Humans were born with right to choose what to believe, no doubt more effort is needed to make such choice in religion choosing, as it represents spiritual shackle of a person. Buddhism and Daoism, two of the most popular religions that were widely spread in China and dominated this pure land for thousands of years, are the choice made by different native Chicness upon their culture and regional variances. But why and how, can Buddhism, brought by traders along the Silk Road connects ancient China and ancient India, get even more popular than the native developed Daoism?
When discussing about Daoism, certain definition and classification needs to be distinguished. Despite the word of Daoism, there are "Philosophical Daoism"(also known as the "Classic Daoism"), which is different from the term of "Religious Daoism"(Alder,42). These two were often used by people without discrimination. If considering "Philosophical Daoism" was created by Laozi and Zhuangzi, and was innovated into new philosophy teaching, it's still different from "Religious Daoism" even the later warship Laozi as its
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Master and did absorbed major elements from the "Philosophical Daoism".
As a religion, "Religious Daoism" has Gods to be worshipped along with its belief system, formed by followers and organizations, performing series of religious ceremonies and activities, it has remarkable inheriting over the centuries. The major immortals in Daoism are: Triple Purity, the Jade Emperor, Queen Mother, and the God of Wealth. But "Philosophical Daoism" cannot be clearly interpreted after its transforming in the Weijing Era, which ascertained its difference with "Religious Daoism".
"Philosophical Daoism" is one of the most important thought being developed in Ancient China. The Xuanyuan Huangdi, the emperor after the world had been created, had the idea of combining human and nature together, also known as immortal. The core theory of "Philosophical Daoism" is the Dao, which means the origin of the universe, or the rule that controls very single movement in the nature. Laozi wrote in the Dao De Jing:
There is something mysterious and whole
which existed before heaven and earth,
silent, formless, complete, and never changing.
Living eternally everywhere in perfection,
it is the mother of all things.
At the beginning of Western Han Dynasty, Han Wendi and Han Jingdi intended to control the nation by implementing "Philosophical Daoism" thoughts, so people can take a relief from the hardship ruled by Shi Huangdi, it was documented as the "Rule of Wen and Jing". However, Han Wudi was convinced by a Confucian named Dong Zhongshu as Dong stated Confucians suppress all other School of Thoughts.
Religious Daoism is then transformed into the Daoism as we know today in China, with its ancestry can be tracked back to ancient matriarchal society. It's a relatively complicated culture synthesis, with important contribution in China's history, culture, and iatrology development. Unlike Buddhism, which took its root by absorbing the Chinese tradition and dominated this eastern land with tremendous influence as well. The most significant difference is their core concepts. Buddhists will follow the teachings passed by Siddhartha Gautama, the "awakened one", to end their suffering by getting to know PratÄ«tyasamutpÄda (dependent origination), to fully understand how things are related to each other with purpose, and eventually achieve the state of nirvana with the middle way Siddhartha was looking for. Human beings have no choice over which form they will be living in, cumulated karma will be counted to determine the next life before rebirth.
On the other hand, Daoism suggests that, life is real. Pursuing permanent living and immortal body is the ultimate goal for every Taoists. From its perspective, life consists of vitalities, the human body is the host of spirit. To achieve immortality, one shall foster on his body and spirit at the same time.  So, Daoism stands on the aspiring the real world, where Buddhism views is more important to foresee the coming future and giving up the present, because of anitya-nothing is permanent.
Buddha said there is rebirth, endure the suffering. Whatever one had done in this life, there is payback in next circle, no exception. Generally, Buddhism wants people to look forward in to the future; Daoism works in the complete different way. Believe in Daoism is believe the immortality, the first step in preserving is to live permanently. That explains why monastics are stricken to suppress sensual passion, with a clear mind and following Buddha's teaching, where Taoists focus on preserving and achieving immortality.
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Some suggests that, the ultimate problem every religion has to solve is the taking care birth and death, as death is the most terrified ending one has to face. The term used in Buddhism is nirvana. Life is suffering, suffering in an endless circle inside the six rooms. Even though no one can escape from this suffering in past life, present life, and next life, karmas earned will eventually pats out, may even lead to nirvana. This theory is more delicate compare to Daoism concepts, as giving people hope and encourage sentient beings to do good to others. Unlike Christian, who believes people were born with guilty, and shall spend the life for redemption in order to gain forgiveness from God, rewarding system in Buddhism is straight forward and encouraging.
If suffering is unavoidable, how can people achieve nirvana? The answer is though enlightment. Buddhism says, when one realize that birth is suffering, rebirth is suffering, and one can separate the feeling apart from himself or herself, then he or she has achieved enlightment. Answer given by Daoism is simple-preserving to become immortal, enjoy the youth and permanent life. People chose Buddhism over Daoism because enlightment is more practical compare to immortality.
One similar phenomenon can be found in Buddhism and Daoism is how women are involved and treated. According to Du Guangting(850-933), with specific means, women can achieve immortality as men do, but will be given different titles in the heaven, even though feminists do the same thing as their male counterparts. (Adler, 73). Daoism actually attracted large numbers of female follower in the East Han Dynasty as an alternative to Confucianism, which would not allow women to join, when it's officially recognized by Han Wudi.
