Taoism: The Enduring Tradition

Taoism: The Enduring Tradition

Taoism: The Enduring Tradition

Taoism: The Enduring Tradition


This concise and reliable introduction to Taoism brings a fresh dimension to a tradition that has found a natural place in Western societies. Combining Taoist sacred texts with current scholarship, it surveys Taoism's ancient roots, contemporary heritage and role in daily life. From Taoism's spiritual philosophy to its practical perspectives on life and death, self-cultivation, morality, society, leadership and gender, Russell Kirkland's essential guide reveals the real contexts behind concepts such as "Feng Shui" and "Tai Chi," Written for those seeking a genuine introduction to an often misrepresented tradition, it highlights Taoism's key elements and explains its early origins and modern transformations.


We do not see its form,

We do not hear its sound,

Yet we can perceive an order to its

We call it “the Way” [Tao].

Nei-yeh/Inward Training, trans. Harold D.Roth

Russell Kirkland has written an important introductory book for Wayfarers who are curious about, and are seriously seeking out, the spiritual path known ambiguously and recalcitrantly in the West as Taoism. As one of the forgotten early Taoist texts, the Inward Training, says: we—Chinese and others—call it the Way or the Tao. The problem is that we have not really seen its form; and we have not heard its sound. Or perhaps more accurately we have encountered a cacophony of strange forms and sounds, many of which often have little affinity with the Tao of Chinese history or with its extravagant efflorescence throughout the world today. To be sure, we in the West have perceived an “order,” or orders, of dichotomous meaning associated with the Taoist tradition—most frequently described as a contrast between the philosophical purity of some early “classical” texts and the absurd religious practices of the later sectarian traditions.

It has been known for some time that the received opinion about Taoism in the West was in need of drastic revision. But fantasies about Chinese tradition die a slow and lingering death and, in fact, are always subject to surprising moments of zombie-like reanimation in sometimes silly and frightening ways (witness, for example, the spawn of the “Tao of Pooh” and its ilk such as the “Tao of Steve” and, most improbably, the “Tao of Elvis”). Even after a quarter-century of . . .

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