The Info List - Tao

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TAO or DAO (English pronunciation: /daʊ/ , DOW ; from Chinese : 道; pinyin : Dào (help ·info )) is a Chinese word signifying 'way', 'path', 'route', 'road', 'choose', 'key' or sometimes more loosely 'doctrine', 'principle' or 'holistic science ' . Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao
is the intuitive knowing of "life" that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through actual living experience of one's everyday being. The Tao
reverses the typical order of values: it emphasizes the weak over the strong, the feminine over the masculine, the water that wears down the rock, the space between things rather than the things themselves.

Laozi in the Tao Te Ching explains that the Tao
is not a 'name' for a 'thing' but the underlying natural order of the Universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe due to it being non conceptual yet evident' in one's being of aliveness. The Tao
is "eternally nameless" ( Tao
Te Ching-32. Laozi ) and to be distinguished from the countless 'named' things which are considered to be its manifestations, the reality of life before its descriptions of it.

The Tao
lends its name to the religious tradition ( Wade–Giles , Tao Chiao; Pinyin
, Daojiao) and philosophical tradition (Wade–Giles, Tao
chia; Pinyin, Daojia) that are both referred to in English with the single term Taoism


* 1 Description and uses of the concept

* 1.1 De

* 2 Religious, philosophical, and cultural interpretations

* 2.1 Taoist interpretations

* 2.1.1 Diversity of views

* 2.2 Confucian interpretations * 2.3 Buddhist interpretations * 2.4 Neo-Confucian interpretations * 2.5 Christian Interpretations

* 3 Linguistic aspects

* 3.1 Characters * 3.2 Etymology
* 3.3 Meanings * 3.4 Etymologies * 3.5 Loanwords

* 4 See also * 5 Notes * 6 Citations

* 7 Bibliography

* 7.1 Further reading


The ba gua , a symbol commonly used to represent the Tao
and its pursuit.

The word "Tao" (道) has a variety of meanings in both ancient and modern Chinese language. Aside from its purely prosaic use to mean road, channel, path, principle, or similar, the word has acquired a variety of differing and often confusing metaphorical, philosophical and religious uses. In most belief systems, the word is used symbolically in its sense of 'way' as the 'right' or 'proper' way of existence, or in the context of ongoing practices of attainment or of the full coming into being, or the state of enlightenment or spiritual perfection that is the outcome of such practices.

Some scholars make sharp distinctions between moral or ethical usage of the word "Tao" that is prominent in Confucianism and religious Taoism
and the more metaphysical usage of the term used in philosophical Taoism
and most forms of Mahayana Buddhism ; others maintain that these are not separate usages or meanings, seeing them as mutually inclusive and compatible approaches to defining the principle. The original use of the term was as a form of praxis rather than theory – a term used as a convention to refer to something that otherwise cannot be discussed in words – and early writings such as the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching make pains to distinguish between conceptions of the Tao
(sometimes referred to as "named Tao") and the Tao
itself (the "unnamed Tao"), which cannot be expressed or understood in language. Liu Da asserts that the Tao
is properly understood as an experiential and evolving concept, and that there are not only cultural and religious differences in the interpretation of the Tao, but personal differences that reflect the character of individual practitioners.

The Tao
can be roughly thought of as the flow of the Universe, or as some essence or pattern behind the natural world that keeps the Universe balanced and ordered. It is related to the idea of qi , the essential energy of action and existence. The Tao
is a non-dualistic principle – it is the greater whole from which all the individual elements of the Universe derive. Keller considers it similar to the negative theology of Western scholars, but the Tao
is rarely an object of direct worship, being treated more like the Hindu
concepts of karma or dharma than as a divine object. The Tao
is more commonly expressed in the relationship between wu (void or emptiness, in the sense of wuji ) and yinyang (the natural dynamic balance between opposites), leading to its central principle of wu wei (non-action, or action without force).

The Tao
is usually described in terms of elements of nature, and in particular as similar to water. Like water it is undifferentiated, endlessly self-replenishing, soft and quiet but immensely powerful, and impassively generous. Much of Taoist philosophy centers on the cyclical continuity of the natural world, and its contrast to the linear, goal-oriented actions of human beings.

