Am I right in thinking that "Daoism" wasn't ever formalised as a religion until Buddhism was brought to the country? I think I read it somewhere but really can't remember.
"Daoism" as something which people self-identified with seems to first exist around the 5th century and was a response to the growing power of Buddhism. See the following on page 16 in Kirkland's work:
The first socio-cultural group whose participants consciously identified themselves as "Taoist" - and began conceiving the first comprehensive collection of Taoist texts - appeared in what some would call "early Medieval China," during the fifth century CE. That group consisted specifically of people whose sense of Taoist identity was stimulated by the fact that Buddhism had gained acceptance and political favor throughout the land, which was, at that time, politically divided, with one imperial regime in the north and another in the south. There were many then, in the north and south alike, who had no wish to identify themselves with Buddhism.
See Taoism: The Enduring Tradition
by Kirkland, a preview of which is available on Google Books:http://books.google.com.tw/books?id=o9O ... &q&f=false
Taoism is very cool, lots of amazing teachings and works. It almost seems like it's the last pieces of Buddha Kassapa's teachings from long ago, it's got such a vague underlying similarity to Buddhism (Obviously I know this is not the case, just a fun thought). Not that that's all that's great about it! There is so much rich philosophy and wonderful mythology surrounding it!
In the early centuries some believed Laozi and Buddha were the same person. As the legend goes Laozi exited China westward and was never heard from again, which some took to mean he went to India to enlighten the people there.
That aside, in the early days a lot of Buddhist terms were translated using terminology from the contemporary philosophical lexicon, much of which was derived from texts which later individuals identifying as "Daoist" (intentionally in contrast to Buddhists) would claim as their own. This is why you hear scholars speak of "Daoist influences on early Buddhism", which is actually just anachronistic and sloppy.
In the later Han Dynasty (25-220) and subsequent kingdoms which arose following its collapse Buddhism was introduced and some
native Chinese authors were often at a loss on how to translate and interpret terminology, so they used what they had using a exegetical method called "matching terms" (Chn. ge yi
格義) with mixed results. For example the term wu-wei
無爲, originally derived from classical Chinese philosophies (none of which were specifically "Daoist" until long after their original authors had turned to dust), was used for nirvāṇa
. Ultimately this was abandoned and a phonetic transcription of nirvāṇa came to be favored, which is still the case today.
So, there was some degree of influence from contemporary philosophy of the time on Buddhism in the early centuries in China. This would apply to some effect with Chan as well. This cannot be denied.
It is quite similar to the west where Buddhism has continually and still is read through the lens of western psychology. A lot of Buddhist vocabulary is also rendered using items from the psychological lexicon. For example, translating ātman
. This no doubt influences the way the concept is formulated in the minds of people already directly or indirectly influenced by western psychology.
Interface, overlap and and combining with Ch'an/Zen?
There was a movement in East Asia, especially after the Song Dynasty it seems, that proposed the "unity of the three teachings" (san jiao he yi
三教合一), which was in vogue not just with Neo-Confucians, but a few eminent Chan masters like Hanshan Deqing 憨山德清 (1546–1623). However, you see this in earlier literature as well with the Chan and Huayan patriarch Zongmi 宗密 (780–841) expressing such sentiments. Zongmi was a unique case because he was very well learned in non-Buddhist literature before taking an interest in Buddhism and later renouncing to become a monk.
The thing to keep in mind is that when we speak of "Daoist influences" it can be misleading because the texts self-identifying Daoists would claim as their own are often actually part of the shared common literary heritage of China. Zongmi might have read Laozi extensively, but then so did everyone else. Some might have claimed the text as their holy scripture and interpreted it in their own way, but that does not mean everyone else shared the same views.
Likewise, China had its own philosophical lexicon and physics which might be called "Daoist" by some, but in reality was just the default base of knowledge for society. Yin Yang theory might be erroneously associated strictly with Daoism, but it was just as natural for a Chinese Buddhism to speak of Yin Yang as it is for me as a modern western Buddhist to speak of gravity without having to be identified as a physicist.
As to influences from Tang Dynasty Daoism on Chan, this is something I don't sense. To be clear, the Daoists of the time developed their own scriptures by plagiarizing large amounts of Buddhist works and they had their own unique pantheon as well. You simply do not see any of that in Tang Dynasty Chan literature at all. Nothing.
I know some Buddhist practitioners in the Tang Dynasty engaged in longevity practices because they thought it was the "dharma ending age" and thus liberation being impossible now they figured they would try to live until Maitreya arrived. However, that was not specifically Chan and was probably a kind of fringe cult.