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Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical and spiritual tradition of
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a populat ...

Chinese
origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the ''
Tao Tao or Dao is the natural order of the universe whose character one's human intuition Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without recourse to conscious reasoning. Different fields use the word "intuition" in very different ways, in ...

Tao
'' (, or ''Dao''). In Taoism, the ''Tao'' is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism teaches about the various disciplines for achieving "perfection" by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the all, called "the way" or "Tao". Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasize ''
wu wei ''Wu wei'' () is a concept literally meaning "inexertion", "inaction", or "effortless action". ''Wu wei'' emerged in the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written r ...
'' (action without intention), "naturalness", simplicity, spontaneity and the Three Treasures: , "compassion", , "frugality" and , "humility". The roots of Taoism go back at least to the 4th century BCE. Early Taoism drew its cosmological notions from the School of Yinyang (Naturalists) and was deeply influenced by one of the oldest texts of
Chinese culture Chinese culture () is one of the world's oldest cultures, originating thousands of years ago. The culture prevails across a large geographical region in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's large ...
, the ''
I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the at ...
'', which expounds a philosophical system about how to keep human behavior in accordance with the alternating cycles of
nature Nature, in the broadest sense, is the natural, physical, material world or universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter an ...

nature
. The "
Legalist Legalist, Inc. is a Legal financing, litigation finance company based in San Francisco, California that funds commercial lawsuits on behalf of plaintiff attorneys, applying machine learning algorithms to evaluate its potential investments. History ...
"
Shen Buhai Shen Buhai (; c. 400c. 337) was a Chinese essayist, philosopher, and politician. He served as Chancellor Chancellor ( la, links=no, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chanc ...
(c. 400 – c. 337 BCE) may also have been a major influence, expounding a
realpolitik ''Realpolitik'' (from german: real; "realistic", "practical", or "actual"; and '; "politics", ) is politics or diplomacy based primarily on considerations of given circumstances and factors, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral and eth ...
of ''
wu wei ''Wu wei'' () is a concept literally meaning "inexertion", "inaction", or "effortless action". ''Wu wei'' emerged in the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written r ...
'', or qualified inaction. The ''
Tao Te Ching The ''Tao Te Ching'' (, ; ) is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. The text's authorship, date of composition and date of compilation are debated. The oldest excavated portion dates back to the la ...
'', a book containing teachings attributed to
Lao Tzu Lao Tzu (),"Lao Zi"
''
writings of Zhuangzi, are both widely considered the keystone works of Taoism. Taoism has had a profound influence on Chinese culture in the course of the centuries and
Taoists Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical and spiritual tradition of China, Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the ''Tao'' (, Taoism#Spelling and pronunciation, or ''Dao''). In Taoism, the ''Tao'' is the source, pattern a ...
(, "masters of the Tao"), a title traditionally attributed only to the clergy and not to their lay followers, usually take care to note the distinction between their ritual tradition and the practices of
Chinese folk religion Chinese folk religion, also known as Chinese popular religion, is a general term covering a range of traditional religious practices of , including the . Vivienne Wee described it as "an empty bowl, which can variously be filled with the ...
and non-Taoist vernacular ritual orders, which are often mistakenly identified as pertaining to Taoism.
Chinese alchemy Chinese alchemy is an ancient Chinese scientific and technological approach to alchemy File:Aurora consurgens zurich 044 f-21v-44 dragon-pot.jpg, Depiction of Ouroboros from the alchemical treatise ''Aurora consurgens'' (15th century), Zentralb ...
(especially
neidan Neidan, or internal alchemy (), is an array of esoteric doctrines and physical, mental, and spiritual practices that initiates use to prolong life and create an immortal spiritual body that would survive after death (Skar and Pregadio 2000, 464 ...
),
Chinese astrology Chinese astrology is based on the traditional astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objec ...
,
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
, several
martial arts Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practiced for a number of reasons such as self-defense; military and law enforcement applications; combat sport, competition; physical, mental, and spiritual development; entertainment; an ...
,
traditional Chinese medicine#REDIRECT Traditional Chinese medicine {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
,
feng shui Feng shui, also known as Chinese geomancy Geomancy (Greek language, Greek: γεωμαντεία, "earth divination") is a method of divination that interprets markings on the ground or the patterns formed by tossed handfuls of soil, ro ...

feng shui
and many styles of
qigong ''Qigong'' (), ''qi gong'', ''chi kung'', ''chi 'ung'', or ''chi gung'' () is a system of coordinated body-posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for the purposes of health, spirituality, and martial-arts training. With roots in C ...
have been intertwined with Taoism throughout history. Today, the Taoist tradition is one of the officially recognized by the
People's Republic of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

People's Republic of China
. It is also a
major religion The world The world is the Earth and all life on it, including civilization, human civilization. In a philosophical context, the "world" is the whole of the physical Universe, or an Ontology, ontological world (the "world" of an indivi ...
in
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
and claims adherents in a number of other societies, in particular in
Hong Kong Hong Kong (; , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China on the ...

Hong Kong
,
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), (RAEM) is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. Lond ...

Macau
and
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Southeast Asia
.


Definition


Spelling and pronunciation

Since the introduction of the
Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan and Singapore. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin, ...

Pinyin
system for romanizing Mandarin Chinese, there have been those who have felt that "Taoism" would be more appropriately spelled as "Daoism". The
Mandarin Chinese Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic languages, Sinitic (Chinese) languages natively spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of the phonology of Standard Chinese. Because Mandarin ...
pronunciation for the word ("way, path") is spelled as '''' in the older
Wade–Giles Wade–Giles () is a romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken lang ...
romanization system (from which the spelling 'Taoism' is derived), while it is spelled as '''' in the newer
Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan and Singapore. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin, ...

Pinyin
romanization system (from which the spelling "Daoism" is derived). Both the Wade–Giles ''tao4'' and the Pinyin ''dào'' are intended to be pronounced identically in Mandarin Chinese (like the unaspirated 't' in 'stop'), but despite this fact, "Taoism" and "Daoism" can be pronounced differently in English vernacular.


