BBC In Our Time - Daoism Listening Guide


This is an optional listening guide to help you understand the assigned material. Below you will find questions to consider as you listen. You can find the original audio material by clicking here or on the course website. Major topics and time codes in the audio are noted. Important vocabulary is given with each topic and at the end of the document.

Topics covered: the major ideas of Daoism, such as dao and wuwei; the major texts of Daoism, such as the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi; the development in China of Daoism from a “philosophy” to a “religion”; Daoism in the ancient and modern world.

[0:11] Introduction What is the narrative associated with Laozi? What is the Daodejing?

Vocabulary: “imperial”, “weary”, “nocturnal”.

[1:25] What is the Dao? - What are the meanings of the Chinese word “dao”? What is “wuwei”? Notice that the speaker mentions the Shujing (also known as the Classic of History in English).

Vocabulary: “oracle bones”, “moral code”, “legalistic”, “divine”, “moralistic”, “undermine”, “excommunicate”, “endangered”, “cosmic”, “out of kilter”, “harmony”, “proposition”, “watercourse”, “boulder”, “inevitable”, “confrontational”, “sage”.

[6:08] Origins of Daoism Who was Laozi? What is known about him? Note the discussion of Laozi and Buddhism in India.

Vocabulary: “contemporary”, “consult”, “predict”, “mystique”, “dynasty”, “brain drain”, “account”, “counterfeit”, “manuscript”, “fragmentary”, “overlap”, “excerpt”, “proverb”.

[10:34] Confucianism What is Daoism’s similarities and differences with Confucianism? Note the discussion of the philosopher Zhuangzi and Mencius (also known as Mengzi). Again note the relationship between Daoism and Buddhism.

Vocabulary: “pupil”, “fulfilment”, “minister”, “inborn”, “artificial”, “advocate”, “intermingle”, “coexist”, “effortless”, “convention”, “imposition”, “humane”, “etiquette”, “cultivate”, “prolong”, “render”, “intelligible”, “nirvana”, “equivalent”, “capitalize”, “corruption”.

[16:17] Daodejing What is this main text of Daoism about? What is the “Daoist Creed” given? Note the discussion of the person Zhang Daoling.

Vocabulary: “manual”, “contradict”, “theological”, “consistency”, “creed”, “tension”, “myriad”, “profound”, “exorcism”.

[19:21] Later Interpretations of Laozi How is Laozi understood as Chinese history develops? Note the discussion of the “unseen world of the spirits”.

Vocabulary: “superhuman”, “counterbalance”, “alternative”, “empire”, “chaos”, “mandate”, “quell”, “suspicion”, “shamanism”, “trance”, “anarchic”.

[22:37] Zhuangzi Who is Zhuangzi and what is his text about? How is it different from other texts of the same period (the Warring States)?

Vocabulary: “explicit”, “unify”, “critique”, “argumentation”, “rhetoric”.

[25:09] Development of Early Daoist Religion What is the situation for Daoism in the second or third century? What are Daoists doing during this period? Note that there are many kinds of Daoists doing many different things during the fall of the Han Dynasty.

Vocabulary: “congregation”, “diocese”, “parish”, “charismatic”, “sin”, “bushel”, “exorcist”, “localize”, “sect”, “collapse”, “Yellow Turbans Revolt”, “era”, “take up arms”, “republic”, “Pentacostalism”.

[28:09] Practical Aspects How can one “be a good Daoist”?

Vocabulary: “indication”, “self-help”, “meditation”, “embed”, “dietary restrictions”, “amalgam”, “indulge”.

[29:43] Yinyang What do the yin and the yang mean in Daoism? The widely known symbol for yinyang looks like this:

Vocabulary: “cosmological”, “static”.

[31:46] Fables of Daoism What are the teachings of Daoism revealed through narratives? Note that when the speaker says “Ti Kuaili” he actually means Li Tieguai of the Eight Immortals of Daoism and Chinese popular religion.

Vocabulary: “fable”, “emissary”, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern”, “garland”, “venerate”, “tortoise”, “courtier”, “immortal”, “virile”, “astral”, “eternity”, “hunchback”.

[34:20] Power What is the de (power) in the Daodejing? How does it relate to the dao?

Vocabulary: “potency”, “virtue”, “instantiation”, “normative”, “connote”.

[36:25] The Spirit World How does the spirit world relate to the human political world? Note the link with the ruling Li family of the Tang Dynasty.

Vocabulary: “temporal”, “surname”, “descent (from)”.

[38:41] Daoism up to Today What is the later history of Daoism?

Vocabulary: “parabola”, “ecstatic”, “activist”, “folk religion”, “Revolution of 1911”, “Cultural Revolution”.

Important Vocabulary

imperial

weary

nocturnal

oracle bones

moral code

legalistic

divine

moralistic

undermine

excommunicate

endangered

cosmic

out of kilter

harmony

proposition

watercourse

boulder

inevitable

confrontational

sage

contemporary

consult

predict

mystique

dynasty

brain drain

account

counterfeit

manuscript

fragmentary

overlap

excerpt

proverb

pupil

fulfilment

minister

inborn

artificial

advocate

intermingle

coexist

effortless

convention

imposition

humane

etiquette

cultivate

prolong

render

intelligible

nirvana

equivalent

capitalize

corruption

manual

contradict

theological

consistency

creed

tension

myriad

profound

exorcism

superhuman

counterbalance

alternative

empire

chaos

mandate

quell

suspicion

shamanism

trance

anarchic

explicit

unify

critique

argumentation

rhetoric

congregation

diocese

parish

charismatic

sin

bushel

exorcist

localize

sect

collapse

era

take up arms

republic

indication

self-help

meditation

embed

dietary restrictions

amalgam

indulge

cosmological

static

fable

emissary

garland

venerate

tortoise

courtier

immortal

virile

astral

eternity

hunchback

potency

virtue

instantiation

normative

connote

temporal

surname

descent

parabola

ecstatic

activist

folk religion




Note: some links might require a Columbia College account.