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PRESS RELEASE: Chinese government consults the Daoists on social problems for the first time in 900 years

October 20, 2011 :

Link to latest story from Xinhua/China Daily

A major meeting next week at Hengshan in Hunan – China's southerly Daoist mountain – marks the first time in nearly 900 years that the Chinese government has asked the Daoists for advice in how to manage the country.

The International Taoism Forum (October 23- 25), run by the China Taoist Association, will be focused on finding ways to integrate Daoist philosophy with the social reality of China today.

Topics, to be discussed by Daoist, academic and government delegates from all over China and overseas, include how ‘to help Chinese society solve existing problems with Daoist wisdom,” Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted vice president of the China Taoist Association Zhang Jiyu.

The Chinese government is funding the event and their keynote speaker is Xu Jia Lu, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, former vice president of the Beijing Normal University, and president of the China Association for Promoting Democracy.

“Humankind needs to urgently return to the wisdom of ancient sages,” Mr Xu is quoted in the advance version of his speech as saying. “Their words and philosophical thinking are more closely related to the real truth and rules of our world. What kind of inspiration or wisdom can we learn from the Daoist idea that “Dao follows nature”?”

Martin Palmer, Secretary-General of the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) – and one of the UK’s most respected China scholars – will give a talk at the conference and will also debate with Mr Xu on the role of Daoism in China on a programme broadcast around the nation by the major state television station CCTV on October 24th.

“No one disputes the astonishing growth of consumerism and wealth in China today and increasingly China is trying to address whether this is sustainable,” Mr Palmer said.

“But maybe deeper than this is the question of whether China can also be compassionate, wise and community-focused once again. This is why the Chinese Communist government for the first time ever is meeting with the Daoists of China (China's oldest religion) to see how this ancient wisdom and spirituality might put a heart back into the ever-expanding body of modern China.”

The last time a government in China invited the Daoists to discuss how the country should be managed was in 1219 when Genghis Khan summoned Daoist Master Qiu Chuji to come to his war camp in the Himalayas and advise him on his plans to conquer China. When the Khan asked him about rulership, Qiu said that according to Daoism there were two cardinal rules for rulers: worship heaven and love your subjects. Genghis Khan liked the answer so much he gave Qiu a palace, which became the White Cloud Monastery.

Some 500 delegates are expected to attend the event.


Hengshan in Hunan

This is the most southern of Daoism’s five sacred mountains, also called Nan Yue, or Southern Mountain. It is inhabited by both Daoist and Buddhist communities, with temples dating from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and major rebuilding during the Qing period (1644-1911), including the Zhu Sheng Si, constructed by the Qing Emperor in 1714 to be a palace he could stay in while he travelled in the south.

Qiu Chuji (Ch’iu Ch’u-chi)

Qiu was the last Daoist Master to be consulted by a government in China to advise them on the running of the country. In 1188 he was summoned to the capital of Peking by Chin Emperor Shih-tsung, but while the Mongols were becoming more powerful he refused to take sides. In 1219 Genghis Khan sent an envoy to summon Qiu to his encampment in the Hindu Kush, and he accepted the invitation, setting out on the long journey with 18 disciples. Qiu advised the Khan to restrain his killing: according to Daoism this was a basic requirement for someone who desired to rule the world. When the Khan asked him about rulership, Qiu said that there were two cardinal virtues: worship heaven and love your subjects. The Khan asked him about his secrets of longevity, and Qiu answered that one had to purify one’s mind, reduce desires and practice sexual moderation. In 1223 Qiu was put in charge, by Genghis Khan, of all Taoist clergy in China. He died in 1227, aged 79.

Details from Pas, Julian and Man, Kam Leung Historical Dictionary of Taoism The Scarecrow Press, London 1998 pp 82-83

First Xinhua report.

Link to latest story from Xinhua

ARC, together with its partner EMF, has been involved in supporting Daoist environmental projects in China for over a decade, including establishing the first Daoist Ecological Temple and the development of a Daoist Long Term Plan to protect the living planet.

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