Categorization

The word ''Taoism'' is used to translate different Chinese terms which refer to different aspects of the same tradition and semantic field: # "Taoist religion" (; lit. "teachings of the Tao"), or the "liturgical" aspect – A family of organized religious movements sharing concepts or terminology from "Taoist philosophy"; the first of these is recognized as the Celestial Masters school. # "
Taoist philosophy Taoist philosophy ( Chinese: ; pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan (ROC), and Singapore. It is often used to ...
" (; lit. "school or family of the Tao") or "Taology" (; lit. "learning of the Tao"), or the "mystical" aspect – The based on the texts of the ''
Yi Jing The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination text and among the oldest of the Chinese classics. Originally a divination manual in the Western Zhou p ...
'', the ''
Tao Te Ching The ''Tao Te Ching'' (, ; ) is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. The text's authorship, date of composition and date of compilation are debated. The oldest excavated portion dates back to the la ...
'' () and the ''
ZhuangziZhuangzi may refer to: *Zhuangzi (book), ''Zhuangzi'' (book) (莊子), an ancient Chinese collection of anecdotes and fables, one of the foundational texts of Daoism **Zhuang Zhou (莊周), the historical figure known as "Master Zhuang" ("Zhuangzi") ...
'' (). These texts were linked together as "Taoist philosophy" during the early
Han Dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han Dynasty
, but notably not before. It is unlikely that
ZhuangziZhuangzi may refer to: *Zhuangzi (book), ''Zhuangzi'' (book) (莊子), an ancient Chinese collection of anecdotes and fables, one of the foundational texts of Daoism **Zhuang Zhou (莊周), the historical figure known as "Master Zhuang" ("Zhuangzi") ...
was familiar with the text of the Tao Te Ching, and Zhuangzi would not have identified himself as a Taoist as this classification did not arise until well after his death. However, the discussed distinction is rejected by the majority of Western and Japanese scholars. It is contested by
hermeneutic Hermeneutics () is the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of Biblical hermeneutics, biblical texts, wisdom literature, and Philosophy, philosophical texts. Hermeneutics is more than interpretative principles ...
(interpretive) difficulties in the categorization of the different Taoist schools, sects and movements. Taoism does not fall under an umbrella or a definition of a single
organized religion Organized religion, also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and Formal organization, formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctr ...
like the
Abrahamic traditions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, be ...
; nor can it be studied as a mere variant of
Chinese folk religion Chinese folk religion, also known as Chinese popular religion, is a general term covering a range of traditional religious practices of , including the . Vivienne Wee described it as "an empty bowl, which can variously be filled with the ...
, as although the two share some similar concepts, much of Chinese folk religion is separate from the tenets and core teachings of Taoism. The sinologists Isabelle Robinet and Livia Kohn agree that "Taoism has never been a unified religion, and has constantly consisted of a combination of teachings based on a variety of original revelations." The philosopher Chung-ying Cheng views Taoism as a religion that has been embedded into Chinese history and tradition. "Whether Confucianism, Taoism, or later Chinese Buddhism, they all fall into this pattern of thinking and organizing and in this sense remain religious, even though individually and intellectually they also assume forms of philosophy and practical wisdom." Chung-ying Cheng also noted that the Taoist view of heaven flows mainly from "observation and meditation,
houghHough may refer to: * Hamstringing, or severing the Achilles tendon of an animal * the leg or Tibia, shin of an animal (in the Scots language), from which the dish potted hough is made * Hough (surname) Communities United Kingdom * Hough, Alderley ...
the teaching of the way (''Tao'') can also include the way of heaven independently of human nature". In Chinese history, the three religions of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism stand on their own independent views, and yet are "involved in a process of attempting to find harmonization and convergence among themselves, so that we can speak of a 'unity of three religious teachings' ().


The term "Taoist" and "Taoism" as a "liturgical framework"

Traditionally, the Chinese language does not have terms defining lay people adhering to the doctrines or the practices of Taoism, who fall instead within the field of folk religion. "Taoist", in Western
sinology Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's ...
, is traditionally used to translate ''
daoshi A daoshi (道士 "master of the Tao Tao or Dao is a Chinese word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, prac ...
'' (, "master of the Tao"), thus strictly defining the "priests" of Taoism, ordained clergymen of a Taoist institution who "represent Taoist culture on a professional basis", are experts of Taoist liturgy, and therefore can employ this knowledge and ritual skills for the benefit of a community. This role of Taoist priests reflects the definition of Taoism as a "liturgical framework for the development of local cults", in other words a scheme or structure for Chinese religion, proposed first by the scholar and Taoist initiate
Kristofer Schipper Kristofer Marinus Schipper (23 October 1934 – 18 February 2021), also known as Rik Schipper and by his Chinese name Shi Zhouren (), was a Dutch sinologist. He was a professor of Oriental studies Oriental studies is the academic field of study th ...
in ''The Taoist Body'' (1986). ''Daoshi'' are comparable to the non-Taoist ''fashi'' (, "ritual masters") of vernacular traditions (the so-called " Faism") within Chinese religion. The term (), with the meaning of "Taoist" as "lay member or believer of Taoism", is a modern invention that goes back to the introduction of the Western category of "organized religion" in China in the 20th century, but it has no significance for most of Chinese society in which Taoism continues to be an "order" of the larger body of Chinese religion.


History

Lao Tzu Lao Tzu (),"Lao Zi"
''
School of Naturalists The School of Naturalists or the School of Yin-yang () was a Warring States-era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements. Overview Zou Yan Zou Yan (; ; 305 BC240 BC) was an ancient Chinese philosopher best k ...
(in the form of its main elements—
yin and yang In Ancient Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significan ...

yin and yang
and the
Five Phases Tablet in the Chinese_and_ Temple_of_Heaven_of_Beijing,_written_in_Chinese_language">Chinese_and_Manchu_language">Manchu,_dedicated_to_the_Wufang_Shangdi.html" ;"title="Manchu_language.html" ;"title="Chinese_language.html" ;"title="Beijing.h ...
), which developed during the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spri ...
(4th to 3rd centuries BCE). Robinet identifies four components in the emergence of Taoism: # Philosophical Taoism, i.e. the ''Tao Te Ching'' and ''
ZhuangziZhuangzi may refer to: *Zhuangzi (book), ''Zhuangzi'' (book) (莊子), an ancient Chinese collection of anecdotes and fables, one of the foundational texts of Daoism **Zhuang Zhou (莊周), the historical figure known as "Master Zhuang" ("Zhuangzi") ...
'' # techniques for achieving ecstasy # practices for achieving longevity or immortality #
exorcism Exorcism (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxi ...
. Some elements of Taoism may be traced to
prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's past. It is understood through archaeology, anthropology, genetics, and linguistics, ...

prehistoric
folk religions in China that later coalesced into a Taoist tradition. In particular, many Taoist practices drew from the Warring-States-era phenomena of the '' wu'' (connected to the shamanic culture of northern China) and the ''
fangshi ''Fangshi'' () were Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most po ...
'' (which probably derived from the "archivist-soothsayers of antiquity, one of whom supposedly was Lao Tzu himself"), even though later Taoists insisted that this was not the case. Both terms were used to designate individuals dedicated to "... magic, medicine, divination,... methods of longevity and to ecstatic wanderings" as well as exorcism; in the case of the ''wu'', "shamans" or "sorcerers" is often used as a translation. The ''fangshi'' were philosophically close to the School of Naturalists, and relied much on astrological and calendrical speculations in their divinatory activities. The first organized form of Taoism, the
Way of the Celestial Masters The Way of the Celestial Masters is a Chinese Daoist movement that was founded by Zhang Daoling in 142 CE. They rebelled against the Han Dynasty and won their independence in 194. At its height, the movement controlled a theocratic state in what i ...
's school (later known as Zhengyi school), developed from the
Five Pecks of Rice The Way of the Five Pecks of Rice () or the Way of the Celestial Master, commonly abbreviated to simply The Celestial Masters, was a China, Chinese Taoist movement founded by the first List of Celestial Masters, Celestial Master Zhang Daoling in 1 ...
movement at the end of the 2nd century CE; the latter had been founded by Zhang Taoling, who said that Lao Tzu appeared to him in the year 142. The Way of the Celestial Masters school was officially recognized by ruler
Cao Cao Cao Cao (; ; ; – 15 March 220), courtesy name Mengde (), was a Chinese warlord, statesman and poet. He was the penultimate Grand chancellor (China), grand chancellor of the Eastern Han dynasty who rose to great power in the End of the Han ...
in 215, legitimizing Cao Cao's rise to power in return. Lao Tzu received imperial recognition as a divinity in the mid-2nd century BCE. By the
Han dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han dynasty
(206 BCE–220 CE), the various sources of Taoism had coalesced into a coherent tradition of religious organizations and orders of ritualists in the state of
Shu Shu may refer to: China * Sichuan, China, officially abbreviated as Shu (蜀) * Shu (state) (conquered by Qin in 316 BC), an ancient state in modern Sichuan * Shu Han (221–263) during the Three Kingdoms Period * Western Shu (405–413), also k ...
(modern
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...

