adults to children and the elderly.

Research shows that regular Tai Chi practice can improve a wide variety of medical conditions.

Tai Chi is a practice for both mind and body, with a rather confusing history that has its origins in China 700 years ago.

The legend says Tai Chi was created by Chan Sang-Feng after witnessing the struggle between a crane and a snake, embodying their movements in a fighting style that combines the benefits of both.

For centuries, the art of Tai Chi has been kept secret and transmitted from generation to generation. The progress of the initiates was slow and the masters demanded huge payments or services in return for learning these powerful martial arts.

Tai Chi
To the uninformed, the mere mention of the term “martial arts” evokes images of rigorous fighting and violence. However, in China and other parts of the world, thousands are recognizing the health benefits of a Chinese form of martial arts called Tai Chi.

The wider spread occurred with the invention of firearms, with the martial arts starting to lose ground. The future of martial arts seemed less fortunate, but a big change occurred when they turned out to focus on the benefits to health, inner balance or discipline, and self-control.

Tai Chi is extremely popular in China, where it is massaged daily, often early in the morning in parks and other open spaces. Slow and gentle movements are combined with breathing exercises and a variety of cognitive components, including awareness and visualization.

Since Tai Chi requires very methodical and low impact movements, it is a good practice for the elderly as well as those recovering from illness and accidents.

There are different styles of Tai Chi such as Wu Hao, Sun, and Yang. To perform Tai Chi exercises you must choose one of these forms and learn different types of specific moves and positions.

Tai Chi
Tai Chi: The Art of Transforming Your Body, Mind & Soul

Tai Chi practice has been transmitted to us today through three great traditions:

  1. Chen family style: with combinations of slow and explosive techniques;
  2. The Yang family style, derived from Chen style in the 19th century, with a flowing and uniform rhythm;
  3. The Wu family style, derived from both of these styles, characterized by subtle movements of the wrists.

In addition, there are two less known styles:

Sun, created by Sun Lu-Tang, which combines elements of Hsing i (Xingyi) and Pa Kua (Bagua) with the Tai Chi sequence, and Hao style derived from Chen’s style 19th century, characterized by subtle and complicated circular movements.

There is also the Wudang style created in Hong Kong by a master named Cheng Tinhung, a former Wu school disciple, who did not claim to teach any Tai Chi Chuan style.

Tai Chi offers a number of physical and mental benefits, moderate cardiovascular training, stimulates the immune system, reduces spine degeneration, improves posture, balance, and coordination, reducing the risk of stroke associated with aging.

In addition, any person can practice Tai Chi because it involves some of the mild forms of exercise.

Tai Chi involves the focus of the practitioner to live in the present and to remove the thoughts that might distract him.

In terms of scientifically proven health benefits, there are few practices that equate Tai Chi.

Here are some of these:

  1. Improvements in physical condition, muscle strengthening, better coordination, flexibility and recovery capacity.
  2. Pain and reduced rigidity and increased mobility for those suffering from arthritis
  3. Improving the quality of sleep, mood, and quality of life in general.
  4. Improving the immune system
  5. Reduced risk of falls and fractures, especially in the elderly

TAI CHI CHUAN

Tai Chi Chuan (tàijíquán, t’ai chi ch’üan) is one of the most effective domestic martial arts, practiced both as a defense technique and for beneficial effects on health and longevity.

It is a martial art that has appeared in China for 3-400 years ago. In direct translation, it would mean the Box of Supreme Perfections or the Box of Supreme Harmony; another option is the Taiji Symbol Box.

Has documented for the first time three centuries ago as a martial art praised in the Chen family, a family of small noblemen in the village of Chenjiagou, Henan Province, the first style of Tai Chi being Chen style.

Chen Tai Chi Push Hands
Chen Tai Chi Push Hands

Yang Lu Chan learns the Chen style of the Chen family and then goes on to Tai Chi martial art in Beijing, where he will also teach Imperial Guards, being Tai Chi’s only master of martial arts instructor at the Imperial Guard enlist only the best fighters in China). But it will not teach Chen style, but its own style, including elements from other martial arts schools, thus fondling the Yang style.

