Essay Example: An Overview of the Basic Ideas of Daoism and Buddhism

Published: 2023-04-10
Essay Example: An Overview of the Basic Ideas of Daoism and Buddhism
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy Buddhism Asia
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 861 words
8 min read

According to Teiser and Verellen (2011), Daoism and Buddhism have unique ideas that differentiate them from other religions across China. Daoism is a philosophical school of thought based on the belief that life is usually happy but requires people to live their life with balance and a typical appeal to virtues. The critical ideas of Daoism include the Dao, which refers to the Way, immorality, and the overall emphasis that it puts on the balance found throughout nature (Ou, 2012). This doctrine places limited emphasis on extremes experienced in people's lives and instead directs its focus on the overall independence existing between different things in people's lives. For instance, most of Taoist Chinese believe that Yin and Yang symbols represent both good and bad (Paul, 2015). Lastly, Taoists assume that any extreme action can lead to a counteraction of an equal level and excessive government can become a tyranny.

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Buddhism refers to a typical religion founded on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. The doctrine has three basic ideas, including impermanence, reincarnation, and karma (Teiser & Verellen, 2011). Every Buddhist believes in the sense that life is full of suffering; however, people can overcome it through enlightenment. Buddhists also base their belief on the concept of Nevada, which refers to a condition of perfect happiness that they can obtain by avoiding all forms of material pleasures and purifying their minds. People practice Buddhism in different ways, depending on their geographical location and communal beliefs. For example, many Chinese view meditation, which entails calming and effective working of the mind, as one of the most critical ways of practicing Buddhism. Meditation helps the Chinese to attain more peace and improve their positive approach to life while enhancing their wisdom by overcoming daily challenges (Paul, 2015). Lastly, meditation helps to overcome adverse mental states referred to as delusions and increase the positive ones, known as virtuous minds.

Historical Development of Daoism and Buddhism in China

Daoism and Buddhism schools of thought have unique historical developments in China. According to Ou (2012), Daoism began during the c. 500 BCE period in the reign of Lao Tzu, which made a significant contribution to the establishment and development of the folk religion of the people living in the rural areas of China. Daoism became the official religion of China during the Tang Dynasty that was highly influential from 618 to 907 CE. The doctrine also remained prominent during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong from 712 to 756 CE, who decreed it as a state religion and ordered Chinese to keep Taoist writings in their residential places. Daoism eventually grew both as a unique philosophy and belief in traditional Chinese societies. However, the practice developed philosophically from continuous observance and respect of the natural world and religiously as a result of the need to attain a cosmic balance maintained, regulated, and controlled by the Tao (Paul, 2015). The original belief of Daoism did not include vital practices, such as worshiping ancestors and spirits despite the decision of modern Taoists to observe these approaches.

Ou (2012) averred that Daoism fell out of favor following the decline of the Tang Dynasty and the critical emergence of Buddhism and Confucianism as the new schools of thought. However, many Chinese still practice Daoism. Buddhism, however, began in China during the Han Dynasty, which ruled from 206 BC to 220 AD, approximately 200 years ago. The religion started as a merger with other native philosophies, including Daoism and folk religion (Paul, 2015). Most of the Buddhists who moved from China to India as a result of the extension of the Silk Road through Xinjiang and the Tea Horse Road via Yunnan translated and explained most of their scriptures to Chinese. The construction of the White Horse Temple signified the first period in which Buddhism reached China. The fall of the Han Dynasty allowed prosperous reigns, such as the Song Dynasty, which ruled from 960 to 1279 CE, to adopt their different religions alongside different levels of contact with Buddhists across the Asian region (Ou, 2012). As a result, the Chinese took various sects and schools of Buddhism developed in these Asian countries to form the contemporary practice of Buddhism.

Attitudes of the Court towards Daoism and Buddhism in China

The attitude of the court towards Daoism was negative but positive in the case of Buddhism across the ancient Chinese society. There are various legal cases involving the two religions that the court delivered positive and encouraging rulings in support of Buddhism and discriminated against Daoism (Teiser & Verellen, 2011). For example, Taoists petitioned with the Yuan court during the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty that ruled from 1279 to 1368 CE but lost the case after a series of debates with Buddhists spanning from 1258 to 1281 CE. The government eventually moved on to ban all Taoists' texts in the country.


Ou, X. (2012). The successful integration of Buddhism with Chinese culture: A summary. Grand Valley Journal of History, 1(2), 1-8.

Paul, F. (2015). The creation of Daoism. Journal of Daoist Studies 8(1), 1-23.

Teiser S. F. & Verellen F. (2011). Buddhism, Daoism, and Chinese Religion. In: Cahiers d'Extreme-Asie, 20(1), 1-12.

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