Sichuan
). In earlier ancient China, Taoists were thought of as hermits or recluses who did not participate in political life. Zhuangzi was the best known of these, and it is significant that he lived in the south, where he was part of local Chinese shamanic traditions. Female shamans played an important role in this tradition, which was particularly strong in the southern state of
Chu Chu or CHU may refer to: Chinese history * Chu (state) (c. 1030 BC–223 BC), a state during the Zhou dynasty * Western Chu (206 BC–202 BC), a state founded and ruled by Xiang Yu * Chu Kingdom (Han dynasty) (201 BC–70 AD), a kingdom of the Han ...
. Early Taoist movements developed their own institution in contrast to shamanism but absorbed basic shamanic elements. Shamans revealed basic texts of Taoism from early times down to at least the 20th century. Institutional orders of Taoism evolved in various strains that in more recent times are conventionally grouped into two main branches:
Quanzhen Taoism The Quanzhen School, also known as Completion of Authenticity, Complete Reality, and Complete Perfection is currently the most dominant branch of Taoism Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasiz ...
and Zhengyi Taoism. After Lao Tzu and Zhuangzi, the literature of Taoism grew steadily and was compiled in form of a canon—the Tao Tsang—which was published at the behest of the
emperor An emperor (from la, imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as a title roughly equivalent to ''commander'' under the Roma ...
. Throughout Chinese history, Taoism was nominated several times as a
state religion A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether ...
. After the 17th century, however, it fell from favor. Taoism, in form of the
Shangqing school The Shangqing School (Chinese:上清), also known as Supreme Clarity or Highest Clarity is a Daoist movement that began during the aristocracy of the Jin Dynasty (265-420), Western Jin dynasty. Shangqing can be translated as either 'Supreme Clarity' ...
, gained official status in China again during the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
(618–907), whose emperors claimed Lao Tzu as their relative. The Shangqing movement, however, had developed much earlier, in the 4th century, on the basis of a series of revelations by gods and spirits to a certain Yang Xi in the years between 364 and 370. Between 397 and 402,
Ge Chaofu Ge Chaofu (Chinese: 葛巢甫) is a member of the Chinese Ge family who lived during the 4th and 5th centuries CE. He is best known for writing the scripture Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are th ...
compiled a series of scriptures which later served as the foundation of the
Lingbao school The Lingbao School (Simplified Chinese: 灵宝派; Traditional Chinese: 靈寶派; pinyin: Líng Bǎo Pài), also known as the School of the Sacred Jewel or the School of Numinous Treasure, was an important Daoist Taoism (), or Daoism (), ...
, which unfolded its greatest influence during the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
(960–1279). Several Song emperors, most notably , were active in promoting Taoism, collecting Taoist texts and publishing editions of the ''Taotsang.'' In the 12th century, the Quanzhen School was founded in
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
. It flourished during the 13th and 14th centuries and during the
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a successor state Successor is someone who, or something which succeeds or comes after (see success and succession) Film and TV * ''The Succ ...
became the largest and most important Taoist school in Northern China. The school's most revered master,
Qiu Chuji Qiu Chuji (10 February 1148– 21 August 1227), also known by his Taoist name Master Changchun, was a Taoist disciple of Wang Chongyang. He was the most famous among the Seven True Taoists of the North. He was the founder of the Dragon Gate Taoism, ...
, met with
Genghis Khan ''Chinggis Khaan'' ͡ʃʰiŋɡɪs xaːŋbr>Mongol script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first Mongolian alphabet, writing system created specifically for the Mongolian language, and was the most ...

Genghis Khan
in 1222 and was successful in influencing the Khan towards exerting more restraint during his brutal conquests. By the Khan's decree, the school also was exempt from taxation. Aspects of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism were consciously synthesized in the
Neo-Confucian Neo-Confucianism (, often shortened to ''lixue'' 理學, literally "School of Principle") is a moral, ethical, and metaphysical Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring ...
school, which eventually became Imperial
orthodoxy Orthodoxy (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...
for state bureaucratic purposes under the
Ming The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an eth ...

Ming
(1368–1644). During the
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
(1644–1912), however, due to discouragements of the government, many people favored Confucian and Buddhist classics over Taoist works. During the 18th century, the imperial library was constituted, but excluded virtually all Taoist books. By the beginning of the 20th century, Taoism went through many catastrophic events. (As a result, only one complete copy of the Tao Tsang still remained, at the White Cloud Monastery in Beijing). Today, Taoism is one of five official recognized religions in the People's Republic of China. The government regulates its activities through the
Chinese Taoist Association Chinese Taoist Association (CTA ; ), founded in April 1957, is the main association of Taoism Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the ''Tao'' (, or ''Dao''). In Taos ...
. However, Taoism is practiced without government involvement in
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...
, where it claims millions of adherents.
World Heritage Sites A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for ha ...
Mount Qingcheng Mount Qingcheng () is a mountain in Dujiangyan, Sichuan Sichuan (, Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin pronunciation: ; Postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in ...
and
Mount Longhu Mount Longhu (, Gan Chinese, Gan: Lung-fu San) is located in Jiangxi, People's Republic of China, China. It is famous for being one of the birthplaces of Taoism, with many Taoist temples built upon the mountainside. It is particularly important t ...
are thought to be among the birthplaces of Taoism.


Doctrines


Ethics

Taoism tends to emphasize various themes of the ''Tao Te Ching'' and ''
ZhuangziZhuangzi may refer to: *Zhuangzi (book), ''Zhuangzi'' (book) (莊子), an ancient Chinese collection of anecdotes and fables, one of the foundational texts of Daoism **Zhuang Zhou (莊周), the historical figure known as "Master Zhuang" ("Zhuangzi") ...
'', such as naturalness, spontaneity, simplicity, detachment from desires, and most important of all,
wu wei ''Wu wei'' () is a concept literally meaning "inexertion", "inaction", or "effortless action". ''Wu wei'' emerged in the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written r ...
. However, the concepts of those keystone texts cannot be equated with Taoism as a whole.


Tao and Te

''Tao'' () literally means "way", but can also be interpreted as road, channel, path, doctrine, or line. In Taoism, it is "the One, which is natural, spontaneous, eternal, nameless, and indescribable. It is at once the beginning of all things and the way in which all things pursue their course." It has variously been denoted as the "flow of the universe", a "conceptually necessary
ontological Ontology is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Ph ...
ground", or a demonstration of nature. The Tao also is something that individuals can find immanent in themselves. The active expression of Tao is called ''Te'' (; also spelled—and pronounced—''Teh'', or even ''De''; often translated with ''Virtue'' or ''Power''), in a sense that Te results from an individual living and cultivating the Tao.