In all its uses, the Tao
is considered to have ineffable qualities that prevent it from being defined or expressed in words. It can, however, be known or experienced, and its principles (which can be discerned by observing Nature) can be followed or practiced. Much of East Asian philosophical writing focuses on the value of adhering to the principles of the Tao
and the various consequences of failing to do so.

The Tao
was shared with Confucianism , Chán and Zen
and more broadly throughout East Asian philosophy and religion in general. In Taoism, Chinese Buddhism
and Confucianism, the object of spiritual practice is to 'become one with the Tao' ( Tao
Te Ching) or to harmonise one's will with Nature (cf. Stoicism ) in order to achieve 'effortless action' ( Wu wei ). This involves meditative and moral practices. Important in this respect is the Taoist concept of De (德; virtue). In Confucianism and religious forms of Taoism, these are often explicitly moral/ethical arguments about proper behavior, while Buddhism
and more philosophical forms of Taoism
usually refer to the natural and mercurial outcomes of action (comparable to karma ). The Tao
is intrinsically related to the concepts yin and yang (pinyin : yīnyáng), where every action creates counter-actions as unavoidable movements within manifestations of the Tao, and proper practice variously involves accepting, conforming to, or working with these natural developments.


Main article: De (Chinese)

DE (德 "power; virtue; integrity") is the term generally used to refer to proper adherence to the Tao; De is the active living or cultivation of the way. Particular things (things with names) that manifest from the Tao
have their own inner nature that they follow, in accordance with the Tao, and the following of this inner nature is De. Wuwei ( Pinyin
: wúwéi) or 'NATURALNESS\' are contingent on understanding and conforming to this inner nature, which is interpreted variously from a personal, individual nature to a more generalized notion of human nature within the greater Universe.

Historically, the concept of De differed significantly between Taoists and Confucianists. Confucianism was largely a moral system emphasizing the values of humaneness, righteousness, and filial duty, and so conceived De in terms of obedience to rigorously defined and codified social rules. Taoists took a broader, more naturalistic/metaphysical view on the relationship between humankind and the Universe, and considered social rules to be at best a derivative reflection of the natural and spontaneous interactions between people, and at worst calcified structure that inhibited naturalness and created conflict. This led to some philosophical and political conflicts between Taoists and Confucianisms. Several sections of the works attributed to Chuang Tzu are dedicated to critiques of the failures of Confucianism.



See also: Taoism

means a road, path, way; and hence, the way in which one does something; method, doctrine, principle. The Way of Heaven, for example, is ruthless; when autumn comes 'no leaf is spared because of its beauty, no flower because of its fragrance'. The Way of Man means, among other things, procreation; and eunuchs are said to be 'far from the Way of Man'. Chu Tao
is 'the way to be a monarch', i.e. the art of ruling. Each school of philosophy has its tao, its doctrine of the way in which life should be ordered. Finally in a particular school of philosophy whose followers came to be called Taoists, tao meant 'the way the universe works'; and ultimately something very like God, in the more abstract and philosophical sense of that term.

The Tao
is what gives Taoism
its English name, in both its philosophical and religious forms. The Tao
is the fundamental and central concept of these schools of thought. Taoism
perceives the Tao as a natural order underlying the substance and activity of the Universe. Language and the "naming" of the Tao
is regarded negatively within Taoism; the Tao
fundamentally exists and operates outside the realm of differentiation and linguistic constraints.

Diversity Of Views

The Tao
causes the people to be fully in accord with the ruler. —  Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
, Art of War

There is no single orthodox Taoist view of the Tao. All forms of Taoism
center around Tao
and De, but there is a broad variety of distinct interpretations among sects and even individuals within the same sect. Despite this diversity, there are some clear, common patterns and trends within Taoism
and its branches.