From the Yang style, the two Wu styles are then born, and then Sun Lu Tang will combine Xing Yi with Tai chi chuan, setting up the Sun style.

These are the 5 bigger Tai Chi styles in the order of appearance: Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu, Sun. In order of spreading or popularity, the most practiced is Yang, then Chen, Wu, Wu, and Sun. Besides these 5 styles, there are many smaller styles, as well as several sub-styles or schools in the same style.

Presently Tai Chi Chuan has spread throughout the world, and the variety of forms of practice differs according to the goal: increasing the natural force, creating a superior state of relaxation and intuitive response to the outside world, acquiring combat skills and bringing the practitioner in a superior state of focus, discipline, balance and harmony with the Universe.

Tai Chi | Beautiful Art Of Mind, Body and Soul
Tai Chi | Beautiful Art Of Mind, Body and Soul

The benefits of Tai Chi Chuan (taijiquan) practice are manifested both physically and psychologically. There is virtually no being structure that is not influenced by Tai Chi Chuan practice.

The results are manifested primarily at the physical level. The body becomes harmonious, well proportioned. It also regulates the activity of internal organs and in particular hormonal secretions.

The balanced combination of the two states – concentration and relaxation, during the Tai Chi Chuan exercise, benefit fully from the central nervous system. Thus, exercising the mind and body at the same time stimulates the cerebral cortex by excitement of certain regions and the protective inhibition of other regions.

This allows the brain to “rest” and frees the cerebral cortex from the ongoing, pathological excitation, which is the cause of certain nerve diseases. This explains why Tai Chi Chuan contributes to the amelioration and even healing of nerve and mental illnesses.

Stretching, spiraling, rhythmic relaxation of the muscles ensures correct blood circulation in all muscle groups, joints and internal organs

Another effect of practicing Tai Chi Chuan is the normalization of cholesterol levels in the blood and, implicitly, blood pressure and the decrease in incidence of arteriosclerosis.

Movement T'ai Chi Ch'uan Form (Yang 24 Taijiquan)
Movement T’ai Chi Ch’uan Form (Yang 24 Taijiquan)

Breathing from the practice of Tai Chi Chuan is natural, abdominal, coordinated with movements, becoming prolonged, slow, deep, continuous and relaxed.

This type of breathing involves the use of diaphragm muscle and abdominal muscles, favoring the most efficient use of the lungs as well as increasing lung capacity.

The use of the lungs to their full capacity benefits pulmonary ventilation and, of course, the metabolism of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange.

In addition, the increase in lung capacity increases the elasticity of the lung tissue as well as all the muscles involved in breathing, the strengthening and enlargement of the chest, thus preventing the occurrence of a disease associated with aging, such as stiffening and ossification of the chest.

One of the main factors involved in improving the cardiovascular system is deep abdominal breathing during exercise.

The tai chi long form takes physical and mental dexterity to learn and practice.
The tai chi long form takes physical and mental dexterity to learn and practice.

Tai Chi Chuan practice also works in strengthening the immune system. It has been noticed that in general, Tai Chi Chuan practitioners suffer in a much lower proportion of colds, flu and autoimmune diseases.

The correct practice of Tai Chi Chuan allows the elimination of both physical (muscular) tensions and psycho-emotional tensions. Physical suits gained through daily exercise are reflected on the psychic level.

Tai Chi Chuan harmoniously combines the Qigong movement, being considered a dynamic form of Qigong. The strong structure of the necessary body is gained through practices such as the Iron Shirt.

The balance that allows the practitioner to master his emotions during practice (as in a struggle) is acquired through Taoist meditations such as the inner Suras and The 6 Healing Sounds, and the flexibility required for the free execution of movements is achieved through the exercises of Tao Yin.

Taijiquan is a martial art from the family of internal fighting styles (Nei Jia Quan) originating in China.

The name comes from the principle of Tai Ji (the great harmony between Yin and Yang).

The well-known symbol of the dance between Yin and Yang is called the “Taiji symbol”. Therefore, Tai Ji Quan means “the box of great harmony” or “the box of supreme perfection”.