Wu-wei

The ambiguous term ''wu-wei'' () constitutes the leading ethical concept in Taoism. ''Wei'' refers to any intentional or deliberated action, while ''wu'' carries the meaning of "there is no ..." or "lacking, without". Common translations are "nonaction", "effortless action" or "action without intent". The meaning is sometimes emphasized by using the paradoxical expression "wei wu wei": "action without action". In ancient Taoist texts, wu-wei is associated with water through its yielding nature. Taoist philosophy, in accordance with the ''
I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the at ...
'', proposes that the universe works harmoniously according to its own ways. When someone exerts their will against the world in a manner that is out of rhythm with the cycles of change, they may disrupt that harmony and
unintended consequences In the social sciences Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to ...

unintended consequences
may more likely result rather than the willed outcome. Taoism does not identify one's will as the root problem. Rather, it asserts that one must place their will in harmony with the natural universe. Thus, a potentially harmful interference may be avoided, and in this way, goals can be achieved effortlessly. "By wu-wei, the sage seeks to come into harmony with the great Tao, which itself accomplishes by nonaction."


Ziran

Ziran (; lit. "self-such", "
self-organization Self-organization, also called (in the social sciences) spontaneous order, is a process where some form of overall order arises from local interactions between parts of an initially disordered system A system is a group of Interaction, inte ...

self-organization
") is regarded as a central value in Taoism. It describes the "primordial state" of all things as well as a basic character of the Tao, and is usually associated with spontaneity and creativity. To attain naturalness, one has to identify with the Tao; this involves freeing oneself from selfishness and desire, and appreciating simplicity. An often cited metaphor for naturalness is '' pu'' (; lit. "uncut wood"), the "uncarved block", which represents the "original nature... prior to the imprint of culture" of an individual. It is usually referred to as a state one ''returns'' to.


Three Treasures

The Taoist ''Three Treasures'' or ''Three Jewels'' () comprise the basic virtues of ''ci'' (, usually translated as ''compassion''), ''jian'' (, usually translated as ''moderation''), and ''bugan wei tianxia xian'' (, literally "not daring to act as first under the heavens", but usually translated as ''humility''). As the "practical, political side" of Taoist philosophy,
Arthur Waley Arthur David Waley (born Arthur David Schloss, 19 August 188927 June 1966) was an English orientalist Orientalist may refer to: *A scholar of Oriental studies *A person or thing relating to the Western intellectual or artistic paradigm known as ...
translated them as "abstention from aggressive war and capital punishment", "absolute simplicity of living", and "refusal to assert active authority". The Three Treasures can also refer to
jing__NOTOC__ Jing can refer to: * Jing (software), formerly Jing Project * Jing (surname), a Chinese surname * Jing River, in China * Jing (instrument), a large gong used in Korean traditional music Concepts * Chinese classics (, ''jīng'') * Jing (C ...
, and shen (; jing is usually translated as ''essence,'' qi as ''life force'', and shen as ''spirit''). These terms are elements of the traditional Chinese concept of the human body, which shares its cosmological foundation— Yinyangism or the Naturalists—with Taoism. Within this framework, they play an important role in
neidan Neidan, or internal alchemy (), is an array of esoteric doctrines and physical, mental, and spiritual practices that initiates use to prolong life and create an immortal spiritual body that would survive after death (Skar and Pregadio 2000, 464 ...
("Taoist Inner Alchemy").Blofeld, John. ''Taoism''. Shambhala, 2000.


Cosmology

Taoist cosmology is
cyclic Cycle or cyclic may refer to: Anthropology and social sciences * Cyclic history, a theory of history * Cyclical theory, a theory of American political history associated with Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. * Social cycle, various cycles in social scienc ...
—the universe is seen as being in a constant process of re-creating itself. Evolution and 'extremes meet' are main characters.Dr Zai, J
''Taoism and Science: Cosmology, Evolution, Morality, Health and more''
. Ultravisum, 2015.
Taoist cosmology shares similar views with the
School of Naturalists The School of Naturalists or the School of Yin-yang () was a Warring States-era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements. Overview Zou Yan Zou Yan (; ; 305 BC240 BC) was an ancient Chinese philosopher best k ...
(Yinyang) which was headed by
Zou Yan Zou Yan (; ; 305 BC240 BC) was an ancient Chinese philosopher best known as the representative thinker of the Yin and Yang School (or School of Naturalists) during the Hundred Schools of Thought era in Chinese philosophy. Biography Zou Yan was a ...
(305–240 BCE). The school's tenets harmonized the concepts of the
Wu XingWuxing may refer to: *Wuxing (Chinese philosophy) File:VM Mu-Huo-Tu-Jin-Shui zhi Shen 4594.jpg, Tablet in the Temple of Heaven of Beijing, written in Chinese language, Chinese and Manchu language, Manchu, dedicated to the Wufang Shangdi, gods ...
(Five Elements) and
yin and yang In Ancient Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significan ...

yin and yang
. In this spirit, the universe is seen as being in a constant process of re-creating itself, as everything that exists is a mere aspect of , which "condensed, becomes life; diluted, it is indefinite potential". Qi is in a perpetual transformation between its condensed and diluted state. These two different states of qi, on the other hand, are embodiments of the abstract entities of yin and yang, two complementary extremes that constantly play against and with each other and one cannot exist without the other. Human beings are seen as a
microcosm Microcosm or macrocosm, also spelled mikrokosmos or makrokosmos, may refer to: Philosophy * Microcosm–macrocosm analogy The microcosm–macrocosm analogy (or, equivalently, macrocosm–microcosm analogy) refers to a historical view which posi ...
of the universe, and for example comprise the Wu Xing in form of the
zang-fu The zàng-fǔ () organs are functional entities stipulated by Traditional Chinese medicine Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a branch of traditional medicine in China. It has been described as "fraught with pseudoscience", and the majorit ...
organs. As a consequence, it is believed that deeper understanding of the universe can be achieved by understanding oneself.


Theology

Taoist theology can be defined as apophatic, given its philosophical emphasis on the formlessness and unknowable nature of the Tao, and the primacy of the "Way" rather than anthropomorphic concepts of
God In monotheism, monotheistic thought, God is conceived of as the supreme being, creator deity, creator, and principal object of Faith#Religious views, faith.Richard Swinburne, Swinburne, R.G. "God" in Ted Honderich, Honderich, Ted. (ed)''The Oxfo ...

