My hope in creating these pages is to encourage western Daoist practitioners, by illustrating how Daoism and Dao Yin have evolved and can continue to evolve now that it has escaped from China and well and truly established itself in the west and how it is as relevant today as it has always been.
The times that we live in present us with an opportunity to look at Daoism with fresh eyes. Recent archaeological works have brought forth a great deal of knowledge that was simply not available a few decades ago.
If one looks at the Yijing (I Ching) as an example, recent discoveries have enabled scholars to produce translations of what is far closer to the original Zhouyi text. What is clear is that the Yijing has over many centuries, just as Daoism as a whole has, accumulated enormous amounts of additional material. Rather like a great ship sailing through the oceans of time it has collected innumerable crustaceans, barnacles and other detritus.
This is of course inevitable, it is the nature of humanity to continually review and re contextualise (exactly as I am doing here!). Unfortunately it is all too easy to lose sight of this and when reading a classic text like the Yijing or LaoTzu one can easily forget that much of the writing was added at later dates and was specific to the context of the social situation of the time or the moral viewpoint of the writer.
When you consider that the earliest parts of the Yijing were written over three thousand years ago, there was an enormous opportunity for rewriting and re interpreting.
Just pause for a moment and think about that for a moment; over 3,000 years ago! In terms of human history this takes us back to the Bronze Age, the early establishment of a type of human society that we would recognise today.
Given this enormous span of time we also need to acknowledge that even with all the scholarly activity directed at it, there are still gaps in our knowledge, who knows what will be unearthed in the future.
But the really important thing to grasp is that this far back in human society it is in fact very likely that society and settlements across Europe and Asia would have had far more in common than they would have had in later times, after societies settled and became more and more affected by local environment, politics and religion.
Just to clarify that point because it is really important, take three separate areas such as Iberia, the Rhine area of Europe and the Yellow River area in China. Although the events of local social evolution may well have occurred centuries apart, they would have followed a broadly similar process of abandoning a hunter gatherer existence as agriculture established itself. The evolution of metal working and the establishment of settlements and the first tentative signs of state hood. Probably formed to secure resources for agriculture and metal working.
So the first writings of the Yijing and those of Daoism that followed it were reflective of
the reality for any early human settlement. Although some aspects would have been unique to the locality, such as language, the sentiment and spirit would have been and still are universal. It is in fact the later, sometimes much later, accretions of social change in an evolving Chinese state that made the written works and movements "more Chinese" and less universal.
There will of course be those that will insist that Daoism can only ever be practised within the cultural trappings of the nation that created it. Obviously from the above you can see that I don't agree, hopefully you can see why.
You may notice that one aspect of Daoism that is largely absent here (except Zhen Wu above) is the pantheon of gods that features in some sects and traditions. I omitted this area exactly because it is an example of the culturally specific aspects of Daoism in China.