Watch the label of "superstitious Daoism"
Posted on 16. Feb, 2009 by Brian Kennedy in News and Discussions
For folks who at some point maybe going out to one of the native lands of Daoism, be it Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore or mainland China, let me tell a story about what not to do. And the main villain in this story is me.
When I first went to Taiwan 15 years ago, I had the “old skool” idea in my head that Daoism could be divided into two clear boxes; deep meaningful philosophy and superstitious street nonsense. In the latter category fell such things as fortune telling, worship of Lao Tzu, Matsui or other gods and such things as mediumship spirit writing and things of that ilk. All of those things are quite
common in Taiwan, Taiwan has about every form of fortune telling known to man and it is a big money business.
During my last decade in Taiwan I taught law to Taiwanese prosecutors and judges. And the topic of Daoist fortune tellers and mediums often came up because such people often figure in Taiwanese criminal fraud cases. When discussing such cases I would often spout my views along these lines; “oh it is a pity such superstitious nonsense is still around, these low lifes with their Yi Jing fortune telling, the Feng Shuai fraudsters; it is amazing that in the 21st century they still find ignorant saps who will give them money for such nonsense and it is always the less educated lower classes that fall for these things.”Not so! As the years went by and my prosecutor and judge students found that that I had a sincere interest in Taiwanese Daoism and that I had some university study of it, they started to tell me more and more about their beliefs and it turns out that a lot of very well educated Taiwanese absolutely accept the reality and reliability of many of these fortune telling systems.Looking back on it I realize I had really put my foot in my mouth. Fortunately the Taiwanese tend to be forgiving of foreigners faux pas and no permanent damage was done to any of my teacher student relationships but it is a good lesson to bear in mind.
The moral of this story is, I would guess a solid 50% of the Taiwanese, of all educational levels, fully believe in and accept a wide range of Daoist “superstitious” practices. The 50% figure is an informal Brian guess, but what I am driving at is it is a majority view and it is very much accepted that such Daoist practices do what they claim to do. The other lesson learned is Brian needs to watch his tongue with what he calls superstitious.Take care,Brian Kennedy