Religion is a social phenomenon and studying it with a view to understanding its historical development has special significance today. We can see similar trends in other countries where the rapid developments of science and technology do not in any significant way lessen the people's sense of, nor interests in, religion. Even the people of China, for some reason or other, show similar interests in the development of religion. This phenomenon is enough to raise several theoretical questions concerning the need for a better understanding of religion: what is the nature of religion? Does the human psyche require a religious faith? Is religion synonymous with religious belief? Is religious belief beneficial to social life? Is science complementary to, or inconsistent with, religious belief? Can religion be a modernizing agent? and so forth. This paper does not pretend to deal specifically with these questions, But, why do we study the history of religions? Should an ideal history of religions be time-conscious? Can such an history help people think seriously about the problems of religion that exist in the world today? All historians of religions need to address themselves to these kinds of problems.
The religions which had been popular in Chinese history include Buddhism, Daoism (Taoism), Islam, Christianity and animism. However, of all these religious traditions, only Daoism (Taoism) is indigenous to China. To be sure, Daoism (Taoism) is a Chinese religion; it has characteristics peculiar to the Chinese. Besides, it has exercised considerable influence on the development of Chinese culture and psychology, customs and habits, science and technology, philosophy and thought, medicine and hygiene, and even political life. Can our investigation into one of the more influential religions--the origin of Daoism (Taoism), its development and characteristics—help us deepen our understanding of Chinese culture, personality and way of thinking? Can it indirectly help us understand, more intimately, the theoretical and practical problems of religion in the world today? I think it can and toward this end the present discussion is an attempt to analyze and discuss the following issues.
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