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     Taoism is a religious-philosophical tradition that has, along with Confucianism, shaped East Asian life for more than 2000 years. Philosophical Taoism is focused upon the Tao- a natural way of all things that flows through every sentient object and the universe itself. The most common illustration of Taoist belief is the circular Yin Yang figure, which signifies the balance of complementary opposites (shadow or receptivity and light or proactivity). When these facets of life are in harmony, health and well-being are nurtured. Thus, the overarching goal of Daoism is to cultivate and balance these energies, and by doing so, to achieve happiness through an embrace of the simplicity and purity of the Dao. The original source of Daoism is said to be the ancient I Ching, or Book of Changes-a work that offers insights about the principles of the cosmos. Lao-tzu (a 6th century B.C.E. scholar who wrote the Tao-te Ching, a book that poetically approaches the Dao) and Chuang-tzu (a 4th century B.C.E. scholar who urged individuals to comprehend the course of nature's change and embrace the rhythms of life and death) are the most prominent Daoist sages. However, the tradition also developed a more formal religious component around the 2nd century C.E. which consists of organized doctrines, religious practices, and institutional leadership. Some within this subgroup believe that spirits (both malevolent and benevolent) pervade nature and an elaborate pantheon has developed. Also important for religious Daoism are the lives of immortals (hsien) who protect those in harmony with the Dao. Over the past two millennia, Daoism has often been hybridized with Confucianism, Buddhism, indigenous forms of shamanism and other Eastern religions. Therefore, one sometimes finds an intricate melding of these traditions at temples and shrines throughout East Asia.
      In the realm of health, all Daoists idealize a simple and harmonious lifestyle which seeks to achieve holism through the balancing of yin and yang. Religious Daoists may also practice magic and supplication to deities related to cultural heroes and native powers in order to promote health and prosperity. A key Daoist concept is wu-wei, or action through inaction. This doctrine urges adherents to harmonize their actions with the flow of life and the natural order of things. Longevity (and even spiritual immortality) is an overarching concern for some Daoists. Macrobiotic cooking, gymnastics, massage, acupuncture, herbalism, meditation, and martial arts that cultivate vital energy (qi) are important techniques related to health. Daoism generally places less emphasis upon individual moral duties, community standards, and governmental responsibilities than on harmony with nature and the Dao. However, in the arena of social health, practitioners have urged individual freedom and self-transformation premised upon creating an enduring and stable social order in which life mirrors the harmony of the Dao.
       In this section of the Gallery, you will find images from two Daoist temples and a social service agency. The Pak Tai Temple on Cheung Chau Island, China, pays homage to a sea and fishing guardian. Some visitors view Pak Tai as a military god who is invoked to bring peace to the world. Community-wide health is also facilitated each spring through the Bun Festival-an event designed to placate ghosts of locals massacred by pirates or who died at sea. The Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong, China, demonstrates the syncretic nature of Daoism by hosting an altar for the three sages (Confucius, the Buddha, and Lao-tzu). It devotes special attention to Wong Tai Sin, an immortal shepherd. According to one legend, he was taught by an another immortal to refine cinnabar into a medicine capable of curing all illnesses and achieved fame as a healer after forty years of perfecting this technique. This temple is also an important site for fortune telling, with thousands of people visiting to inquire about all facets of health and well being. Finally, the Tam Centre for Hospice Care in Hong Kong offers bereavement counseling and educational resources by linking traditional concepts of well-being, such as Daoism, with social services and psychotherapy. Its butterfly mural signifies transformation through grief and the opportunity to grow via experiences of suffering.

    A Ma Temple, built in 1488, is one of the oldest and most famous temples in Macau. It is influenced by Daoism, Buddhism, and local Chinese cultural beliefs that are not limited to either religion. Indeed, this temple may be considered Buddhist. I included it in the Daoism section because of the predominance of deities for good fortune. This temple is dedicated to the seafarers' goddess, A Ma (also known as Tin Hau, Mazu, and Lin Mo). According to one legend, A Ma was a poor girl looking for passage to Canton. She was refused by the wealthy ship owners, but a fisherman took her on board. A storm wrecked all but the boat carrying the girl. On arrival in Macau she vanished, to reappear as a goddess at the place where the fishermen built her temple. She is believed to have been an exceptionally intelligent girl who could predict people's fortunes. As a goddess, she helps merchants and fishermen to prevent calamities and obtain good fortune. This temple also features Kwan Yum (Avalokitesvara), the Buddhist Bodhisattva of Compassion, and various deities for good fortune.