The correct pronunciation differs according to the Chinese dialect in which it is pronounced, namely “tai ji ciuen”, “tai dji” or “tai ti”, but in any case not “tai.” Being an internal style means that it uses energy and relaxation, not physical strength.

This style of fighting appeared within the Chen family. The most popular styles are Yang and Chen.

Yang style was developed by Yang Lu Chan, who learned the art of working for the Chen family but could not become the official follower of the tradition and had to create his own style.

He was also invited to surrender to the Chinese Imperial Court, a testament to his combat effectiveness.

In most schools in the world, Taiji or Tai Chi means a health exercise where the practitioner uses the movement, breathing and vertical position of the column to energize it and make the energy flow better through the body.

Also, for many practitioners, Taiji practice means only a series of slow movements performed by yourself.

For those who still know the old Tai Chi style as martial art, the sequence of movements is not learned from the beginning, it is just a way to train yourself when you are alone. Taijiquan as martial art means:

  1. basic techniques on the spot;
  2. displacements;
  3. more complex techniques and special blows (such as a shoulder blow);
  4. Ground floor applications – each movement has at least 5 or 6 applications in combat;
  5. Tui Shou or pushing your hands – also different as execution what is done in health styles or competition;
  6. the 108 sequence called Taolu;
  7. a breathing technique that I do not know yet;
  8. energy emission techniques that have been demonstrated to me and felt on my own skin, but I have not had the opportunity to teach them.

The Wu Family Style

Wu Tao Kung Fu style was created by Master Hoang Nam in 1962 and represents a synthesis of various martial arts styles he had studied. Following the tradition of the Masters, they do not teach this style to their most advanced and worthy students.

Master Hoang Nam has started practicing martial arts since the age of six.

Hoang Nam was born in Vietnam in a simple people’s family. Uncle Hoang Minh was a Sino-Vietnamese boxing master, and he was the one who initiated the little Nam in the martial arts at the age of six.

A few years later, an early vocation is to beat at the gate of Grand Master Wong Tse who teaches Shaolin Quan in one of the most prestigious schools in the country.

Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan
Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan

Transformed, the young boy does not give up and, for 3 years, returns regularly to the Grand Master. In the end, the latter succumbs to such a tenacity, and decides to submit him to a sample requiring him to sit for 2 hours a day for 6 months, the rest of the day devoted to household chores.

 Despite his small stature even after the local criteria, Hoang Nam will be worthy of the reputation of Master Wong Tse’s school until 5 years later he will be allowed to descend from the mountain, the last test that will make him face the best disciples.

 At 19, Hoang Nam is knowledgeable, recommended by his master, he is studying under the guidance of other classmates such as Phoe Yang of TaijiQuan or Truong Thanh who conveys Vo-Co Truyen, the traditional Vo.

But in 1945 he will know the discipline that will make him known for the first time in Europe – karate. For his war in the country, Japanese officials occupied his family home. He begins to train in martial arts of “war” – karate, kendo, aikido, iaido and bo-jutsu.

They will initiate it in the discipline that marks the aggressive ideology of the conquerors, who were looking for nothing but efficacy. This context of war will leave some traces in the Wutao style.

At the end of the war he attended the first martial arts competitions and has notable results in 1948 at the Saigon Martial Arts Championship. Unfortunately, a new dark conflict ravages Vietnam, shakes society and destroys families.

At the insistence of his neighbors he leaves the country and chooses France as the country of refuge. He arrived in Paris in 1950, where the only known style was Judo.

He will teach in 1953 to a circle of close friends Kungfu TiêuLâm, under the name of “Full Physical Practice.”

Qi Gong et TaiJi Quan
Qi Gong et TaiJi Quan

Not long ago, in 1957, he was part of the technical committee of the “Karate and Free Boxing Federation”, which he presides over with another pioneer, Judo expert, Me Henry Plée.

In the same year, she opens the first official school, which is part of the first generation of European Karate. Along with Karate, Master Hoang Nam also shares his other knowledge: Aikido, Kendo, Iaido and Taiji Quan.

Tai Chi has been described as a “moving meditation” – thanks to a vast literature illustrating its all-encompassing benefits, many now call this practice a “moving medicine.”

