Taoism For Dummies


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A Timeline of Taoist History

The Chinese Tao is steeped in traditions that the American version ignores. Taoism serves as the Paganism of the Orient--the localized religion that is looked down upon as superstition by the dominant Confucianism and Buddhism. There are priests and temples. Many Chinese don't define themselves as Taoist the way Westerners want to define themselves by not just a label, but a single label. The Chinese culture has pragmatic, not-necessarily-spiritual traditions that overlap.

Many that might be called a Taoist also observe some philosophies and traditions from Confucianism and Buddhism, perhaps according to local influences. So the Western audience has developed something that is Taoish. Like the Chinese we have taken the concepts we wanted and ignored or never learned the rest. The back half of the book talks more about the philosophical values of Taoism, but I found the first half was what gave this book independence and worth.


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If you want to read something closer to the original work you should read a translation written by an academic. Nov 06, A. McMahon rated it liked it. The only good point about this book is that it is informative.

Taoism for Dummies by Mark Setton and Jonathan Herman (2013, Paperback)

Herman understands far more about being a modern-day academic than about Taoism as set forth by Lao Tzu. He is very good at covering all the usual introductory ground, and the book is very much worth reading from that point of view. But to really get to grips with Taoism in the sense of really trying to understand the Tao Te Ching is something that he not only does not set out to do, but is dismissive of.

By the end of this book it w The only good point about this book is that it is informative. By the end of this book it was pretty clear to me that if I ever want to understand Taoism I will have to concentrate on the Tao Te Ching alone and important related commentaries, and ignore all the other books on Taoism like Taoism for Dummies. View 1 comment. Aug 16, Kevin added it Shelves: religion-spirituality.

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Not the place to go for philosophical insights. Spent a lot more time on the religion of Taoism. Didn't get too detailed, but there is a lot of information about the history and different sects of Taoism that is covered. For those with a strong interest, it provides a good understanding about the who's and that what's. More in-depth than what you'll get on Taoism from a comparative religions class, but has the same feel to it. You go into both to analyze in an educational sense, not to contempla Not the place to go for philosophical insights.

You go into both to analyze in an educational sense, not to contemplate in a philosophical sense.

Apr 24, Daniel rated it really liked it. Yes, I admit it. I read a "for Dummies" book. I was actually impressed by the depth and breadth of knowledge the author had put together. I learned a lot even though I've studied Taoism for close to 25 years. It's not gonna teach you much about being a Taoist, but it does a very good job of telling the story.

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I enjoyed it. Sep 30, hattie rated it liked it. This book would have been a lot more enjoyable if it didn't keep reminding you everything Taoism isn't. Jun 18, Rachel rated it it was amazing. This is a lovely historical and academic basic introduction to Taoism. The author presents the information in a relatable and easy to understand way. He also tries to provide accurate translations of basic Taoist terms into English from Chinese. May 08, Amanda rated it really liked it.

This is a very thorough look at the history and development of Taoism. Unfortunately, it only clears up some things, and points out that most Western practices of Taoism isn't authentic Taoism, so Westerners don't have a clear idea of what that is. May 12, Jonathan Spencer rated it really liked it Shelves: religion-philosophy.

Jonathan writes in an approachable style I find very helpful in my quest to unlearn my Western preconceptions of Taoism, Chinese culture, and religion. Jan 21, Min rated it really liked it. If you think Taoism is simply a stoic philosophy, then this is the book you need to read. That brief work is a very small piece of a year old puzzle that goes well beyond a book of 81 chapters. Focusing upon a single book as "the Taoism" is willful ignorance.

At worst, it is cultural appropriation without even apologizing for the ignorance of anything about this belief system beyond one book among so many. There are s of books in the Taoist Canon that encompass this tradition.

Ignoring If you think Taoism is simply a stoic philosophy, then this is the book you need to read. Ignoring the rest because, "it's all superstitious" is as dismissive of history, as it is the culture that created it. Never call that single book Taoism, as it is patently false to the core. Enjoying it's philosophy is beneficial, yet, hardly means one is a 'convert' for liking a book. As one that has appreciated reading the Tao The Ching, and attempted to learn more about the traditions of China, for several decades, a book that finally focuses upon correcting the vast misconceptions perpetuated since the Tao was introduced to the West is refreshing, and desperately needed.

The subject is so vast, and complex, including important points for a Western audience requires spending a strong portion dissuading readers of entrenched ideas. These are handled in a respectful manner. One wishes more space could be given to historical, and modern manifestations in China, especially rituals, and more about the myriad of books associated to Taoism, that are largely only available--and of interest to--academics.

The author discusses areas conflated with Taoism in the West so to give as clear an introduction to a term many may know, yet few understand beyond the vague concepts promulgated by many that wish to profit from Eastern Mystique. Jan 02, Davis rated it really liked it Shelves: daoism , taoism , chinese-philosophy , chinese-studies , philosophy , religion. Don't be fooled by the "for Dummies" title - this book comes with quite the amount of information in it.

Herman goes into great detail throughout the book on the history of Daoism, ranging from its earliest shamanic moments, through the w Don't be fooled by the "for Dummies" title - this book comes with quite the amount of information in it. Herman goes into great detail throughout the book on the history of Daoism, ranging from its earliest shamanic moments, through the writings that arose during the Warring States period and the traditions that arose later on.

He details a little of how this is changing with modern Western interpretations, and includes a section of "tens" where he has three chapters of ten items each on various things, such as common misconceptions and religious sites. He also mentions the two main modern schools of Daoism, which is something a lot of books lack. Furthermore, Herman includes a fairly comprehensive list of further reading at the end of the book, great for anyone who wants to delve further into this tradition.


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  5. Sadly, Herman also uses the Wade-Giles romanization. While his reasons are clear and sound - the fact that the tradition is most commonly known by it's older romanization name - it's hard to get around sometimes when most scholars and books have switched to pinyin. Otherwise, very good text and a good introduction for anyone who wants to get started learning about this tradition. Formatting may be different depending on your device and eBook type. The definitive guide to understanding Taoism—no matter your background or faith Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching is the second most translated book in the world, and the practice of religious Taoism is on the rise in China, where adherents currently number in the hundreds of millions.

    Yet there remains a remarkable lack of reliable information about Taoism for curious westerners. Taoism For Dummies provides comprehensive coverage of Taoism's origins in China's Chou Dynasty, its underlying quietist principles, its emergence as a major religion, various interpretation of its core texts, including both Eastern and Western interpretations, key Taoist concepts, and much more. It also provides a fascinating glimpse of Taoism in contemporary China.

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