Cosmology is an account or theory of the origin of the Universe, and, by extension, humanity’s place in it.
Cosmologies often borrow from one another, creating new cosmologies by applying the scientific discoveries of the day. Some cosmologies develop into religious beliefs; others develop through the lens of scientific thought.
Here is a quick historical tour of cosmologies:
In the beginning there was nothing but a formless chaos. Out of this chaos, there was born an egg. When the egg split the heavy yolk sank to become the Earth, while the light egg white rose to become the Heavens.
That the Universe is made of two forces, a heavy yin aspect and a lighter yang aspect whose separation and interaction are constantly creating all aspects of the Universe, is the foundation of Daoism. This line of thought developed to include all the social and physical interactions of man.
Before it developed into a complex system of creation and organization, Daoism was more practical. Yin and yang represented different times of the day and of the year. Daylight was the time for work, night was for rest.
The Yellow Emperor (2497 – 2398 BCE) is the legendary inventor of Chinese medicine. In his classic work the Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon) various principles, such as yin and yang, qi, and the wuxing, compose the Universe. The work was one of the first medical treatise to stress the integration of both spiritual and physical treatments as a holistic approach to medical treatment.
The Huangdi Neijing is actually two texts. The first text is the Suwen, (Basic Questions) and covers the theoretical foundation of Chinese medicine and its diagnostic methods. The Suwen includes topics on feng shui, qigong, acupuncture, herbal medicine, fortune telling, meteorology, and astrology. Because of this vast amount of information, it is a major text of Daoism. The second text named Lingshu (Spiritual Pivot) shares the practical elements of acupuncture therapy.
There is little doubt that Dong Haichuan (1797 – 1882) created and formalized the martial art of baguazhang. When discussing the creation of a formalized martial art, identifying the actual events that contributed to its development is difficult. Fanciful stories cast the art as the creation of a legendary figure, or as the secret teachings of a reclusive master. In the case of Dong Haichuan, he was both legendary and historical.
The widely accepted historical account of baguazhang’s development says that Dong was a member of the Quanzhen (Complete Truth) sect of Daoism. The Complete Truth Daoist walked in a circle while chanting as a method of meditation.
Dong Haichuan loved to practice martial arts, and he was skilled in bafanquan (Eight Rotating Boxing). He synthesized bafanquan’s straight line techniques with circle walking to form his own art called Turning Palm.
Zhang Sanfeng (1247 – 1370) is a legendary figure of Daoism, and the mythical creator of taijiquan. Some stories about Zhang Sanfeng place him as early as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907 – 960 CE) when China was undergoing a period of disunion. Others place him in the Song dynasty (960 – 1279 CE) which saw many achievements in science, philosophy, and arts, including the first use of printing (700 years before Europe), and the use of gunpowder in grenades.
If Zhang Sanfeng existed, he was probably born in 1247 and lived during the years of Marco Polo’s (1254 – 1324 CE) visit to China. He studied Buddhism and martial arts at the Shaolin temple before leaving and establishing the Daoist temples at Wudang Mountain.