The diversity of Taoist interpretations of the Tao
can be seen across four texts representative of major streams of thought within Taoism. All four texts are used in modern Taoism
with varying acceptance and emphasis among sects. The Tao Te Ching is the oldest text and representative of a speculative and philosophical approach to the Tao. The Tao
T\'i Lun is an eighth century exegesis of the Tao
Te Ching, written from a well-educated and religious viewpoint, that represents the traditional scholarly perspective. The devotional perspective of the Tao
is expressed in the Ch\'ing Ching Ching , a liturgical text that was originally composed during the Han dynasty
Han dynasty
and is used as a hymnal in religious Taoism, especially among eremites . The Zhuangzi (also spelled Chuang Tzu) uses literary devices such as tales, allegories, and narratives to relate the Tao
to the reader, illustrating a metaphorical method of viewing and expressing the Tao. A Taoist monk practicing Chinese calligraphy with water on stone. Water calligraphy, like sand mandalas , evokes the ephemeral nature of physical reality.

The forms and variations of religious Taoism
are incredibly diverse. They integrate a broad spectrum of academic, ritualistic, supernatural, devotional, literary, and folk practices with a multitude of results. Buddhism
and Confucianism particularly affected the way many sects of Taoism
framed, approached, and perceived the Tao. The multitudinous branches of religious Taoism
accordingly regard the Tao, and interpret writings about it, in innumerable ways. Thus, outside of a few broad similarities, it is difficult to provide an accurate yet clear summary of their interpretation of the Tao.

A central tenet within most varieties of religious Taoism
is that the Tao
is ever-present, but must be manifested, cultivated, and/or perfected in order to be realized. It is the source of the Universe and the seed of its primordial purity resides in all things. The manifestation of the Tao
is De, which rectifies and invigorates the world with the Tao's radiance.

Alternatively, philosophical Taoism
regards the Tao
as a non-religious concept; it is not a deity to be worshiped, nor is it a mystical Absolute in the religious sense of the Hindu
. Joseph Wu remarked of this conception of the Tao, "Dao is not religiously available; nor is it even religiously relevant." The writings of Lao Tzu and Chang Tzu are tinged with esoteric tones and approach humanism and naturalism as paradoxes. In contrast to the esotericism typically found in religious systems, the Tao
is not transcendent to the self nor is mystical attainment an escape from the world in philosophical Taoism. The self steeped in the Tao
is the self grounded in its place within the natural Universe. A person dwelling within the Tao
excels in themselves and their activities.

However, this distinction is complicated by hermeneutic (interpretive) difficulties in the categorization of Taoist schools, sects and movements. Some scholars believe that there is no distinction between Daojia and Daojiao. According to Kirkland, "most scholars who have seriously studied Daoism, both in Asia and the West, have finally abandoned the simplistic dichotomy of Dàojiā and Dàojiào, 'philosophical Daoism' and 'religious Daoism.'"


See also: Confucianism

The Dao, or Way, of Confucius can be said to be 'Truth'. Confucianism regards the Way, or Truth, as concordant with a particular approach to life, politics, and tradition. It is held as equally necessary and well regarded as De (virtue ) and ren (humanity ). Confucius presents a humanistic 'Dao'. He only rarely speaks of the t'ien Dao (Way of Heaven). An influential early Confucian, Hsiin Tzu, explicitly noted this contrast. Though he acknowledged the existence and celestial importance of the Way of Heaven, he insisted that the Dao principally concerns human affairs.

As a formal religious concept in Confucianism, Dao is the Absolute towards which the faithful move. In Zhongyong (The Doctrine of the Mean), harmony with the Absolute is equivalent to integrity and sincerity. The Great Learning expands on this concept explaining that the Way illuminates virtue, improves the people, and resides within the purest morality. During the Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
, Han Yu further formalized and defined Confucian beliefs as an apologetic response to Buddhism
. He emphasized the ethics of the Way. He explicitly paired 'Dao' and 'De', focusing on humane nature and righteousness. He also framed and elaborated on a "dàotǒng" (tradition of the Way) in order to reject the traditions of Buddhism.


See also: Chinese Buddhism
and Zen

first started to spread in China during the first century AD and was experiencing a golden age of growth and maturation by the fourth century AD. Hundreds of collections of Pali
and Sanskrit
texts were translated into Chinese by Buddhist monks within a short period of time. Dhyana was translated as ch\'an (and later as zen), giving Zen
its name. The use of Chinese concepts, such as Dao, that were close to Buddhist ideas and terms helped spread the religion and make it more amenable to the Chinese people. However, the differences between the Sanskrit
and Chinese terminology lead to some initial misunderstandings and the eventual development of East Asian Buddhism as a distinct entity. As part of this process, many Chinese words introduced their rich semantic and philosophical associations into Buddhism, including the use of 'Dao' for central concepts and tenets of Buddhism.

