NANYUE, Hunan, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- China hosted a high-profile International Taoism Forum here on Sunday in an effort to spread the religion's influence on the world stage.
In a message to the forum, China's senior leader Jia Qinglin urged the 500 participants from more than 20 countries, including China, the United States, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Japan, to explore the essence of Taoism and make Chinese culture more attractive in the world.
Jia, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said that the event represented a blessing to the pursuit of prolonged world peace and common prosperity.
"Taoism is important part of Chinese traditional culture as well as valuable properties of human civilization," said Jia.
Du Qinglin, head of the United Front Work Department of Central Committee of CPC, also attended the ceremony and delivered a speech, saying that Taoism will enrich human being's intelligence.
Prince Philip of the United Kingdom sent a congratulatory message to the forum.
This is the first time China staged an international Taoism forum. Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said prior to the opening ceremony that the forum should become a key platform for worldwide Taoist exchanges.
Taoism was a 1,800-year-old religion originated from Lao Tze's philosophy. Lao Tze (BC 571-471) was the author of the book Tao De Ching, in which he pointed out that everything in the universe was born from vaccum or nothing and the balance and harmony should be achieved between human beings and nature. His thoughts even stimulated the creativity of some renowned modern physicists.
Taoism is also a source of artistic creation, inspired the Oscar winning film "Crouching tigers and hidden dragons."
Taoism was wiped out during the chaotic Culture Revolution (1966-76) and resumed after China's reform and opening up to the outside world in the late 1970s. Latest statistics show that there are nearly 100,000 Taoist priests and over 5,000 religious sites in the Chinese mainland.
"There are many Taoist believers in western countries and a lot of foreign universities and academies have been doing extensive research into Taoism," said Lin Zhou, deputy president of Chinese Taoist Association.
He said that Taoism is vital to solving modern dilemmas as it suggest people stop wars, live peacefully with nature, avoid extravagant consumption and give up fierce competition.
"Lao Tze said that 'big country should keep itself in a humble position,' but in the modern world, a number of powerful countries prefer to use violence to bully weak countries -- that is not in accordance with the 'Way'," said Ren Farong, president of Chinese Taoist Association.
He added that China has mapped out a strategy this month to reform and develop its culture, and Taoism should be seen as a kind of soft power of the country.
Topics of the forum will cover environmental protection, sustainable development, cross-religious harmony, world peace and the role Taoism could play on solving those issues.
Bawa Jain, Secretary General of World Council of Religious Leaders,is expected to give a speech at the forum.
Xu Jialu, former vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, or China's legislature, will discuss cross-culture issues with Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).
A special seminar will be launched for Taoist societies from Europe and America and other continents to discuss the religion's development in their territories.
The forum is held at the foot of Mt. Hengshan in the Nanyue District of Hunan's Hengyang City, one of the five sacred religions Mountains in China and a scenic site renowned for hundreds of Taoist and Buddhist temples.
The three-day event is co-sponsored by the Chinese Taoist Association and the China Religious Culture Communication Association.
A grand artistic performance featuring Taoist culture and directed by famous musician Tan Dun was held after the opening ceremony.