Tai Chi can be taught at home or on the Internet, but attending a course with an experienced instructor guarantees you a correct and safe exercise.

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Spirituality

New Moon In Libra: Intensity In Relationships

  • The Facts:The stories of many great teachers throughout history, lore and ancient culture point to many repeating factors. Are they Gods in the classic sense of the word? You decide, but we do know they may not be who we think they are.
  • Reflect On:What’s to say we do not hold and possess the same deep knowings, abilities and love that many of these teachers held? Other than the ‘holy’ books themselves, it appears that nothing is telling us we are not the same.

Across the ages there have always been saints, sages, seers, and prophets which have foreseen events, healed and spread a powerful message to the masses. On the surface, these messages may seem disconnected and different, but at their core there are many similarities, with the essence being the same.

This can be summed up metaphorically by an old Indian fable which tells the story of 6 blind men who all come in contact with an elephant. Taken from John Godfrey Saxe’s poem (1816-1887) Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

“God bless me! but the Elephant

Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, -“Ho! what have we here

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me ’tis mighty clear,

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a spear!”

The Third approach’d the animal,

And happening to take

The squirming trunk within his hands,

Thus boldly up and spake:

“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant

Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,

And felt about the knee:

“What most this wondrous beast is like

Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,-

“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant

Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,

Said- “E’en the blindest man

Can tell what this resembles most;

Deny the fact who can,

This marvel of an Elephant

Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun

About the beast to grope,

Then, seizing on the swinging tail

That fell within his scope,

“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant

Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

The moral of this story is that many people can view the same thing, yet get a different interpretation. This leads me to some of the great and most widely known prophets of our known history starting with Viracocha.

The Incan God Viracocha

Viracocha is God worshipped by the Incan people, however, it is widely believed by many that this “God” was actually a person who brought a new way of being to the Incan people. This included healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind and teaching skills such as medicine, farming, mathematics and writing. From Graham Hancock’s book Fingerprints Of The Gods:

This idol took the form of a marble statue of the god – a statue described ‘as to the hair, complexion, features, raiment and sandals, just as painters represent the apostle Saint Bartholomew’. Other accounts of Viracocha likened his appearance to that of the Saint Thomas. I examined a number of illustrated ecclesiastical manuscripts in which these two saints appeared; both were routinely depicted as lean, bearded white men, past middle age, wearing sandals and dressed in long, flowing cloaks. As we shall see, the records confirmed this was exactly the appearance ascribed to Viracocha by those who worshipped him.

This view has also been shared by sixteenth-century Spanish Jesuit missionary Fr Jose de Acosta (also taken from Fingerprints Of The Gods):

They make great mention of a great deluge [Severe flood], which happened in their country … the Indians say that all men were drowned in the deluge, and they report that out of Lake Titicaca came one Viracocha, who stayed in Tiahuanaco, where at this day there are seen to be ruins of ancient and very strange buildings, and from thence came to Cusco, and so began mankind to multiply…

There doesn’t seem to be any known history of Viracocha that predates the Inca people, but if you were to take the assumption that this God was based upon an actual person, then (like all other holy people) he would have had to go through an initiatory period of purification. This is something I will come back to shortly.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth

The most famous Prophet is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who appears not just in Christian text, but also in the Quran and many other holy books. As part of his purification, it is reported that Jesus went into the desert and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. During this time he was tempted 3 times by Satan. The 3 temptations were: hedonism (hunger / satisfaction), egoism (spectacular throw / might) and materialism (kingdoms / wealth). After Jesus refused each temptation, the Devil departed and Jesus began his teaching. What is interesting to note is Jesus’ purification took place in the desert, predominantly under the power of the fire element of the Sun. Now I know we don’t know the pre-Incan history of Viracocha, but you could assume that had he faced a similar initiation it would likely have a close relation to the element of water, due to him rising from the lake.

Moses

Moses was said to have freed over 600,000 Israelite slaves from Egypt. It is said that Moses crossed the Red Sea with the former slaves and they based themselves at Mount Sinai. This is where Moses went and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before he received the Ten Commandments from God. Again, the predominant element of the mountains is that of air. Differing from the previous 2 elemental initiations.

