Korean Taoism

February 11, 2011

First published in 1984, is one of the rare attempts to systematically study the development of Taoism in Korea. The author’s view is that philosophy and religion are closely related in Taoism. But, the author suggests that Taoist philosophy and religion have evolved differently; they have taken different paths. The author CHA Ju-hwan discusses Korean Taoism as having three fundamental characteristics. First, it developed during the period of Dangun, the mystic founder of Korea, prior to its importation from China. Second, it was closely related to Goguryeo Dynasty rituals because it came from China during that period. Third, Taoism influenced Korean intellectuals in terms of its practice especially in practical areas such as medicine. Rather than being considered an academic theory only, Taoism has been deeply embedded in the ethos of Korean people. What is the essence of Taoism? Some say it is a highly sophisticated ancient philosophy, while others say it is an organized form of religion. From a sociopolitical perspective, Taoism can be considered a political force that was developed and supported by the imperial court for its own ends. From a philosophical view, Taoism is a very personal experience. Taoism also is regarded as a way to physically retain one’s youth and as a way to attain longevity and a healthy body. Taoism is sometimes misunderstood. Some think of Taoism as a mythical experience, the leisurely play of immortals, perhaps sitting under a pine tree sipping the elixir of immortality. Taoism, of course, is all these things and none of them. It is unknown and enigmatic; it is pervasive and ubiquitous. Taoism is that aspect of East Asian religions and cultures that is most mystifying. It has influenced Korean thinking in ways similar to the influence of Confucianism. Although Taoism is an organized religion, it is primarily a philosophy. It is an attitude that individuals have toward their lives and the world.

For more information about this and similar books from Korea, please visit: http://www.koreanbooks.or.kr/

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