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Daoism’s role in China’s environmental strategy continues to expand

December 3, 2014:

ARC's Martin Palmer at the International Forum

The Third International Forum of the Chinese Taoist Association held in Jiangxi, Longhu, Shan in November 2014 bore witness to the growing role of the ancient religion in China’s strategy to tackle environmental issues. Martin Palmer, Secretary General of ARC attended the event and was struck by how this role was developing: “My main impression was how seriously the Chinese Government views the role of Daoists in working on environmental issues. There is no question that the Chinese Government is now seriously engaging with the pressure of environmental issues like air and water pollution and sustainable food production and tackling the illegal wildlife trade. Over the last four years they have been looking for allies within the faith traditions who can bring a moral and spiritual approach to the situation, rather than simply economic.”

The solution open to us today is to take our stand in the present and maintain our tradition; to draw together within the halls of the taoist religion and bathe in its mysterious aura; to respect and trust each other allowing for the differences whilst seeking common ground; bringing an end to conflict and enjoying the fruits of cooperation together. Declaration for the Third International Taoist Forum
Zhang Jiyu, Vice President of the Chinese Taoist Association, was a principle contributor to the Forum. He has worked with ARC for over 20 years to re-establish Daoism in Chinese culture. In an interview for the Phoenix TV news programme he pointed out that a thoughtful relationship with nature was a core teaching of the Dao De Jing, Daoism’s most sacred book. “We must reduce our demands on the natural world, respect nature and lead a more simple lifestyle without over consumption,” he said.

Truly international

The international gathering also showcased the environmental work of Daoist communities outside China, something Martin Palmer found very exciting as it made the event truly international. The Forum heard how in Singapore Daoists were encouraging environmental education for school children, Japanese Daoists were embarking on a very ambitious programme of environmental protection while in Malaya and Indonesia they were active collaborators in inter-religious activities, including support for the Islamic fatwa on the killing of endangered species recently announced in Indonesia.

This was the third International Forum and the next one (in 2016) will mark the end of the Daoist’s first 8-year plan for environmental action. Well over half the major goals of that plan are under way with others expected very shortly, and their progress will inform the drafting of the second 8-year plan.

Zhang Jiyu, Vice President of the Chinese Taoist Association
TV Coverage

The Forum was given extensive coverage by the Hong Kong based Phoenix Television Company, one of the few privately owned media outlets permitted to broadcast in mainland China. During the event they filmed three 90-minute documentaries one of which - The Tao of Heaven and Humanity - focuses on the role of Daoism in environmental action and features Martin Palmer.

Useful links

Daoist 8-year Plan for the Environment

Article by Martin Palmer on the role of religions in Chinese environmentalism

May we act in accordance with the ways of nature and respect all living things, May harmonious acceptance neutralise conflict, May we embody pure stillness in body and spirit. Washed clean of greed and desire in recognition of our plenty may we live long and enjoy great foresight Declaration for the Third International Taoist Forum
Report on the greening of Louguan, Daoism’s most sacred shrine

Sacred Mountains - new book describing the restoration of Daoism as a social force in China

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China's great traditional religions are once again exerting influence. Monasteries are being re-opened and religious customs revived. ARC is working with Chinese Buddhists and Daoists to encourage their involvement in supporting environmental change