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Religion Library: Taoism

Vision for Society

Written by: Julia Hardy

Many of these actions have already been initiated.  New temples are being built according to sound ecologically-based models.  By late 2008, solar panels had been installed in half the Taoist temples in China, with plans to do so in all temples as quickly as possible.  Pilot projects for all of the goals outlined above are underway.  Whether Taoism, a religion so recently persecuted to the point of virtual destruction, will be able to influence China's burgeoning desire for automobiles and modern conveniences remains to be seen, but the proponents of this effort say that they are accustomed to adversity and optimistic about the possibilities.

Westerners are also pursuing the potential of Taoist thought within the modern environmentalist movement.  A Taoism and Ecology conference was held at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University in 1998, and a volume of papers from this conference was published the following year as Daoism and Ecology: Ways within a Cosmic LandscapeThese papers address the contrast between Taoist ideals and Chinese realities, and also criticize the superficial interpretations of Taoism that are often propounded by environmental advocates in the west, but this even-handed volume also offers an intelligent and informed presentation of the ways in which Taoism can support the world environmentalist movement in the 21st century. 


Study Questions:
1.    How can an individual in an urban area experience a “return to nature”?
2.    How is the Taoist concept of self-cultivation applicable to Western environmentalism?
3.    How is this ancient concept (of self-cultivation) restructuring itself to stay relevant in the 21st century?


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