Gautama Buddha

Gautama Buddha famously sat under the Bodhi tree until he reached enlightenment where, like Jesus, he was tempted by the devil. After 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, it is said that he achieved his task of complete liberation. Again there is an elemental force here in the Earth which he sat on under the Bodhi tree.

Thus far we have spoken of the 4 agreed upon elements of the natural world, however, some argue that darkness and lightness are also elements. Light obviously has its physical characteristics, but could also be defined as the transcendent. The experience which is beyond that of humanness and materialism, what we could call the spirit realm.

Muhammad

Muhammad is the most recent of the prophets we speak about and the founder of Islam. It is thought he was born in 570 AD which synchronistically is the Year of the Elephant. Muhammad fasted and prayed for 40 days in a cave named Hira on Mount Jabal al-Nour. During this time it is claimed he was visited by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel then commanded Muhammad to recite the verses that would later become the Quran. The elemental force we are working within the cave is that of Darkness.

To Sum Up

There is no mention of a prophet that worked with pure light and this is because they all did.  It is believed that the liberation of a human being is to purify your physical body to the level in which you let pure light emanate through you. Meaning all of the prophets did in fact access pure light through their initiation. The pure light is the elephant and each of the prophets saw this truth and interpreted it through their elemental perspective.

At least this is an observational theory one could arrive at. As a stand-alone, none of the religions derived from these teachers has been able to bring about any level of lasting peace, and in most instances have caused more bloodshed than they have saved. But what if none of the religions are “right”? As with the elephant story, they are just a view of the same thing from a different perspective. Maybe with the unification (or at least acceptance) of the teachings of all religions comes access to a teaching that will lead us to an ascended 7th plane that we need to fully liberate ourselves as a species.

Maybe we all hold a piece of the bigger puzzle- with each partly right, and all of us wrong!

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Spirituality

Crystals That Require Extra Care

For a variety of reasons, many crystals need special treatment when maintained. It is good to be informed so that we do not damage our precious crystals, but they also take care of us.

Some crystals are water soluble, therefore they should not be immersed in water or other liquids; other crystals are soft and easily damaged, others may even be affected by the sun’s rays.

There are certain crystals and minerals that can be very toxic.

Although the chances of poisoning by use or by preparing elixirs from the crystals are very small it is good to know what these are and how they can be used.

Amethyst

Photosensitive, the color will fade if left in strong sunshine. It is recommended not to be left in the sun, except for short periods of cleaning or preparation of elixirs.

Apatite

Sensitive to acid exposure – an unlikely event in crystal therapy, but worth mentioning.

Calcite

It may be affected by water, so it is better not to be put in water for cleaning or cleaning.

The rough calcite usually has a smooth waxy texture, it can be immersed in water without problems and is often used to make an elixir.

Some varieties, particularly honey calcite, are photosensitive and will lose their color if exposed to the sun for a long time.

The calcite is also soft and easy to scratch.

Chrysocolla

It is a very soft crystal (hardness 2-4), therefore it scratches lightly. It is advisable to handle it especially as a jewel where it is quite exposed to possible scratches.

Pink Quartz

Some pink quartz crystals are photosensitive and will lose color if left in strong sunshine.

Being quite difficult to know which pink quartz will be affected and which is not, it is recommended to keep any quartz pink away from the sun’s rays; obviously except for short periods of purification and cleaning or for the preparation of elixirs.

Copper

Contains minerals that are slightly soluble such as malachite and azurite.

For elixir solutions use dioptase, chrysocolla and other copper-containing silicates

* and are safe to be non-soluble.

Florine

It is very soft (hardness 4), so it scratches lightly and will eventually have a deleted appearance;

although it does not lose its therapeutic properties, it will no longer be so eye-catching.

When transported, it is advisable to keep it separate from other crystals.

It is also photosensitive and its color will be faded if left in the sun.

Florina also has a strong cleavage that breaks easily in strokes, so increased care is recommended when handled.

Gypsum: Selenite, Satin Spar, Fishtail, etc.

