In the western courtyard a shrine houses twelve deities, each linked with a different animal
in the Chinese version of the zodiac; here, visitors light incense and kowtow to the deity that
corresponds to their birth year. Also in the courtyard is a shrine to Wen Cheng , the deity of
scholars, with a 3m-high bronze statue of him outside. Rubbing his belly is supposed to bring
success in academic examinations.
Worship in China can be a lively affair, and there are a number of on-site amusements. Three
monkeys depicted in relief sculptures around the temple are believed to bring you good luck
if you can find, and stroke, them all. One is on the gate, easy to spot as it's been rubbed black,
while the other two are in the first courtyard. Another playful diversion is trying to ding the
bell under the courtyard bridge by throwing a coin at it. In the back courtyard, devotees close
their eyes and try to walk from a wall to an incense burner.
Humans model themselves on earth
earth on heaven
heaven on the way
and the way on that which is naturally so
Lao Zi, Daodejing
Taoism is a religion deriving from the Daodejing or “Way of Power”, an obscure, mystical
text comprising the teachings of the semi-mythical LaoZi , who lived around 500 BC. The
Tao ( 道 , dào), which literally means “ Way ”, is defined as being indefinable; accordingly
the topic begins: “The Tao that can be told/is not the eternal Tao/The name that can be
named/is not the eternal name”. But it is the force that creates and moves the natural world,
and Taoists believe that the art of living lies in understanding it and conforming to it. Tao-
ism emphasizes contemplation, meditation, eschewal of dogma, and going with the flow.
Its central principle is that of wuwei , literally non-action, perhaps better understood as “no
action which goes against nature”.
Taoism developed, at least in part, in reaction to the rigour and formality of state-
sponsored Confucianism . Taoism's holy men tend to be artisans and workmen rather than
upright advisers, and in focusing on the relationship of the individual with the natural uni-
verse, Taoism represents a retreat from the political and social. The communists, accord-
ingly, regard Taoism as fatalistic and passive.
军事博物馆 , jūnshì bówùguǎn • Fuxing Lu • Tues-Sun 8.30am-5pm • Free (bring ID) • 010 66866244,
eng.jb.mil.cn • Military Museum subway (lines 1 & 9)