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Daoism And Chinese Thought And Religion, The Roots Of Daoism, Revelations And Textual Corpora, Cosmos And Gods

Defining the features of Daoism (or Taoism) as one of the predominant trends in the history of Chinese thought involves accounting for its religious traits. As often happens outside the Western hemisphere—Buddhism may be the best-known example, but the same is true of Islam—the boundary between thought and religion in China is tenuous, unstable, and sometimes simply impossible to identify. Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and other legacies have defined themselves as "teachings" (jiao) or "lineages" (jia, a word that primarily means "house" or "family"). The terms for "philosophy" and "religion" (zhexue and zongjiao) have become part of the standard Chinese vocabulary through late-nineteenthand early-twentieth-century translations of Western books.

In the most general way, Daoism may be defined as a traditional form of thought and religion, based on some central notions, cults, and practices but never subject to systematization as a whole, and syncretic but at the same time self-contained—in the sense that it integrates many elements from other traditions, but frequently emphasizes its distinction from them. These basic features underlie different formulations of doctrinal notions and a large variety of practices, ranging from self-cultivation to communal rituals.

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