Pai-chang Huai-hai told a student who was grappling with difficult portions of suttas , "Take up words in order to manifest meaning and you'll obtain 'meaning'. Cut off words and meaning is emptiness. Emptiness is the Dao. The Dao is cutting off words and speech." Ch'an (Zen) Buddhists regard the Dao as synonymous with both the Buddhist Path (marga ) and the results of it; the Eightfold Path and Buddhist enlightenment (satori ). Pai-chang's statement plays upon this usage in the context of the fluid and varied Chinese usage of 'Dao'. Words and meaning are used to refer to rituals and practice. The 'emptiness' refers to the Buddhist concept of sunyata . Finding the Dao and Buddha-nature is not simply a matter of formulations, but an active response to the Four Noble Truths
Four Noble Truths
that cannot be fully expressed or conveyed in words and concrete associations. The use of 'Dao' in this context refers to the literal 'way' of Buddhism, the return to the universal source, dharma , proper meditation, and nirvana , among other associations. 'Dao' is commonly used in this fashion by Chinese Buddhists, heavy with associations and nuanced meanings.


See also: Neoconfucianism

During the Song dynasty
Song dynasty
, Neo-Confucians regarded Dao as the purest thing-in-itself . Shao Yong
Shao Yong
regarded the Dao as the origin of heaven, earth, and everything within them. In contrast, Zhang Zai
Zhang Zai
presented a vitalistic Dao that was the fundamental component or effect of ch\'i , the motive energy behind life and the world. A number of later scholars adopted this interpretation, such as Tai Chen during the Qing Dynasty .

Zhu Xi
Zhu Xi
, Cheng Ho , and Cheng Yi perceived the Dao in the context of li (Principle) and t'ien li (the Principle of Heaven). Cheng Hao regarded the fundamental matter of li, and thus Dao, to be humaneness. Developing compassion, altruism, and other humane virtues is the following of the Way. Cheng Yi followed this interpretation, elaborating on this perspective of Dao through teachings about yin-yang interactions , the cultivation and preservation of life; and the axiom of a morally just universe.

In total, the Dao is equated with the Absolute. Wang Fuzhi expressed the Dao as the tai chi , The Great Ultimate, as well as the road leading to it. Nothing exists apart from the Principle of Heaven in Neo-Confucianism. The Way is contained within all things. Thus, the religious life is not an elite or special journey for Neo-Confucians. The normal, mundane life is the path that leads to the Absolute, because the Absolute is contained within the mundane objects and events of daily life.


See also: Christianity

Noted Christian author C.S. Lewis used the word Tao
to describe "the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, the kind of thing the Universe is and the kind of things we are." He asserted that every religion and philosophy contains foundations of universal ethics as an attempt to line up with the Tao—the way mankind was designed to be. In Lewis' thinking, God
created the Tao
and fully displayed it through the person of Jesus
Christ .

Also the Greek word used in the New Testament
New Testament
for the Way is ὁδός (hodos). Here the Way refers to the path of righteousness and salvation as revealed through Christ .

In Chinese translations of the New Testament
New Testament
, λόγος (logos ) is translated with the Chinese word dao (道) (e.g. John 1:1), indicating that the translators considered the concept of Tao
to be somewhat equivalent to logos in Greek philosophy .


The term dao 道 is analyzable in terms of Chinese characters, alternate dào "way" or dǎo "guide" pronunciations and meanings, a possible Proto-Indo-European etymology , and loanwords such as English Dao or dao. Bronze script for dao 道 Large seal script for dao 道 Small seal script for dao 道


Dao is written with the Chinese character 道 in both Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese . It typifies the most common Chinese character classification of "radical-phonetic" or "phono-semantic" graphs, which compound a "radical " or "signific" (roughly providing semantic information) with a "phonetic " (suggesting ancient pronunciation).