God
. This is one of the core beliefs that nearly all the sects share. Taoist orders usually present the
Three Pure Ones The Three Pure Ones (), also translated as the Three Pure Pellucid Ones, the Three Pristine Ones, the Three Divine Teachers, the Three Clarities, or the Three Purities, are the Taoist Trinity, the three highest Gods in the Taoist pantheon. They ...
at the top of the pantheon of deities, visualizing the hierarchy emanating from the Tao.
Lao Tzu Lao Tzu (),"Lao Zi"
''
Jade Emperor The Jade Emperor ( or , ') in Chinese culture Chinese culture () is one of the world's oldest cultures, originating thousands of years ago. The culture prevails across a large geographical region in East Asia East Asia is the eastern ...
, derived from the main of the Three Purities, as a representation of the most high God. Persons from the history of Taoism, and people who are considered to have become immortals (''
xian Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals ( ...
''), are venerated as well by both clergy and laypeople. Despite these hierarchies of deities, traditional conceptions of Tao should not be confused with the Western
theism Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, supreme being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with ''deism'', the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism (a ...
. Being one with the Tao does not necessarily indicate a union with an eternal spirit in, for example, the Hindu sense.


Texts


''Tao Te Ching''

The ''Tao Te Ching'' or ''Taodejing'' is widely considered the most influential Taoist text. According to legend, it was written by
Lao Tzu Lao Tzu (),"Lao Zi"
''
bamboo tablets) date back to the late 4th century BCE. Throughout the history of religious Taoism, the ''Tao Te Ching'' has been used as a ritual text. The famous opening lines of the ''Tao Te Ching'' are:
()
"The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao"
()
"The name that can be named is not the eternal name."
There is significant, at times acrimonious, debate regarding which English translation of the Tao Te Ching is preferable, and which particular translation methodology is best. The ''Tao Te Ching'' is not thematically ordered. However, the main themes of the text are repeatedly expressed using variant formulations, often with only a slight difference. The leading themes revolve around the nature of Tao and how to attain it. Tao is said to be ineffable, and accomplishing great things through small means. Ancient commentaries on the ''Tao Te Ching'' are important texts in their own right. Perhaps the oldest one, the '' Heshang Gong'' commentary, was most likely written in the 2nd century CE. Other important commentaries include the one from
Wang Bi Wang Bi (226–249), courtesy name Fusi, was a Chinese philosopher and politician. Life Wang Bi served as a minor bureaucrat in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. He was married with a daughter when he died of sickness at the ...
and the
Xiang'er The ''Xiang’er'' (also ''Hsiang-erh''; Simplified Chinese: 想尔, Traditional Chinese: 想爾) is a commentary to the ''Dao De Jing The ''Tao Te Ching'' (, ; ), is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sag ...
.


''Zhuangzi''

The ''Zhuangzi'' (), named after its traditional author
ZhuangziZhuangzi may refer to: *Zhuangzi (book), ''Zhuangzi'' (book) (莊子), an ancient Chinese collection of anecdotes and fables, one of the foundational texts of Daoism **Zhuang Zhou (莊周), the historical figure known as "Master Zhuang" ("Zhuangzi") ...
, is a composite of writings from various sources, and is generally considered the most important of all Taoist writings. The commentator
Guo Xiang Guo Xiang (; born 252 AD – died 312 AD) is credited with the first and most important revision of the text known as the ''ZhuangziZhuangzi may refer to: *Zhuangzi (book), ''Zhuangzi'' (book) (莊子), an ancient Chinese collection of anecdote ...
(c. CE 300) helped establish the text as an important source for Taoist thought. The traditional view is that Zhuangzi himself wrote the first seven chapters (the "inner chapters") and his students and related thinkers were responsible for the other parts (the "outer" and "miscellaneous" chapters). The work uses anecdotes, parables and dialogues to express one of its main themes, that is aligning oneself to the laws of the natural world and "the way" of the elements.


''I Ching''

The
I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the at ...
was originally a divination system that had its origins around 1150 BCE. Although it predates the first mentions of Tao as an organized system of philosophy and religious practice, this text later became of philosophical importance to Taoism and Confucianism. The ''I Ching'' itself, shorn of its commentaries, consists of 64 combinations of 8 trigrams (called "hexagrams"), traditionally chosen by throwing coins or yarrow sticks, to give the diviner some idea of the situation at hand and, through reading of the "changing lines", some idea of what is developing. The 64 original notations of the hexagrams in the ''IChing'' can also be read as a meditation on how change occurs, so it assists Taoists with managing
yin and yang In Ancient Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significan ...

yin and yang
cycles as Laozi advocated in the ''Tao Te Ching'' (the oldest known version of this text was dated to 400 BCE). More recently as recorded in the 18th century, the Taoist master
Liu Yiming Liu Yiming (1734–1821) was a Chinese ophthalmologist, philosopher, and writer. He was one of the main representatives of Taoist Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical and spiritual tradition of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * S ...

Liu Yiming
continued to advocate this usage.e.g. Cleary, Thomas, tr
''The Taoist I Ching''
. Shambhala, 1986. p. 6.


''The Taoist Canon''

The Taoist Canon (, ''Treasury of Tao'') is also referred to as the ''Taotsang''. It was originally compiled during the Jin, Tang, and
Song A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called s ...
dynasties. The extant version was published during the
Ming Dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the Dynasties in Chinese history, ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynas ...

Ming Dynasty
. The Ming ''Taotsang'' includes almost 1500 texts. Following the example of the Buddhist
Tripiṭaka ''Tripiṭaka'' () or ''Tipiṭaka'' (), meaning "Triple Basket", is the traditional term for ancient collections of Buddhist sacred scriptures. The Pāli Canon The Pāli Canon is the standard collection of scripture Religio ...
, it is divided into three ''dong'' (, "caves", "grottoes"). They are arranged from "highest" to "lowest": # The '''' ("real" or "truth" ) grotto. Includes the Shangqing texts. # The ''Xuan'' ("mystery" ) grotto. Includes the Lingbao scriptures. # The '' Shen'' ("divine" ) grotto. Includes texts predating the Maoshan () revelations. ''Taoist'' generally do not consult published versions of the Taotsang, but individually choose, or inherit, texts included in the Taotsang. These texts have been passed down for generations from teacher to student. The
Shangqing School The Shangqing School (Chinese:上清), also known as Supreme Clarity or Highest Clarity is a Daoist movement that began during the aristocracy of the Jin Dynasty (265-420), Western Jin dynasty. Shangqing can be translated as either 'Supreme Clarity' ...
has a tradition of approaching Taoism through scriptural study. It is believed that by reciting certain texts often enough one will be rewarded with immortality.


Other texts

While the Tao Te Ching is most famous, there are many other important texts in traditional Taoism. '' Taishang Ganying Pian'' ("Treatise of the Exalted One on Response and Retribution") discusses sin and
ethic Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of min ...
s, and has become a popular morality tract in the last few centuries. It asserts that those in harmony with Tao will live long and fruitful lives. The wicked, and their descendants, will suffer and have shortened lives.


