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Taoism in Zhengzhou

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  • Taoism in Zhengzhou

    I don't know where I found this, but I thought it interesting, as Zhengzhou is the large city nearby Dengfeng / Shaolin.

    Zhengzhou is one of China’s grittiest cities. An urban sprawl of 4.5 million, it owes its existence to the intersection of two railway lines and is now one of the country’s most important transport hubs. The south side is given over to furniture warehouses and markets for home furnishings and construction materials. One of the biggest markets is the five-story Phoenix City, with more than four million square feet of showrooms featuring real and knockoff Italian marble countertops, German faucets and American lawn furniture. Living in splendor on the roof of this mall like a hermit atop a mountain is one of China’s most dynamic and reclusive Taoist patrons, Zhu Tieyu.

    Zhu is a short, wiry man of 50 who says he once threw a man off a bridge for the equivalent of five cents. “He owed me the money,” he recalled during a nighttime walk on the roof of Phoenix City. “And I did anything for money: bought anything, sold anything, dared to do anything.” But as he got older, he began to think more about growing up in the countryside and the rules that people lived by there. His mother, he said, deeply influenced him. She was uneducated but tried to follow Taoist precepts. “Taoist culture is noncompetitive and nonhurting of other people,” he says. “It teaches following the rules of nature.”

    Once he started to pattern his life on Taoism, he says, he began to rise quickly in the business world. He says that by following his instincts and not forcing things — by knowing how to be patient and bide his time — he was able to excel. Besides Phoenix City, he now owns large tracts of land where he is developing office towers and apartment blocks. Although he is reticent to discuss his wealth or business operations, local news media say his company is worth more than $100 million and have crowned him “the king of building materials.” Articles almost invariably emphasize another aspect of Zhu: his eccentric behavior.

    That comes from how he chooses to spend his wealth. Instead of buying imported German luxury cars or rare French wines, he has spent a large chunk of his fortune on Taoism. The roof of Phoenix City is now a 200,000-square-foot Taoist retreat, a complex of pine wood cabins, potted fruit trees and vine-covered trellises. It boasts a library, guesthouses and offices for a dozen full-time scholars, researchers and staff. His Henan Xinshan Taoist Culture Propagation Company has organized forums to discuss Taoism and backed efforts at rebuilding the religion’s philosophical side. He says he has spent $30 million on Taoist causes, a number that is hard to verify but plausible given the scope of his projects, including an office in Beijing and sponsorship of international conferences. His goal, he says, is to bring the philosophical grounding of his rural childhood into modern-day China.

    Last year, Zhu invited several dozen European and North American scholars of Chinese religion on an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in a conference in Beijing. The group stayed in the luxurious China World Hotel and were bused to Henan province to visit Taoist sites. Demonstrating his political and financial muscle, Zhu arranged for the conference’s opening session to be held in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, the Stalinesque conference center on Tiananmen Square. It is usually reserved for state events, but with the right connections and for the right price, it can be rented for private galas. In a taped address to participants, Zhu boasted that “I’ll spend any amount of money” on Taoism.

    Zhu’s chief adviser, Li Jinkang, says the goal is to keep Taoism vital in an era when indigenous Chinese ideas are on the defensive. “Churches are everywhere. But traditional things are less so. So Chairman Zhu said: ‘What about our Taoism? Our Taoism is a really deep thing. If we don’t protect it, then what?’ ”

    Balancing this desire with the imperatives of China’s political system is tricky. While the Communist Party has allowed religious groups to rebuild temples and proselytize, its own members are supposed to be good Marxists and shun religion. Like many big-business people, Zhu is also a party member. Two years ago, he became one of the first private business owners to set up a party branch in his company, earning him praise in the pages of the Communist Party’s official organ, People’s Daily. He has also established a party “school” — an indoctrination center for employees. His company’s Web site has a section extolling his party-building efforts and has a meeting room with a picture of Mao Zedong looking down from the wall. Although it might seem like an odd way to mix religion and politics, Taoism often deifies famous people; at least three Taoist temples in one part of China are dedicated to Chairman Mao.

    Until recently, Zhu mostly ignored the contradiction, but he has become more cautious, emphasizing how he loved Taoist philosophy and playing down the religion. Still, Zhu continues to support conventional Taoism. His staff takes courses in a Taoist form of meditation called neigong, and he has sent staff members to document religious sites, like the supposed birthplace of Laotzu, who is worshiped as a god in Taoism. He also has close relations with folk-religious figures and plans to establish a “Taoist base” in the countryside to propagate Taoism. “The ancients were amazing,” Zhu says. “Taoism can save the world.”

    Ian Johnson is the author of “A Mosque in Munich” and “Wild Grass: Three Stories of Change in Modern China.” He is based in Beijing.
    Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

    "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

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  • #2
    "Last year, Zhu invited several dozen European and North American scholars of Chinese religion on an all-expenses-paid trip to participate in a conference in Beijing. The group stayed in the luxurious China World Hotel and were bused to Henan province to visit Taoist sites."

    and they all left china with bed bugs and said **** zhu lol
    "did you ask me to consider dick with you??" blooming tianshi lotus


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