Dao 道 graphically combines the chuo 辶 (or 辵) "go" radical and shou 首 "head" phonetic. Furthermore, dao 道 is the phonetic element in dao 導 "guide; lead" (with the cun 寸 "thumb; hand" radical) and dao 檤 "a tree name" (with the mu 木 "tree; wood" radical).

The traditional interpretation of the 道 character, dating back to the (121 CE) Shuowen Jiezi dictionary, was a rare huiyi 會意 "compound ideogram" or "ideogrammic compound ". The combination of chuo 辶 "go" and shou 首 "head" (numbers 162 and 185 in the Kangxi radicals ) signified a "head going" or "to lead the way".

Dao is graphically distinguished between its earliest nominal meaning of dao 道 "way; road; path;" and the later verbal sense of "say". It should also be contrasted with dao 導 "lead the way; guide; conduct; direct; ". The Simplified character 导 for dao 導 has si 巳 "6th of the 12 Earthly Branches " in place of dao 道.

The earliest written forms of dao are bronzeware script and seal script characters from Zhou Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
(1045–256 BCE) bronzes and writings. These ancient dao characters more clearly depict the shou 首 "head" element as hair above a face. Some variants interchange the chuo 辵 "go; advance" radical with the xing 行 "go; road" radical, with the original bronze "crossroads" depiction written in the seal character with two 彳 and 亍 "footprints".

Bronze scripts for dao 道 occasionally include an element of shou 手 "hand" or cun 寸 "thumb; hand", which occurs in dao 導 "lead". The linguist Peter A. Boodberg explained,

This "tao with the hand element" is usually identified with the modern character導 tao < d'ôg, "to lead," "guide," "conduct," and considered to be a derivative or verbal cognate of the noun tao, "way," "path." The evidence just summarized would indicate rather that "tao with the hand" is but a variant of the basic tao and that the word itself combined both nominal and verbal aspects of the etymon. This is supported by textual examples of the use of the primary tao in the verbal sense "to lead" (e. g., Analects
1.5; 2.8) and seriously undermines the unspoken assumption implied in the common translation of Tao
as "way" that the concept is essentially a nominal one. Tao would seem, then, to be etymologically a more dynamic concept than we have made it translation-wise. It would be more appropriately rendered by "lead way" and "lode" ("way," "course," "journey," "leading," "guidance"; cf. "lodestone" and "lodestar"), the somewhat obsolescent deverbal noun from "to lead."

These Confucian Analects
citations of dao verbally meaning "to guide; to lead" are: "The Master said, 'In guiding a state of a thousand chariots, approach your duties with reverence and be trustworthy in what you say" and "The Master said, 'Guide them by edicts, keep them in line with punishments, and the common people will stay out of trouble but will have no sense of shame."


In Modern Standard Chinese
Modern Standard Chinese
, dao 道's pronunciations are tonally differentiated between 4th falling tone dào "way; path" and 3rd dipping tone dǎo (usually written 導) "guide; lead".

Besides these common 4th and 3rd tonal specifications dào 道 "way" and dǎo 道 (or 導) "guide", 道 has a rare 1st level tone dāo pronunciation in the regional idiomatic expression shénshendāodāo 神神道道 "odd; bizarre". This reduplication of shen 神 "spirit; god" and dao occurs in Northeast China
Northeast China

In Middle Chinese
Middle Chinese
(ca. 6th–10th centuries CE) tone name categories, 道 and 道/導 were qusheng 去聲 "departing tone" and shangsheng 上聲 "rising tone". Historical linguists have reconstructed Middle 道 "way" and 導 "guide" as d'âu- and d'âu: ( Bernhard Karlgren
Bernhard Karlgren
), dau and dau (Zhou Fagao), daw' and dawh ( Edwin G. Pulleyblank , "Early Middle"), dawX and daws (William H. Baxter), and dâuB and dâuC (Axel Schuessler).

In Old Chinese
Old Chinese
(ca. 7th–3rd centuries BCE) pronunciations, reconstructions for 道 "way" and 道/導 "guide" are *d'ôg (Karlgren), *dəw (Zhou), *dəgwx and *dəgwh ( Li Fanggui ), *luʔ (Baxter), and *lûʔ and *lûh (Schuessler).