Symbols and images

The ''
taijitu A ''taijitu'' ( zh, t=太極圖, s=太极图, p=tàijítú, w=t'ai⁴chi²t'u²) is a symbol or diagram ( ''tú'') in Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States per ...

taijitu
'' (; commonly known as the "yin and yang symbol" or simply the "yin yang") and the '''' ("Eight Trigrams") have importance in Taoist symbolism. In this cosmology, the universe creates itself out of a primary chaos of material energy, organized into the cycles of Yin and Yang and formed into objects and lives. Yin is the receptive and Yang is the active principle, seen in all forms of change and difference such as the annual season cycles, the natural landscape, the formation of both men and women as characters, and sociopolitical history. While almost all Taoist organizations make use of it, its principles have influenced Confucian, Neo-Confucian or pan-Chinese theory. One can see this symbol as a decorative element on Taoist organization flags and logos, temple floors, or stitched into clerical robes. According to Song dynasty sources, it originated around the 10th century CE. Previously, a tiger and a dragon had symbolized yin and yang. Taoist temples may fly square or triangular flags. They typically feature mystical writing or diagrams and are intended to fulfill various functions including providing guidance for the spirits of the dead, bringing good fortune, increasing life span, etc. Other flags and banners may be those of the gods or immortals themselves. A zigzag with seven stars is sometimes displayed, representing the
Big Dipper The Big Dipper (American English, US, Canadian English, Canada) or the Plough (British English, UK, Hiberno-English, Ireland) is a large asterism (astronomy), asterism consisting of seven bright stars of the constellation Ursa Major; six of them ...
(or the Bushel, the Chinese equivalent). In the
Shang Dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes that ruled over China during much of its history. From ...

Shang Dynasty
of the 2nd millennium BCE, Chinese thought regarded the Big Dipper as a deity, while during the
Han Dynasty#REDIRECT Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynas ...

Han Dynasty
, it was considered a ''qi'' path of the circumpolar god, ''Taiyi''. Taoist temples in southern China and Taiwan may often be identified by their roofs, which feature
dragons A dragon is a large, serpentine, legendary creature A legendary or mythological creature, also called fabulous creature and fabulous beast, is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the ...

dragons
and made from multicolored ceramic tiles. They also stand for the harmony of yin and yang (with the phoenix representing yin). A related symbol is the flaming pearl, which may be seen on such roofs between two dragons, as well as on the hairpin of a
Celestial Master This is a list of the Celestial Masters, leaders of Zhengyi Dao, continuing Wudoumi Dao (Way of the Five Pecks of Rice). After the death of the 64th Celestial Master Zhang Yuanxian in 2008, controversy arose over the legitimate succession, with dif ...
. In general though, Chinese Taoist architecture lacks universal features that distinguish it from other structures.


Practices


Rituals

In ancient times, before the Taoism religion was founded, food would sometimes be set out as a
sacrifice Sacrifice is the offering of material possessions or the lives of animals or humans to a deity A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.mer ...

sacrifice
to the spirits of the deceased or the gods. This could include slaughtered animals, such as pigs and ducks, or fruit. The Taoist
Celestial Master This is a list of the Celestial Masters, leaders of Zhengyi Dao, continuing Wudoumi Dao (Way of the Five Pecks of Rice). After the death of the 64th Celestial Master Zhang Yuanxian in 2008, controversy arose over the legitimate succession, with dif ...
Zhang Taoling rejected food and
animal sacrifice Animal sacrifice is the ritual killing and offering of one or more animals, usually as part of a religious ritual or to appease or maintain favour with a deity. Animal sacrifices were common throughout Europe and the Ancient Near East until the sp ...
s to the Gods. He tore apart temples which demanded animal sacrifice and drove away its priests. This rejection of sacrifices has continued into the modern day, as Taoism Temples are not allowed to use animal sacrifices (with the exception of folk temples or local tradition.) Another form of sacrifice involves the burning of
joss paper Joss paper, also known as incense papers, are papercraft Paper models, also called card models or papercraft, are models constructed mainly from sheets of heavy paper Paper is a thin sheet material produced by mechanically and/or chemica ...
, or
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, on the assumption that images thus consumed by the fire will reappear—not as a mere image, but as the actual item—in the spirit world, making them available for revered ancestors and departed loved ones. The joss paper is mostly used when memorializing ancestors, such as done during the
Qingming The Qingming festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English (sometimes also called Chinese Memorial Day or Ancestors' Day), is a List of observances set by the Chinese calendar, traditional Chinese festival observed by the Han Chinese of ...
festival. Also on particular holidays, street parades take place. These are lively affairs which invariably involve firecrackers and flower-covered floats broadcasting traditional music. They also variously include
lion dance Lion dance () is a form of traditional dance Dance is a performing art art form, form consisting of sequences of movement, either improvised or purposefully selected. This movement has aesthetic and often symbolism (arts), symbolic value. ...

lion dance
s and
dragon dance Dragon dance () is a form of traditional dance Dance is a performing art art form, form consisting of sequences of movement, either improvised or purposefully selected. This movement has aesthetic and often symbolism (arts), symbolic va ...

dragon dance
s; human-occupied puppets (often of the " Seventh Lord" and " Eighth Lord"),
Kungfu Chinese martial arts, often named under the umbrella terms Kung fu (term), kung fu (; ), kuoshu () or wushu (), are Styles of Chinese martial arts, several hundred fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. These fighting st ...
-practicing and
palanquin The litter is a class of wheelless vehicles, a type of human-powered transport, for the transport of persons. Smaller litters may take the form of open chairs or beds carried by two or more carriers, some being enclosed for protection from the ...
s carrying god-images. The various participants are not considered performers, but rather possessed by the gods and spirits in question.
Fortune-telling Fortune telling is the practice of predicting information about a person's life. Melton, J. Gordon. (2008). ''The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena''. Visible Ink Press. pp. 115-116. The scope of fortune telling is in principle identical w ...
—including
astrology Astrology is a pseudoscience that claims to divination, divine information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the movements and relative positions of Celestial objects in astrology, celestial objects. Astrology has be ...
,
I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the at ...
, and other forms of
divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occult The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural ...

divination
—has long been considered a traditional Taoist pursuit.
Mediumship Mediumship is the practice of purportedly mediating communication between spirits of the dead and living human beings. Practitioners are known as "mediums" or "spirit mediums". There are different types of mediumship or spirit conduit (channeling ...
is also widely encountered in some sects. There is an academic and social distinction between martial forms of mediumship (such as '' tongji'') and the spirit-writing that is typically practiced through planchette writing.


Physical cultivation

A recurrent and important element of Taoism are rituals, exercises and substances aiming at aligning oneself spiritually with cosmic forces, at undertaking ecstatic spiritual journeys, or at improving physical health and thereby extending one's life, ideally to the point of immortality. Enlightened and immortal beings are referred to as
xian Xi'an ( , ; ; Chinese: ), sometimes romanized as Sian, is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters that are in larger uppercase or capitals ( ...
. A characteristic method aiming for longevity is Taoist alchemy. Already in very early Taoist scriptures—like the ''
Taiping Jing ''Taipingjing'' ("Scriptures of the Great Peace") is the name of several different Daoist texts. At least two works were known by this title: :*, 12 Chapters, contents unknown, author: Gan Zhongke :*, 170 Chapters, only 57 of which survive ...
'' and the ''
Baopuzi The ''Baopuzi'' (), written by the Jin dynasty scholar Ge Hong Ge Hong (; b. 283 - d. 343 or 364 ) was an Eastern Jin Dynasty scholar, and the author of '' Essays on Chinese Characters''. He is the originator of First Aid First aid is t ...

