The perspective of life and death of Daoism based on Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu Since the ancient time, there were a lot of different religions and teachings in China, and people’s perspectives and attitudes were influenced by these different religions and philosophical teachings in every aspect in their life. There are three major religions, or teachings, that are very important in Chinese history, which are Confucianism (philosophical teachings), Buddhism and Daoism (considered both a religion and philosophical teaching).
Confucianism emphasizes the moral standards in human’s daily life; the Buddhism concentrates on the rituals of the spiritual life ; and Taoism emphasizes the connection of individuals and nature in the harmonious space. These religions and teachings also shaped very different perspectives of life and death in ancient China; nowadays, the perspectives of life and death also influence people a lot. From the comprehensive objective aspects to analyze, Daoism created a more positive perspective of life and death than other religions and teachings in ancient China.
In this research paper, I will use Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu’s teaching to illustrate how Daoism shapes a positive perspective of life and death for Chinese people. Daoism believes that life and death is a nature process. According to Chuang Tzu’s writing “Mastering Life”, he mentions that, Life and death are fated constant as the succession of dark and dawn, a matter of Heaven, There are sine things that man can do nothing about-all are a matter of the nature of creatures. If a man is willing to regard Heaven as a father and to love it, then how much more should he be willing to do for the Truth!
In this way, Chuang Tzu emphasizes that life and death is an unchangeable law, and every single person has to experience this process. This connection of human and nature was previously mentioned by Lao Tzu, he said that human follows the law from earth; the earth follows the law from heaven; the heaven follows the law from Dao; the law of Dao is everything about nature. In Lao Tzu’s perspective, human follows the way of Dao, at the same time, it means that they follow the way of nature. If human body is an integral whole as nature, the birth and death is a logical process of individuals who follow the nature.
Chuang Tzu’s teaching further proves Lao Tzu’s concept; when Chuang Tzu was about to die, his student wanted to bury him, however, Chuang Tzu said “I have the sky and the earth for my coffin and case, the sun and moon are my jade symbol, the stars and constellations are my pearls, the ten thousand things will go with me like mourners. So what can you possibly add to my funeral service? ” From this story, Chuang Tzu’s perspective of death is clearer, which means that human, as a part of nature, should come back to nature after the death.
This kind of nature process theory further proves the inevitability of death in human’s life. Because Daoism tells people that death is a necessary process that we cannot avoid, it further tells people a view of life – do not care a lot about the reputation and fame and just enjoy this life. Unlike Confucianism, people who believe in Daoism are indifferent to the fame and wealth; unlike Buddhism, people who believe in Daoism live in a simple life and fully concentrate on their ‘this life’. (Buddhism believes next life) Besides, Daoism believes that death is a good thing.
According to Chuang Tzu, people live their life company with worries, and then, after they live a long life, they have spent a lot of time worrying instead of dying; as a result, they must suffer a lot of pains. For Chuang Tzu, living in the world has to suffer a lot of pain, such as illness, and death is a way to release the pains; in other words, death is a happy thing for human indeed. In Chuang Tzu’s writings, he mentions a story to illustrate his idea: When Chuang Tzu want t Ch’u, he saw an old skull, all dry and parched.
He poked it with his carriage whip and then asked, “Sir, were you greedy for life and forgetful of reason, and so came to this? Was your state overthrown and did your bow beneath the as and so came to this? Did you do some evil deed and were you ashamed to bring disgrace upon your parents and family, and so came to this? Was it through the pangs of cold and hunger that you came to this? Or did your springs and autumns pile up until they brought you to this? ” When he had finished speaking, he dragged the skull over and, using it for a pillow, lay down to sleep.
In the middle of the night the skull came to him in a dream and said, “You chatter like a rhetorician and all your words betray the entanglements of a living man. The dead know nothing of these! Would you like to hear a lecture on the dead? ” “Indeed,” said Chuang Tzu. The skull said, “Among the dead there are no rulers above, no subjects below, and no chores of the four season. With nothing to do, our springs and autumns are as endless as heaven and earth.
A king facing south on his throne could have no more happiness than this! In this story, skull thinks that Chuang Tzu’s questions reflects something burdensome in human’s life; the burdensome things will no long be a question after the death. On the contrary, after abandoning these burdensome things , people will be truly happy. In other words, death will make people feel released and happy. Chuang Tzu also used this way to tell people and delivered his thought that don’t be afraid of death and death is a thing should be celebrated. The story of his wife’s death also reflect this idea: Chuang Tzu’s wife died.
When Hui Tzu want to convey his condolences, hefound Chuang Tzu sitting with his legs sprawled out, pounding on a tub and singing. “You lived with her, she brought up your children and grew old,” said Hui Tzu. “It should be enough simply not to weep at her death. But pounding on a tub and singing—this is going to far, isn’t it? ” Chuang Tzu said, “You’re wrong. When she first died, do you think I didn’t grieve like anyone else? But I looked back to her beginning and the time before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, but also the time before she had a body, but the time before she had a sport.
In the midst of the jumble of wonder and mystery a change took place and she a spirit. Another change and she had a body. Another change and she was born. Now there’s been another change and she’s dead. It’s just like the progression of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, and winter. Now she’s going to lie down peacefully in a vast room. If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don’t understand anything about fate. So I stopped. ” From this story, Chuang Tzu has a comprehensive understanding of death.
He emphasizes that the nature process of life and death is just like the four seasons; it is a natural change and everyone has to experience. His wife died because it was the fate and his wife had to follow the nature. Therefore, Chuang Tzu used his own experience as an example to illustrate that people shouldn’t be afraid of death and death is a good thing. Furthermore, Chuang Tzu’s ‘Chi'(5) theory also provides Chinese people a positive view of life and death. In Daoism, people believe that people will die when the life force (Chi) leave the body.
In other words, someone is alive because the Chi is getting together; on the contrary, someone is dead because the Chi is disappeared. This kind of theory was very uncommon but also brilliant at the time of supernatural beings. In ancient China, Buddhism believed in many bodhisattvas, such as Avalokitesvara; and Confucianism emphasized that people should respect the heaven and ancestors. The appearance of Chi theory brought people a reasonable explanation and positive perspective of death. Besides, Daoism emphasizes that death is another form of existence of spirit.
In Lao Tzu’s writings, he mentions that “He who does not fail in the requirements of his position, continues long; he who dies and yet does not perish, has longevity. ” In Lao Tzu’s perspective, although the human body does not exist anymore after death, the spirit will always exist if the spirit is not forgotten by others. The concepts of Chi and existence of spirit not only brought ancient China a new idea of death but also built a positive perspective of life and death to people. Back to the history, different religions and philosophical teachings gave Chinese people very deep influences and shaped the diversity of culture in China.
The three major religions and teachings, Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism, told people different values and concepts; however, all of them had a same goal that was to let people live a good life. Comparing to Confucianism and Buddhism, Daoism brought people a more positive perspective of life, which means that Daoism let people do not be afraid of death and live in a simple way. Because of the Daoism, people can simply follow the way and find the peace of their life, and further create a harmonious society.