Feasting is the flame in mid-winter
That kindles the fire of friendship
And strengthens the community.
In the past, feasting was a way to bind the community closer together. The same is true today. Whether they are cultural gatherings, times of group worship, or even special dinners with friends, we all need moments where we come together and reaffirm the importance of our group.
The cheer that we feel is essential both to the collective and the individuals involved. The affirmation of the group should not be a sublimation of the individual but rather a framework for involvement. A good gathering requires participation—the efforts of organization, work, and attendance—and in turn gives back sustenance for body and soul, a sense of belonging, and the accomplishment of something that could not be done by the individuals alone.
Like any other human endeavor, the feast is vulnerable to manipulation and politics, the selfish maneuvering of cynical individuals. This is difficult to avoid completely, for it is impossible for any group to truly be united. The only way to mitigate this is for the collective to keep its intentions strictly on its purpose, to select its leaders wisely, and for those leaders to be as enlightened as possible.
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
Covered jar decorated with goldfish and aquatic plants
(close view of this artwork can be found on the archived site)
Excavated in the eastern suburbs of Beijing in 1955
Ming dynasty, Jiajing period, 1522 — 1566
Porcelain with five-color enamels, wucai height 46 cm
An underglaze blue and overglaze enamel colors decorate this massive wine jar with a continuous scene of large golden carp swimming among various water weeds and lotus flowers. On the base a six-character imperial reign mark reads: ”Made in the Jiajing period of the great Ming.”
National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing
T A O I S M
Taoist Beliefs and Practices
Taoism has provided an alternative to the Confucian tradition in China. The two traditions have coexisted in the country, region and generally within the same individual.
Tao is the first-cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life.
“The Tao surrounds everyone and therefore everyone must listen to find enlightenment.”
Each believer’s goal is to become one with the Tao.
The priesthood views the many gods as manifestations of the one Dao, “which could not be represented as an image or a particular thing.” The concept of a personified deity is foreign to them, as is the concept of the creation of the universe. Thus, they do not pray as Christians do; there is no God to hear the prayers or to act upon them. They seek answers to life’s problems through inner meditation and outer observation.
In contrast with the beliefs and practices of the priesthood, most of the laity have “believed that spirits pervaded nature...The gods in heaven acted like and were treated like the officials in the world of men; worshiping the gods was a kind of rehearsal of attitudes toward secular authorities. On the other hand, the demons and ghosts of hell acted like and were treated like the bullies, outlaws, and threatening strangers in the real world; they were bribed by the people and were ritually arrested by the martial forces of the spirit officials.”
Time is cyclical, not linear as in Western thinking.
Taoists generally have an interest in promoting health and vitality.
Five main organs and orifices of the body correspond to the five parts of the sky: water, fire, wood, metal and earth.
Each person must nurture the Ch’i (air, breath) that has been given to them.
Development of virtue is one’s chief task. The Three Jewels to be sought are compassion, moderation and humility.
Taoists follow the art of “wu wei,” which is to let nature take its course. For example, one should allow a river to flow towards the sea unimpeded; do not erect a dam which would interfere with its natural flow.
One should plan in advance and consider carefully each action before making it.
A Taoists is kind to other individuals, largely because such an action tends to be reciprocated.
Taoists believe that “people are compassionate by nature...left to their own devices [they] will show this compassion without expecting a reward.”
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