Baopuzi
''—alchemical formulas for achieving immortality were outlined. A number of martial arts traditions, particularly the ones falling under the category of
Neijia ''Neijia'' ( 內家) is a term in Chinese martial arts Chinese martial arts, often named under the umbrella term In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect o ...
(like
T'ai Chi Ch'uan Tai chi (), short for T'ai chi ch'üan or Tàijíquán ( zh, c=太極拳, labels=no), sometimes also known as "Shadowboxing Shadowboxing is an combat sport exercise in which a person throws punches at the air as though there is an oppon ...
, Pa Kwa Chang and
Xing Yi Quan Xing Yi Quan is classified as one of the internal Internal may refer to: *InternalityAn internality is the long-term benefit or cost to an individual that they do not consider when making the decision to consume a good or service. One way this ...
) embody Taoist principles to a significant extent, and some practitioners consider their art a means of practicing Taoism.


Society


Adherents

The number of Taoists is difficult to estimate, due to a variety of factors including defining Taoism. According to a survey of
religion in China The espouses , but many Chinese citizens, including (CPC) members, practice some kind of Chinese folk religion. Chinese civilization has historically long been a cradle and host to a variety of the most enduring - traditions of the w ...

religion in China
in the year 2010, the number of people practicing some form of
Chinese folk religion Chinese folk religion, also known as Chinese popular religion, is a general term covering a range of traditional religious practices of , including the . Vivienne Wee described it as "an empty bowl, which can variously be filled with the ...
is near to 950 million (70% of the Chinese).2010 Chinese Spiritual Life Survey, Purdue University's Center on Religion and Chinese Society. Data reported in Among these, 173 million (13%) claim an affiliation with Taoist practices. Furthermore, 12 million people claim to be "Taoists", a term traditionally used exclusively for initiates, priests and experts of Taoist rituals and methods. Most Chinese people and many others have been influenced in some way by Taoist traditions. Since the creation of the People's Republic of China, the government has encouraged a revival of Taoist traditions in codified settings. In 1956, the
Chinese Taoist Association Chinese Taoist Association (CTA ; ), founded in April 1957, is the main association of Taoism Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the ''Tao'' (, or ''Dao''). In Taos ...
was formed to administer the activities of all registered Taoist orders, and received official approval in 1957. It was disbanded during the
Cultural Revolution The Cultural Revolution, formally known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement Movement may refer to: Common uses * Movement (clockwork), the internal mechanism of a timepiece * Motion (physics), co ...
under
Mao Zedong Mao Zedong pronounced ; also Romanization of Chinese, romanised traditionally as Mao Tse-tung. (December 26, 1893 – September 9, 1976), also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary who was the Proclamation of the ...

Mao Zedong
, but was reestablished in 1980. The headquarters of the association are at the ''Baiyunguan'', or
White Cloud Temple The White Cloud Temple, also known as Baiyun Temple or the Abbey or Monastery of the White Clouds, is a Taoist temple and monastery located in Beijing Beijing ( ), Chinese postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Peking ( ), is t ...

White Cloud Temple
of
Beijing Beijing ( ), as Peking ( ), is the of the . It is the world's , with over 21 million residents within an of 16,410.5 km2 (6336 sq. mi.). It is located in , and is governed as a under the direct administration of the with .Figures ...

Beijing
, belonging to the Longmen branch of Quanzhen Taoism. Since 1980, many Taoist monasteries and temples have been reopened or rebuilt, both belonging to the Zhengyi or Quanzhen schools, and clergy
ordination Ordination is the process by which individuals are , that is, set apart and elevated from the class to the , who are thus then (usually by the composed of other clergy) to perform various religious . The process and ceremonies of ordination va ...

ordination
has been resumed. Taoist literature and art has influenced the cultures of
Korea Korea is a region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment (environmental ...
,
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...
, and
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...
. Organized Taoism seems not to have attracted a large non-Chinese following until modern times. In
Taiwan Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and N ...

Taiwan
, 7.5 million people (33% of the population) identify themselves as Taoists. Data collected in 2010 for religious demographics of
Hong Kong Hong Kong (; , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China on the ...

Hong Kong
and
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bor ...

Singapore
show that, respectively, 14% and 11% of the people of these cities identify as Taoists. Followers of Taoism are also present in Chinese émigré communities outside Asia. In addition, it has attracted followers with no Chinese heritage. For example, in Brazil there are Taoist temples in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro which are affiliated with the Taoist Society of China. Membership of these temples is entirely of non-Chinese ancestry.


Art and poetry

Throughout Chinese history, there have been many examples of art being influenced by Taoist thought. Notable painters influenced by Taoism include
Wu Wei ''Wu wei'' () is a concept literally meaning "inexertion", "inaction", or "effortless action". ''Wu wei'' emerged in the Spring and Autumn period, and from Confucianism, to become an important concept in Chinese statecraft and Taoism, and was m ...
, Huang Gongwang,
Mi Fu Mi Fu (, also given as Mi Fei, 1051–1107)Barnhart: 373. His courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the East A ...
, Muqi Fachang,
Shitao Shitao or Shi Tao (; other department Yuan Ji (), 1642–1707), born into the Ming dynasty#REDIRECT Ming dynasty {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation ... imperial clan as Zhu Ruoji (朱若極), was one Chi ...
, Ni Zan, T'ang Mi, and Wang Tseng-tsu. Taoist arts represents the diverse regions, dialects, and time spans that are commonly associated with Taoism. Ancient Taoist art was commissioned by the aristocracy; however, scholars masters and adepts also directly engaged in the art themselves.


Political aspects

Taoism never had a unified political theory. While Huang-Lao's positions justified a strong emperor as the legitimate ruler, the "primitivists" (like in the chapters 8-11 of the Zhuangzi) argued strongly for a radical
anarchism Anarchism is a political philosophy Political philosophy or political theory is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...

anarchism
. A more moderate position is presented in the Inner Chapters of the
ZhuangziZhuangzi may refer to: *Zhuangzi (book), ''Zhuangzi'' (book) (莊子), an ancient Chinese collection of anecdotes and fables, one of the foundational texts of Daoism **Zhuang Zhou (莊周), the historical figure known as "Master Zhuang" ("Zhuangzi") ...
in which the political life is presented with disdain and some kind of pluralism or perspectivism is preferred. The syncretist position in texts like the Huainanzi and some Outer Chapters of the Zhuangzi blended some Taoist positions with Confucian ones.