Women had a hard time join in Buddhism back to the era of Siddhartha. Considering the risk of woman being offended when going out begging for food and distraction to other monks living in the temple, Siddhartha refused his foster mother's request to join the sangha. Not till five years later, did Buddha ordain female follower as nuns since they have the equanimity to achieve enlightment as men do, but with extra rules. (Siddhartha)
Buddhism was introduced to China during Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), about the similar period where "Religious Daoism" began to transform with the concepts taken from "Philosophical Daoism". Both of them had raised to a superior level in Sui and Tang dynasty, which attracted researchers' attention because they compete with each other and also integrate in order to coexist. For instance, Buddhism was copying Dao's concepts and domains in the period of Wei and Jing, with obvious metaphysics signs. Not until the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), were large numbers of sutra being translated into Chinese. After then, Buddhism started to decrees the using of Daoism conceptual terms and turns the spearhead back to Daoism, blaming Dao' copied its terms under certain catagories.
During 265 to 589, with the popularity of alchemy and deepen on corresponding theories, Daoism had a substantial opportunity to develop its occupation among this pure land of China. It also enriched the theories being carried by absorbing the metaphysics that was popular at the time being. With other emperors came into the power, Daoism has been chosen as the state religion since Song Dynasty and kept its place until Manchu people took over Ming dynasty. The new households worships Tibetan Buddhism, who forbids the Han nationality to keep their faith in Daoism, where Dao finally began to fell.
The wide spread of Buddhism in the recent has deep correlation of the time being. In the year of 1953, National Buddhism Association was found in China, which marks the new ear of Buddhism developing in pure land which just suffered from years of wars. New rules and amendments were made corresponding to the needs for expansion and all organization were uniformed. Not till six years later, did Daoism have its national association formed under requirements for developing in the new era of China. Daoism has its natural weakness in competing with Buddhism. Due to the consistence of different factions and groups, there was Taoists with less education and unethical behaviors, which evidently defamed Daoism, where professional Buddhist institution had been opened since the middle of 19th century.
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In late 20th century, China suffered from a critical culture evolution, which dragged the nation's economic and culture development back to the level even before liberation. During that red time, all religions in China were restricted by the government. Valuable documents and historical sites were burnt down and totally ruined, Daoism had suffered the most as it was treated like superstition.
Cultural transmission is majorly based on written books, which help it to be spread widely and deeply. The quantity of religious publishing for Buddhism is far more than Daoism has. The most famous sutras like the Heart Sutra, Saddharmapundarika Sutra, Avatamsaka Sutra, can be found in most of the bookstore in China. As sutras are mainly the documentary of Buddha's and famous teachers' saying, which have analysis and understanding of the society and life, are easier to be accepted by laymen. On the contrary, Daoism only has Dao De Jing (Lao Zi) and The Holy Canon of Nanhua (Zhuangzi). Other sutras like Huang Tingjing amd Qing JingJing do not qualify for publishing due to lack of length.
The rising of tourist industry also contributed to the spreading of Buddhism. Every family knows the name of the four famous Buddhist Mountains in China, but only a few can tell even more than two of the Taoist Mountains. Tourists traveling to these landscape are either followers or potential followers, no doubt Buddhism can be more popular than Daoism in the most recent years. Almost every family in China who believes in Buddha, will try their best to light a pair of man-sized candle in the midnight of Spring Festival, as to show their loyalty and dedication.
Nowadays, the tradition of inviting a Taoist into a dead man's family continues on only in villages or countryside of a metropolitan city. The future of Daoism is hanging by a thread since young people no long believe in these ceremony, and China is declared to be a belief-free country. Numbers of people transit their faith into Protestant Christianity and Catholic Christianity is growing year after year, since the western missionaries like Matteo Ricci, Johann Adam, and Ferdinand Verbiest came into this closed orient country down from the southern water route since late 1800s. Latest report in 2007 shows that China had 21 million of Muslim and more than 30,000 Masjids, over 16 million Christian.
The future of Buddhism is also questioned by Scholars. Will the situation occur again as the time Buddhism took over Daoism and became the nationwide religion? And how far away is that day from now? Well, family tradition will be carried on over generations. Young people will still perform the same ceremony their parents used to do, in a way to show respect and remind departed saints. As for the increasing member in Muslin and Christianity, the numbers followers will eventually goes up to a saturation point where all major religions will have the equanimity in transmitting the unique culture and lifestyle to the descendants who choose to believe in. Because human were born with the right to choose what to believe.
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2Buddhism http://baike.baidu.com/view/4696.htm Date accessed May 4th, 2013
3 Despeux, Catherine., and Livia Kohn.Â Women in Daoism. Cambridge, MA: Three Pines Press, 2003.
4 Ding, Mei. www.chinanews.com/gn/news/2007/06-20/961758.shtml June 20th, 2007. Date accessed May 4th, 2013
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