All gypsums contain water.

They will absorb water and are soluble in water, especially the satin. If they are immersed in the water, the initial crystals will become erased;

if they are left for a long time they will even disintegrate.

Do not clean or clean under running water, can be cleaned with a slightly damp, non-abrasive material.

Halite

It is a salt crystal so highly soluble in water.

Do not clean or clean under running water, can be cleaned with a slightly damp, non-abrasive material.

It may even disintegrate if it is left in humid conditions, such as a cellar.

Lapis Lazuli

Sensitive to pressure – an unlikely event in crystal therapy, but worth mentioning.

Malachite

It is a very soft crystal (hardness 3.5-4), so it scratches lightly and becomes matte.

When transported, it is advisable to keep it separate from other crystals.

Also sensitive to heat, acid, ammonia and hot water.

Malachite is potentially toxic.

If used in elixirs, it is quite unlikely to be poisonous, but as a safety measure, it is recommended to create an elixir to use the external method.

Take great care not to inhale malachite filings.

Pyrites

Do not dive into the water.

Turquoise

It is a soft and very porous crystal.

Reaction adversely to oil, light, sweat, cosmetics or detergents.

Always remove turquoise jewels before using water.

Use other cleaning and purification methods than running water.

* Silicates are a viable solution for creating elixirs. Any crystals in the quartz family can be used, so having a fairly varied range of crystals that can work in creating elixirs.

The information provided in this article is not designed as a substitute for the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a medical practitioner. The information comes as complementary options to conventional medicine (complementary = it can work with). In no way should the information be considered as “medical practice”.
The site assumes no responsibility for the use of this material.

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Spirituality

Taoism In Modern China

Last month, Shanghai’s City God Temple played host to a solemn congregation assembled in celebration of the birth of Laozi, an ancient philosopher broadly called the founder of Chinese Taoism. The service has been held on the 15th day of the next month in the Chinese lunar calendar, an auspicious day which Taoists consider to be the birthday of the Highest Lord Lao, one of Taoism’s three greatest gods.

Lord Lao is the deified form of the same Laozi who apparently wrote the Tao Te Ching, a classic work of Chinese philosophy written around the sixth century B.C.. During the Eastern Han Dynasty, Lord Lao allegedly reappeared before the Taoist celestial master Zhang Daoling, bestowing upon him the teachings which afterwards came to shape the orthodox beliefs of the Zhengyi sect, one of the significant Taoist denominations in China now.

For followers of Taoism, the Highest Lord Lao is the embodiment of the Tao, or”Way,” and the Tao Te Ching is among the most important Taoist scriptures. During the Tang Dynasty, the emperor gave Laozi the venerable title of”Highest Emperor of Mysterious Origin,” and from 840 A.D. onward, his birthday was rigorously observed by the royal court, when the nation’s larger Taoist temples held burial ceremonies for followers to fast and preach scripture. Lord Lao’s birthday is, in nature, as close as Taoism gets to Christmas in the West. Nevertheless regardless of the current resurgence of religion in China, Lord Lao had not enjoyed a birthday celebration on this scale for quite a while.

Last month’s celebrations in Shanghai were so important for two reasons. For starters, it had been the first time in many years the City God Temple hosted a large scale Taoist festival. Although Taoism is China’s only indigenous religion, its sway now pales compared with its previous status. A lot of people know the City God Temple as a tourist milestone and business center, but few understand it as a significant Taoist religious site.

Secondly, the ceremony itself revealed Taoism is adapting its image to attract new converts. Within the course of the afternoon , organizers deftly mixed tradition, commerce, and technologies to create a welcoming atmosphere for new and lapsed Taoists alike.

During morning , the temple abbot started with a ritual preaching of the Tao. Afterwards, he conducted the tradition of natural audiences with Laozi, an extremely ritualized ceremony where followers proceed in slow procession around an altar, repenting of the sins and praying for blessings from heaven. In the day, two additional ceremonies were held which were significant for more pious followers who, after committing to longterm study and self-cultivation, want to eventually become”lay Taoists” — spiritual adepts who dedicate themselves to following the Tao, but aren’t members of the clergy.