Relations with other religions and philosophies

Many scholars believe Taoism arose as a countermovement to
Confucianism Confucianism, also known as Ruism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC ...
. The philosophical terms ''Tao'' and ''De'' are indeed shared by both Taoism and Confucianism.
ZhuangziZhuangzi may refer to: *Zhuangzi (book), ''Zhuangzi'' (book) (莊子), an ancient Chinese collection of anecdotes and fables, one of the foundational texts of Daoism **Zhuang Zhou (莊周), the historical figure known as "Master Zhuang" ("Zhuangzi") ...
explicitly criticized Confucian and
Mohist Mohism or Moism () was an ancient Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characteri ...
tenets in his work. In general, Taoism rejects the Confucian emphasis on
rituals A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gesture A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication or non-vocal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning ...
, hierarchical social order, and conventional morality, and favors "naturalness", spontaneity, and individualism instead. The entry of
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
into China was marked by significant interaction and
syncretism Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs and various schools of thought A school of thought, or intellectual tradition, is the perspective of a group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook of a philosophy, Lis ...
with Taoism. Originally seen as a kind of "foreign Taoism", Buddhism's scriptures were translated into Chinese using the Taoist vocabulary. Representatives of early Chinese Buddhism, like
Sengzhao Sengzhao (or Seng-Chao) (; ja, 僧肇, ''Sōjō''; 384–414) was a Chinese Buddhist Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behavio ...
and
Tao Sheng Daosheng (; ca. 360–434), or Zhu Daosheng (), was an eminent Six Dynasties era Chinese Buddhist scholar. He is known for advocating the concepts of sudden enlightenment and the universality of the Buddha nature. Life Born in Pengcheng, Daoshe ...
, knew and were deeply influenced by the Taoist keystone texts. Taoism especially shaped the development of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, introducing elements like the concept of ''naturalness'', distrust of scripture and text, and emphasis on embracing "this life" and living in the "every-moment". On the other hand, Taoism also incorporated Buddhist elements during the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
. Examples of such influence include monasteries, vegetarianism, prohibition of alcohol, the doctrine of emptiness, and collecting scripture in tripartite organization in certain sects. Ideological and political rivals for centuries, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism deeply influenced one another. For example,
Wang Bi Wang Bi (226–249), courtesy name Fusi, was a Chinese philosopher and politician. Life Wang Bi served as a minor bureaucrat in the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period. He was married with a daughter when he died of sickness at the ...
, one of the most influential philosophical commentators on Lao Tzu (and the ''
I Ching The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination Divination (from Latin ''divinare'', 'to foresee, to foretell, to predict, to prophesy') is the at ...
''), was a Confucian. The three rivals also share some similar values, with all three embracing a
humanist Humanism is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or some ...

humanist
philosophy emphasizing moral behavior and human perfection. In time, most Chinese people identified to some extent with all three traditions simultaneously.Windows on Asia
Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University.
This became institutionalized when aspects of the three schools were synthesized in the
Neo-Confucian Neo-Confucianism (, often shortened to ''lixue'' 理學, literally "School of Principle") is a moral, ethical, and metaphysical Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring ...
school. Some authors have undertaken comparative studies between Taoism and
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic religions, are a group of Semitic-originated religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of ...

Christianity
. This has been of interest for students of
history of religion The history of religion refers to the written record of human religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, ...
such as J. J. M. de Groot, among others. The comparison of the teachings of Lao Tzu and
Jesus of Nazareth Jesus, likely from he, יֵשׁוּעַ, translit=Yēšūaʿ, label=Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it ...
has been done by several authors such as Martin Aronson, and Toropov & Hansen (2002), who believe that they have parallels that should not be ignored. In the opinion of J. Isamu Yamamoto the main difference is that Christianity preaches a
personal God #REDIRECT Personal god A personal god, or personal goddess, is a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a ...
while Taoism does not. Yet, a number of authors, including
Lin Yutang Lin Yutang ( ; October 10, 1895 – March 26, 1976) was a Chinese inventor, linguist, novelist, philosopher, and translator. His informal but polished style in both Chinese and English made him one of the most influential writers of his generati ...

Lin Yutang
, have argued that some moral and ethical tenets of these religions are similar. In neighboring
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...
, Taoist values have been shown to adapt to social norms and formed emerging sociocultural beliefs together with Confucianism.


See also

*
Baopuzi The ''Baopuzi'' (), written by the Jin dynasty scholar Ge Hong Ge Hong (; b. 283 - d. 343 or 364 ) was an Eastern Jin Dynasty scholar, and the author of '' Essays on Chinese Characters''. He is the originator of First Aid First aid is t ...

Baopuzi
*
Chinese ritual mastery traditions Chinese ritual mastery traditions, also referred to as ritual teachings (, sometimes rendered as "Faism"),Yu-chi Tsao, 2012. or Folk Taoism (), or also Red Taoism (mostly in east China and Taiwan), constitute a large group of China, Chinese orders ...
*
Dragon Gate Taoism The Dragon Gate sect (lóngménpài 龍門派) of the Complete Reality School (全真派) of Taoism incorporates elements of Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the Major religious groups#Largest religions, world's fourth-largest religion with over ...
* Five precepts (Taoism) * Ten precepts (Taoism) *
Chinese culture Chinese culture () is one of the world's oldest cultures, originating thousands of years ago. The culture prevails across a large geographical region in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's large ...
*
Taiji Tai chi (), short for T'ai chi ch'üan or Tàijíquán ( zh, c=太極拳, labels=no), sometimes also known as "Shadowboxing Shadowboxing is an combat sport exercise in which a person throws punches at the air as though there is an oppon ...

Taiji
*
Bagua The Bagua, Pakua or Palgwae are eight symbols used in Taoist Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical and spiritual tradition of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Repu ...

Bagua
*
Taoist coin charm Taoist coin charms (Traditional Chinese: 道教品壓生錢; Simplified Chinese: 道教品压生钱; Pinyin: ''dào jiào pǐn yā shēng qián''), or ''Daoist coin charms'' are a family of categories of Chinese numismatic charm, Chinese and Vietna ...
* Hong Kong Taoist Association * Lingbao School * Neidan * Pu (Taoism) * Qingjing Jing * Quanzhen Taoism *
Shangqing School The Shangqing School (Chinese:上清), also known as Supreme Clarity or Highest Clarity is a Daoist movement that began during the aristocracy of the Jin Dynasty (265-420), Western Jin dynasty. Shangqing can be translated as either 'Supreme Clarity' ...
*
Tao Te Ching The ''Tao Te Ching'' (, ; ) is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. The text's authorship, date of composition and date of compilation are debated. The oldest excavated portion dates back to the la ...
* Taoism in Hong Kong * Taoism in Singapore * Taoism in Malaysia * Taoism in Vietnam * Taoist Church of Italy * Taoist diet * Taoist Tai Chi * Taoist music * Taoist schools *
Way of the Celestial Masters The Way of the Celestial Masters is a Chinese Daoist movement that was founded by Zhang Daoling in 142 CE. They rebelled against the Han Dynasty and won their independence in 194. At its height, the movement controlled a theocratic state in what i ...
* Way of the Five Pecks of Rice * Yao Taoism * Zhengyi Taoism * Zhizha


References


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

A Guide to the many works of Taoist translator Thomas Cleary
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * —with Pinyin transcription, interlinear and literary translation, contains a complete dictionary of the book Zhuangzi and a concordance to Lao Tzu. ;Popular (non-academic) interpretations of Taoism * * * * * * The Tao of Steve, a 2000 film directed by Jenniphr Goodman and starring Donal Logue.


External links


BBC religions – Taoism
* *
Early Taoist texts
– Chinese Text Project
FYSK Taoist Culture Centre Database



Tao Directory


at the Internet Sacred Text Archive
Wikipedia of TaoismCollection: "Daoism/Taoism"
from the University of Michigan Museum of Art {{Portal bar, China, Philosophy Taoism, Chinese astrology Chinese folk religion Classical Chinese philosophy Dualism in cosmology