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Taoism first came to Japan during the sixth century A.D. though, while elements of both 'Religious Taoism' and at a later date, 'Philosophical Taoism' have had an unmistakable influence on Japanese religion, Taoism as a distinct, institutional tradition, never really gained a following amongst the Japanese people.

However, beliefs concerning the 'Taoist Immortals' and Taoist Paradises were 'adopted-in' to various streams of Japanese folk belief and mythology, along with Taoist mystical and medicinal practices.

For example, the koshin-machi, a popular Japanese all-night vigil undertaken as part of a longevity disciplines, is based on Taoist belief.

Also, elements of Taoist magic exist in Shinto practice, and more noticeably in the mountain-centred ascetic disciplines of Shugendo.

But probably the most important expression of Taoism in Japan was the ritualistic tradition known as onmyodo.

Central to onmyodo were the disciplines of astrology and Taoist Five-Element theory.

In onmyodo philosophy there was no particular concern with (or belief in) life after death. It's primary focus was on the identification and avoidance of troubles and disharmonies in the here-and-now. Through an understanding of the natural laws of the universe, and through the application of ritualistic practice based on yin-yang/five-element theory, onmyodo sought to bring order to a world perceived as being, in the main, completely chaotic.

Originally, onmyodo was closely aligned with the Imperial Household, and matters of state.

The onmyodo practitioners were consulted on everything, from the siting of the imperial capital, to the performance of state ritual, the interpretation of supernatural signs, and, most importantly, divining the fate of Emperors, Courtiers, and the nation.

Possibly the earliest of the onmyodo disciplines to reach Japan in the sixth century A.D was that of jugondo.

Jugondo was concerned with issues such as the vanquishing of monsters; curing of disease; freeing people, places and objects from possession by spirits (evil or otherwise); dispersing of apparitions, etc.

A highly ritualistic discipline, it incorporated Chinese medical practices, Taoist spells and charms, magic invocations, and forms of hypnosis to induce mystical states in the practitioner. In these altered states, jugondo practitioners would undertake feats such as fire-walking and pouring boiling water in their bare skin without harm...

Over the centuries, however, the various arts and practices of onmyodo gradually became absorbed into Shinto and Buddhist tradition, and also into the disciplines of the shugenja,
and other ascetic groups, to the point where onmyodo - as a distinct tradition in it's own right - to all intents and purposes ceased to exist.

Today, the term onmyodo is unknown even amongst many of those people who, under a different name, practice the various surviving elements of this ancient mystical, curative, and magically ameliorative tradition.


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