The party was meant to expand the influence of Taoist culture, notably by bringing more young people to watch and take part in this traditional festival. Because of this, the thoroughly planned event was filled with fresh interpretations.

Among the most surprising innovations lay in the organizers’ repurposing of traditional iconography. In contrast to traditional images of Laozi — which tend to depict him as an elderly, ethereal, sage-like figure — the predominant image at the City God Temple was an anime-style illustration of Laozi as a baby, his hair drawn back into a bun, naked as the day he was born.

The icon’s artist, the Taoist priest Wang Minyuan, told me that the infant Laozi is, in fact, a very important part of Taoist iconography. It has its origins in the Eighty-One Transformations of Lord Lao — an illustrated religious text — in which it represents the beginning of the universe. In addition, the image of a child reflects the Tao Te Ching’s veneration of newborns, who symbolize the purity and sincerity of ancient times. Returning to a state of primordial communication with the Tao is the ultimate aim of those who practice Taoist self-cultivation — but that’s not to say representations of this ideal cannot also be updated for modern followers.

The event compellingly mixed modern-style iconography with much more traditional paraphernalia. Organizers erected a shrine to the Holy Infant and a further altar in honor of the Sovereign of the Void, a Taoist celestial worthy. The former harkened back to the tradition of sacrificing to Laozi during the Han Dynasty. The shrine was draped in a purple coverlet that joined together like curtains in the front, with a statue of the infant Laozi housed within.

The latter followed the ancient style of the Tang and Song dynasties, featuring outer, middle, and inner altars. Believers gathered to pay their respects at the outer alter, with a view of the religious accoutrements laid out on the middle altar. Finally, the inner altar was dedicated to spaces for the high priest, the abbot of the temple, and the other religious masters to perform Taoist rituals.

The planners’ intentions behind committing and constructing to these special altars were clarified by Taoist priest Tao Guanjing. The altars’ reappearance reflected the ongoing revival of the Taoist belief in spontaneity, he said. Taoist priests and adherents were invited to interact with one another during the ceremony, as a means of restoring the long-lapsed connection between the temple clergy and the congregation. Together, they gave free reign to the concept of universal salvation through communing with the Tao.

Interestingly, the entire event was broadcast live on internet giant Tencent’s Taoism channel, an online TV station that, alongside Buddhist and Confucian sister channels, aims to popularize Chinese traditional religion via the web. This was a historic first for a Shanghai-based Taoist ceremony. On the ground, three camera operators filmed the event in real time, beaming full, detailed coverage of the ceremony to audiences at home and abroad. Statistics showed that 630,000 viewers tuned in to watch the morning mass, a number that grew to 740,000 by the end of the day.

Throughout the broadcast, a senior Taoist of the Shanghai City God Temple, Li Daqian, offered commentary on the ceremonial happenings, explaining in exhaustive detail each stage of the event as it proceeded. The effect was to give audiences at home insight into the rituals playing out on their screens, challenging the idea that Taoism is impenetrable, irrelevant, or irreconcilable with modern life.

Outside of the specialized Taoist ceremonies, pilgrims and tourists to the City God Temple could hang talismans bearing their personal wishes for the future, as well as eat local pastries purportedly infused with the energy of the Tao. These activities reflected a deep-seated commercial aspect of Taoist festivals, many of which historically developed into temple fairs with distinct regional customs. The Laozi Fair at Chengdu’s Qingyang Palace, located in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, takes place alongside a local flower market; in the same vein, the treats on offer at the Shanghai temple fair added to the sense of community participation.

Combining the traditional with the modern has long been a challenge at the heart of Chinese Taoism; indeed, it is a difficulty that confronts practitioners of all forms of Chinese traditional culture. For me, the mass was largely successful: The organizers captured much of Taoism’s basic spirit through their adaptation of ancient classics, and revitalized the ceremonies of the Tang Dynasty — a golden age of Chinese culture — for a contemporary audience. They promoted orthodox Taoist culture while utilizing modern online media, keeping their eyes trained on the preferences of today’s young people and working hard to create a “Taoist Christmas” that everyone could enjoy.

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