Book: The Shambhala Guide To Taoism by Eva WongThis is a marvellous book for those who want an insight into the nature and the mysteries of Taoism. I found this to be an enjoyable book from cover to cover. If you are new to the study of Taoism, or are a continuing student and wish to broaden your understanding in this discipline, then I recommend this book for you. By the time you have read this book you will have an understanding of the major branches of Taoism, the core philosophy and beliefs of those branches, as well as a good knowledge of the history, formation and development of Taoism from the days of the first shamans to the today. I would particularly recommend this book to college/university students who have been given assignments related to Taoism for the reasons just covered.
This guide to the spiritual landscape of Taoism not only introduces the important events in the history of Taoism, the sages who wrote the Taoist texts, and the various schools of Taoist thinking, but also gives the reader a feel for what it means to practice Taoism today. The book is divided into three parts:
1. "The History of Taoism" traces the development of the tradition from the shamans of prehistoric China through the classical period (including the teachings of the famous sage Lao-tzu), the beginnings of Taoism as a religion, the rise of mystical and alchemical Taoism, and the synthesis of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.
2. "Systems of Taoism" explores magical sects, divination practices, devotional ceremonies, internal alchemy, and the way of right action.
3. "Taoist Practices" discusses meditation, techniques of cultivating the body, and rites of purification, ceremony, and talismanic magic.
By dividing her book into three sections clearly articulates the development and varieties of Taoist thought, its key figures, texts, beliefs, concepts, principles and practices. She does this in short, well-focused chapters, and uses a very clear and concise style. Each chapter ends with a "Further Readings" section offering what I've found to be very useful pointers into the immense body of Taoist literature, sometimes even referring to specific chapters of books and pointing out which ones are more general or more academic, and which translations she prefers. Wong also includes a detailed index, a solid bibliography, and two useful appendices containing a map of China and a chronology of the dynasties.
"Eva Wong, a long-time practitioner of Taoism and a translator of Taoist texts, has written a comprehensive overview of this often misunderstood spiritual tradition. Both diverse and fascinating as a historical profile, this colorful introduction to Taoist tradition and practices, its sages, and the practical application of stillness, are often likened to the mystical Chinese landscape of mountain and mist. Part One details the history of Taoism and the rise of mystical Taoism. It also includes a discussion of the rise of Taoist alchemy and the synthesis of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Part Two discusses the various systems of Taoism that include several of the esoteric Taoist practices. Part Three covers meditation, techniques for strengthening the body, and ceremonial rites."
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