The word dao 道 has many meanings. For example, the Chinese Hanyu Da Zidian dictionary defines 39 meanings for dào 道 "way; path" and 6 for dǎo 道 (導) "guide; lead".

John DeFrancis 's exemplary Chinese-English dictionary gives twelve meanings for dào 道 "way; path; say", three for dǎo 道 (or 導) "guide; lead", and one for dāo 道 in an "odd, bizarre" idiomatic expression . Note that brackets clarify abbreviations and ellipsis marks omitted usage examples.

2DàO 道 N. road; path ◆M. ① (for rivers/topics/etc.) ② (for a course (of food); a streak (of light); etc.) ◆V. ① say; speak; talk (introducing direct quote, novel style) … ② think; suppose ◆B.F. ① channel ② way; reason; principle ③ doctrine ④ Daoism ⑤ line ⑥〈hist.〉 ⑦ district; circuit canal; passage; tube ⑧ say (polite words) … See also 4dǎo, 4dāo

4DǎO 导/道 B.F. ① guide; lead … ② transmit; conduct … ③ instruct; direct … 4DāO 道 in shénshendāodāo … 神神道道 R.F. 〈topo.〉 odd; fantastic; bizarre


The etymological linguistic origins of dao "way; path" depend upon its Old Chinese
Old Chinese
pronunciation, which scholars have tentatively reconstructed as *d'ôg, *dəgwx, *dəw, *luʔ, and *lûʔ.

Boodberg noted that the shou 首 "head" phonetic in the dao 道 character was not merely phonetic but "etymonic", analogous with English to head meaning "to lead" and "to tend in a certain direction," "ahead," "headway".

Paronomastically, tao is equated with its homonym 蹈 tao < d'ôg, "to trample," "tread," and from that point of view it is nothing more than a "treadway," "headtread," or "foretread "; it is also occasionally associated with a near synonym (and possible cognate) 迪 ti < d'iôk, "follow a road," "go along," "lead," "direct"; "pursue the right path"; a term with definite ethical overtones and a graph with an exceedingly interesting phonetic, 由 yu < djôg," "to proceed from." The reappearance of C162 "walk" in ti with the support of C157 "foot" in tao, "to trample," "tread," should perhaps serve us as a warning not to overemphasize the headworking functions implied in tao in preference to those of the lower extremities.

Victor H. Mair proposes a Proto-Indo-European etymology for dao 道, supported by numerous cognates in Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
, and semantically similar Arabic and Hebrew words.

The archaic pronunciation of Tao
sounded approximately like drog or dorg. This links it to the Proto-Indo-European root drogh (to run along) and Indo-European dhorg (way, movement). Related words in a few modern Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
are Russian doroga (way, road), Polish droga (way, road), Czech dráha (way, track), Serbo-Croatian
draga (path through a valley), and Norwegian dialect drog (trail of animals; valley). …. The nearest Sanskrit
(Old Indian) cognates to Tao
(drog) are dhrajas (course, motion) and dhraj (course). The most closely related English words are "track" and "trek", while "trail" and "tract" are derived from other cognate Indo-European roots. Following the Way, then, is like going on a cosmic trek. Even more unexpected than the panoply of Indo-European cognates for Tao
(drog) is the Hebrew root d-r-g for the same word and Arabic t-r-q, which yields words meaning "track, path, way, way of doing things" and is important in Islamic philosophical discourse.

Axel Schuessler's etymological dictionary presents two possibilities for the tonal morphology of dào 道 "road; way; method" < Middle Chinese dâuB < Old Chinese
Old Chinese
*lûʔ and dào 道 or 導 "to go along; bring along; conduct; explain; talk about" < Middle dâuC < Old *lûh. Either dào 道 "the thing which is doing the conducting" is a Tone B (shangsheng 上聲 "rising tone") "endoactive noun" derivation from dào 導 "conduct", or dào 導 is a Later Old Chinese
Old Chinese
(Warring States period ) "general tone C" (qusheng 去聲 "departing tone") derivation from dào 道 "way". For a possible etymological connection, Schuessler notes the ancient Fangyan dictionary defines yu < *lokh 裕 and lu < *lu 猷 as Eastern Qi State dialectal words meaning dào < *lûʔ 道 "road".


