Women’s Bodies in Taoism

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Women’s Bodies in Taoism

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.” This powerful statement by Henry Emerson Fosdick so simply defines the concept of a common Chinese religion. Taoism is a religion practiced by many Asians and by people around the world. It is a religion that is so beautifully complex and yet based on principle as simple as breathing in and out. This paper will outline some basic information on the Taoist tradition, examine the views of the female body in Taoism as presented by Barbara Reed and my own critique of the tradition will be provided.

A brief history of Taoism is required in order for us to pursue these goals. To begin with, Taoism originated from a man named Lao Tzu. He wanted to deeply come to an understanding of how one could induce human beings to live together. Tradition says that he developed such a theory but there was no one around to listen to him. In turn, he hopped on his water buffalo and rode to Tibet. When he arrived, he found a border guard and Lao Tzu taught the guard his philosophy. The guard agreed with all Lao Tzu stated and he encouraged Lao Tzu to write his teachings down.

The word Tao means “The way”. This is the entire basis of the Taoist tradition, finding harmony, living peaceably and being creative during the flow of nature.

Taoists have a goal as living life for “the way”and achieving immortality.

The Taoist tradition has two sacred texts. Both of these texts “extol the way of nature as the path of happiness.” says Barbara Reed in Women in World Religions.(161) The Tao te ching is the basic text for Taoism. It has been translated to mean “The Way an...

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... History, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1970.

Reed, Barbara, “Taoism”, Sharma, Arvind, eds. Women in World Religions, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 1987.

Schipper, Kristofer, The Taoist Body, University of California: Berkley and Los Angeles, CA, 1993.

Smith, Houston, The World’s Religions, HarperCollins, San Francisco, CA, 1991.

Tortchinov, Evgueni A., The Doctrine of the “Mysterious Female” in Taoism: a Transpersonalist View, Department of Philosophy, St. Petersburg State University,

Russia, reprinted from, Everything is According to the Way: Voices of Russian Transpersonalism, Bolda-Lok Publishing & Educational Enterprises, Brisbane, Australia, 1997. http://etor.h1.ru/mystfem.html

Young, Serinity, eds. An Anthology of Sacred Texts By And About Women, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1993.

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