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15 Jul, 2012

Taoism Also Part of China’s “Soft Power”

Zhao Qiguang, People's Daily Overseas Edition

Beijing, July 11, 2012 – Chinese culture enjoys increasing influence in the world. What makes it so attractive? What are the challenges facing it? Over the past eight years, the Confucius Institute has made remarkable achievements in promoting the Chinese culture and language worldwide.

From the Mississippi to the Nile, the Chinese learning craze is sweeping across the entire world. The undoubtedly attractive Chinese language faces a challenge of carrying the right culture as language is the carrier of culture.

Chinese society has once again realized the strength of Confucian culture, and always cites Confucius when talking about China’s soft power. However, the backbone of Chinese culture includes both people-oriented Confucianism and nature-oriented Taoism. The present craze for traditional Chinese culture is actually the craze for Confucianism, which is only a part of Chinese culture. The Confucius Institute teaches more than Confucianism, just like the Goethe-Institute is not a research institute of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s works. China should not forget Taoism when publicizing its culture abroad.

Ancient Chinese scholars once stood on the vehicle and held the bridle to express their ambition of controlling the world. We do not blame them. However, we must know that ancient Chinese people spent a lot of time admiring the beauty of the nature, culture and history, always adjusted the human being’s position in the universe, and always pursued a healthy and proper physical and spiritual life. It was a result of the combination of the Confucianism and Taoism. The Confucianism pursues “regulating the family, governing the state and administrating the world,” but the Taoism regards the physical and spiritual health and the harmony between the man and nature as its responsibilities.

In the current world, materials are becoming more abundant, but the hard tasks of making a living and raising the child as well as the lure of the material desire have pinned all of us down. In addition, the exhausted people still have to pretend to be “tough men” and “graceful ladies.” We actually are cheating ourselves. Not only Chinese people but also Westerners are like this. According to my observation during the 30 years when I live in the United States, although the people of the United States are regarded as “optimistic people,” most of them, under pressures from the work, daily life and family, are actually sub-healthy both physically and spiritually.

In the current noisy world, listening to golden words said by a wise man of 2,500 years ago, learning ancient people’s way of keeping the physical, mental and spiritual health and trying to get new understandings from them may give us a spiritual armor and a body armor so that we will not be hurt by arrows flying to all directions.

Laozi’s protection on nature (“Nature is everything”), pursuit for the physical and spiritual health (“Wise men have no defect because they regard their defects as defects”), criticism on the greedy people (“Those who are always content are rich”), suggestion on the low-carbon economy (“The boat and vehicle are useless for me”) and compliment on women (“Women are better than men because they are quieter”) all have practical significances and are a foundation for the cultural revival of China. They are amazing words for the West and an astonishing “soft power” for China.

Taoism should has a wide market in the current world, because it is closely connected with many modern trends, such as the opening of the market economy, green economy, low-carbon life, slow-pace life, environment protection and pursuit for physical and spiritual health. However, the Taoism is too big and complicated. Then, how should it “Go Global?”

It is not enough to only spread the classic “Dao De Jing” in the world. Laozi once said, “The way that can be told is not the usual way,” indicating that he did not trust the power of the language. When I am teaching the Taoism in the United States, I usually teach it in a non-language way, such as the blackboard drawing, to combine the Taoism and modern life. Lecturing while drawing, I mainly explain how to use the Taoism in a world dominated by material desires. I call it “teaching a new Taoism with drawings.”

I have opened a Taoist health and longevity course in the Carleton College of the United States, the number of students choosing my course ranks first in all courses of the college. They are so interested in my course mainly because I teach the combination of the Tai Ji Boxing and Tai Ji Sword of the Taoism with drawings.

In a foreign college campus with beautiful landscapes, I get along very well with my students and the cultural and age differences have disappeared completely in front of the giant of the Chinese culture. In this way, when the “soft power” of the current East is moving westward, it is more graceful and leisurely than the “hard power” of the West when it was moving eastward. In this way, we could say that the Taoism is really a great “soft power” for spreading the Chinese culture in the world.

Read the Chinese version:老子也是软实力