Many languages have borrowed and adapted Chinese dao 道 "the way" as a loanword .

In Chinese , this character 道 is pronounced as Cantonese
dou6 and Taiwanese to7. In Sino-Xenic languages, 道 is pronounced as Japanese dō, tō, or michi; Korean do or to; and Vietnamese đạo, dạo, or nhạo.

Since 1982, when the International Organization for Standardization adopted Pinyin
as the standard romanization of Chinese , many Western languages have changed from spelling this loanword tao in national systems (e.g., French EFEO Chinese transcription and English Wade–Giles ) to dao in Pinyin.

The tao/dao "the way" English word of Chinese origin has three meanings, according to the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary

1. A. In Taoism, an absolute entity which is the source of the universe; the way in which this absolute entity functions.

1. B. = Taoism, taoist 2. In Confucianism and in extended uses, the way to be followed, the right conduct; doctrine or method.

The earliest recorded usages were Tao
(1736), Tau (1747), Taou (1831), and Dao (1971).

A derivative, Daoshi
(Chinese : 道士, "Daoist priest"), was used already by the Jesuits Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci
and Nicolas Trigault in their De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas , rendered as Tausu in the original Latin edition (1615), and Tausa in an early English translation published by Samuel Purchas (1625).


Look up 道 in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Look up TAO in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

* Taoism

* Daoism– Taoism
romanization issue * Dharma
* Logos
* Fard * Rta * God
* Absolute (philosophy)


* ^ Tao
Te Ching, Chapter 1. "It is from the unnamed Tao That Heaven and Earth sprang; The named is but The Mother of the ten thousand creatures." * ^ I Ching, Ta Chuan (Great Treatise). "The kind man discovers it and calls it kind; the wise man discovers it and calls it wise; the common people use it every day and are not aware of it."


* ^ Dr Zai, J. Taoism
and Science: Cosmology, Evolution, Morality, Health and more. Ultravisum, 2015. * ^ Diana Lobel (16 August 2011). The Quest for God
and the Good: World Philosophy as a Living Experience. Columbia University Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-231-52701-9 . * ^ DeFrancis (1996) p. 113 * ^ LaFargue (1992), pp. 245–7. * ^ Chan (1963) p. 136 * ^ Hansen (2000), p. 206. * ^ Liu (1981), pp. 1-3. * ^ Liu (1981), pp. 2–3. * ^ Cane (2002), p. 13. * ^ Keller (2003), p. 289. * ^ LaFargue (1994) p. 283. * ^ Water is soft and flexible, yet possesses an immense power to overcome obstacles and alter landscapes, even carving canyons with its slow and steady persistence. It is viewed as a reflection of, or close in action to, the Tao. The Tao
is often expressed as a sea or flood that cannot be dammed or denied. It flows around and over obstacles like water, setting an example for those who wish to live in accord with it.Ch'eng and Cheng (1991), pp. 175–7. * ^ Maspero (1981), p. 32. * ^ Bodde & Fung (1997), pp. 99–101. * ^ Arthur Waley
Arthur Waley
, The way and its power: a study of the Tao
tê ching and its place in Chinese thought (Grove Press, 1958). ISBN 0-8021-5085-3 * ^ Kohn (1993), p. 11. * ^ A B Kohn (1993), pp. 11–12. * ^ Kohn (1993), p. 12. * ^ Fowler (2005), pp. 5–7. * ^ Moeller (2006) pp. 133–145. * ^ Fowler (2005), pp. 5–6. * ^ Mair (2001) p. 174 * ^ Robinet (1997), p. 3. * ^ Kirkland (2004) p. 2. * ^ A B C D E Taylor pg 18 * ^ Boodberg (1957), p. 599 * ^ 1.5 and 2.8, tr. Lau (1979), p. 59 and p. 63. * ^ Karlgren (1957). * ^ Zhou (1972). * ^ Pulleyblank (1991). * ^ Baxter (1992). * ^ Schuessler (2007). * ^ Li (1971). * ^ Hanyu Da Zidian 漢語大字典 (1989), pp. 3864–3866. * ^ DeFrancis (2007), pp. 172, 829. * ^ Boodberg (1957), p. 602. * ^ Mair (1990), p. 132. * ^ Schuessler (2007), p. 207 * ^ Schuessler (2007), p. 48 and 41. * ^ De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas suscepta ab Societate Jesu, Book One, Chapter 10, p. 125. Quote: "sectarii quidam Tausu vocant". Chinese gloss in Pasquale M. d\' Elia , Matteo Ricci. Fonti ricciane: documenti originali concernenti Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci
e la storia delle prime relazioni tra l'Europa e la Cina (1579-1615), Libreria dello Stato, 1942; can be found by searching for "tausu" at https://books.google.com/books?id=zRw8AAAAMAAJ. Louis J. Gallagher (China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matteo Ricci; 1953), apparently has a typo (Taufu instead of Tausu) in the text of his translation of this line (p. 102), and Tausi in the index (p. 615) * ^ A discourse of the Kingdome of China, taken out of Ricius and Trigautius, containing the countrey, people, government, religion, rites, sects, characters, studies, arts, acts ; and a Map of China added, drawne out of one there made with Annotations for the understanding thereof (excerpts from De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas , in English translation) in Purchas his Pilgrimes , Volume XII, p. 461 (1625). Quote: "... Lauzu ... left no Bookes of his Opinion, nor seemes to have intended any new Sect, but certaine Sectaries, called Tausa, made him the head of their sect after his death..." Can be found in the full text of "Hakluytus posthumus" on archive.org. The book also appears on Google Books, but only in snippet view.


