Taoist philosophy is now well documented in English through the many translations of primary works such as the Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu, the Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu, Wen Tzu, and so on. Certain types of meditative practices, chiefly inner alchemy practices involving the circulation of energy through various channels in the body, have also been popularized in the West by teachers such as Mantak Chia. And the use of Qigong (Chi Kung) energy exercises for health and longevity is now available in videos and books by teachers like Kenneth Cohen.
However, the religious side of Taoism, including ritual practices and chanting, is still almost completely unknown in the West. You can get some feel for what it involves, and how it relates to philosophical Taoism, in works like Taoist Master Chuang by Michael Saso and The Taoist Body by Kristofer Shipper. However, neither of these works is a how-to or instructional book.
A number of difficult issues arise for the Westerner interested in Taoist chant, including
It should be clear by this point that I am not a Chinese speaker nor an expert of any kind on Taoist ritual or chant. But the subject has been so difficult to research that I thought it might be worthwhile to share my small gleanings, in the hope of stimulating others to publish more complete information. Following are links to pages with the information that I have been able to find:
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Border at left adapted from Tao Te Ching: An Illustrated Journey, trans. Stephen Mitchell.
© Copyright 2003 by Joseph F. Morales