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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2017, Vol. 12 Issue (1) : 54-71     DOI: 10.3868/s030-006-017-0005-6
Orginal Article |
The Symbolism of the Body in Daoism
CHENG Lesong()
Department of Philosophy, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
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The body is the center of Daoist practice. In addition to being the carrier of feelings, experiences, and actions, it also plays a major role in the construction and interpretation of religious meanings. What is important here is how it serves as the starting point and springboard for practitioners seeking either to obtain the ideal state of being or acquire transcendent powers. This article explores the formation of the body as a symbol in Daoism, and analyzes its corresponding implications. I attempt to do this through a close textual reading of Daoist texts and a critical review of previous academic work on the Daoist conception of body. Within Daoism, the body is neither some physical object, nor a spirit-flesh hybrid that is the subject of theological reflection. It is the vehicle to immortality, and is in itself a small pantheon to be discovered and promoted. As such, it is an open and rich symbol that both generates and integrates meanings on different levels. The symbol of the body not only brings together diverse meanings, but it also provides a conduit through which these meanings are expressed. After taking on religious meaning, the body comes to actualize its potentiality through Daoist practice and cultivation.

Keywords Daoism      symbol      symbolism      body     
Issue Date: 24 April 2017
 Cite this article:   
CHENG Lesong. The Symbolism of the Body in Daoism[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2017, 12(1): 54-71.
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