Taoism is one of the oldest native religions in China. Its founder is said to have been Laozi, who lived in the Spring and AutumnPeriod (770-476 B.C.), and wrote the book The Classic of the Tao. This religion and way of life was further elaborated by Zhang Daoling (34-156), known as the Heavenly Tutor, who founded Zhengyi Mengwei Tao. Taoism teaches that the Tao is the primary source of the formation of all living beings in the universe and the highest goal of human pursuit. Zhang recommended that people take lofty morality as the principle of life, believe in the deities and cultivate their minds and bodies in order to achieve the highest stage of integration with the Tao, and thus immortality.
For two millennia, Taoism has flourished as a major religion in China, and has had a far-reaching influence on the development of Chinese philosophy, medical science, maintenance of health, literature, arts, ethics and folkways. There are two main sects of Taoism -- Zhengyi and Quanzhen. The Zhengyi Sect emphasizes the salvation of its believers, while the Quanzhen Sect focuses more on maintenance of health and cultivating the truth.
China has over 1,600 Taoist temples on the mainland and more than 25,000 Taoist monks and nuns, in addition to tens of thousands of Taoist priests living away from the temples. In recent years, Taoist circles on the mainland have established close relations with their counterparts in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and there has been a rapid increase in exchanges.
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