In China, Taoism has been as influential as Confucianism.
It was more influential than Confucianism in the time ofthe "Six
Dynasties"; viz., from the third to the sixth centuries. It was
at that time that the Taoistic classics had their best commenta-
tors. Wang Pi's "Commentaries on the Lao-tzll," and Kuo
Hsiang's "Commentaries on the Chuang-tzu," for instance, have
become classics themselves; 1 venture to say that some passages
of their "Commentaries" are even more illuminating than the
The sayings of Lao Tzu and the books of Chuang Tzu and
Lieh Tzu are usually regarded as the earlier classics of Taoism.
Lao Tzu's book is brief enough, yet in it he spoke about many
things. Sometimes his meaning is not clear, and opens up many
different interpretations. The authenticity of The Book of Lieh
Tzu (Lieh-tzu) as we possess it is much questioned. A great part
of the book is now regarded by most scholars as the production
ofthe "Six Dynasties." It is only in the Chuang-tzu that we have a
well-developed philosophy; and a great part of that book, especial-
ly the "inner chapters," is usually considered genuine. There
are also side branches of Taoism, the ultramaterialism and hedon-
ism of Yang Chu, for instance. But Chuang Tzu's philosophy
represents the main current of the Taoistic teaching. His book,
with Kuo Hsiang's "Commentaries," is the most important
literature of Taoism.
THEGENERAL VIEWPOINT AND THE
SIGNIFICANCE OF TAOISM
Before discussing Taoism in detail, it is better for us to
get familiar first with its general viewpoint. William James divid-
ed philosophers according to their temperament into two classes
- the "tough-minded" and the "tender-minded." The "tough-
minded" philosophers reduced mind to matter, the "higher" to
the "lower"; according to them, the world is materialistic (at
least nonspiritualistic), mechanistic, and deterministic. Man
is alien to the world, in which there is no God, no immortality,
no freedom. On the other hand, the "tender-minded" philoso-
phers reduced matter to mind, the "lower" to the "higher."
According to them, the world is spiritualistic, in which there is
God, immortality, and freedom; and man, though insignificant
he may appear to be, is inwardly connected with the whole.
These are really the two points of view to see the world. Science
takes the one point of view, religion, the other; the one is more
congenial to intellect, the other, to feeling. Because the two view-
points are different, science and religion are always in conflict.
And how to reconcile this conflict has become a problem in phi-
In the history of philosophy, generally speaking, there were
mainly two ways to reconcile these two points of view. Some
philosophers (Kant, for instance) said that science is valid only
in the phenomenal world; beyond the phenomenal, there is the
noumenal world, whteh is not governed by the laws of science,
and is the place for God, immortality, and freedom. James,
Bergson, generally speaking, both took this view. We may call
it the pragmatic (in the broad sense of the word) point of view.
Other philosophers (Spinoza, for instance) fully accepted the
naturalistic conception of the universe, but in their system, by'
a peculiar combination, there is still place for God, immortality,
and freedom; man is still one with the universe, if only he can
"see things under the form of eternity." Thc so-called new
realism in contemporary philosophy seems also to take this view.
We may call this the neorealistic point of view. As we shall see,
Taoism also took this view. Some people said that Taoism is
naturalistic and scientific, while others said that it is mystic and
religious. In fact, it is both.