* Baxter, William H. A Handbook of Old Chinese
Old Chinese
Phonology (Mouton de Gruyter, 1992). * Bodde, Derk & Fung, Yu-Lan. A short history of Chinese philosophy (Simon and Schuster, 1997). ISBN 0-684-83634-3 . * Boodberg, Peter A. "Philological Notes on Chapter One of the Lao Tzu" (Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1957, 20:598–618). * Cane, Eulalio Paul. Harmony: Radical Taoism
Gently Applied (Trafford Publishing, 2002). ISBN 1-4122-4778-0 . * Chang, Dr. Stephen T. The Great Tao. Tao
Publishing, imprint of Tao
Longevity LLC. 1985. ISBN 0-942196-01-5 . * Ch'eng, Chung-Ying & Cheng, Zhongying. New dimensions of Confucian and Neo-Confucian philosophy (SUNY Press, 1991). ISBN 0-7914-0283-5 . * Chan Wing-tsit. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, 1963). ISBN 0-691-01964-9 . * DeFrancis, John (ed.). ABC Chinese-English Dictionary: Alphabetically Based Computerized (ABC Chinese Dictionary) (University of Hawaii Press, 1996). ISBN 0-8248-1744-3 . * DeFrancis, John, (ed.). ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary. (University of Hawaii Press, 2003). * Dumoulin, Henrik (Heisig, James tr.). Zen
Buddhism: a History: India and China (World Wisdom, 2005). ISBN 0-941532-89-5 . * Fowler, Jeaneane. An introduction to the philosophy and religion of Taoism: pathways to immortality (Sussex Academic Press, 2005). ISBN 1-84519-085-8 . * Hansen, Chad D. A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought: A Philosophical Interpretation (Oxford University Press, 2000). ISBN 0-19-513419-2 . * Hershock, Peter. Liberating intimacy: enlightenment and social virtuosity in Ch'an Buddhism
(SUNY Press, 1996). ISBN 0-7914-2981-4 . * Karlgren, Bernhard. Grammata Serica Recensa (Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1957). * Keller, Catherine. The Face of the Deep: A Theology
of Becoming (Routledge, 2003). ISBN 0-415-25648-8 . * Kirkland, Russell. Taoism: The Enduring Tradition (Routledge, 2004). ISBN 978-0-415-26321-4 * Kohn, Livia. The Taoist experience (SUNY Press, 1993). ISBN 0-7914-1579-1 . * Komjathy, Louis. Handbooks for Daoist Practice. 10 vols. Hong Kong: Yuen Yuen Institute, 2008. * LaFargue, Michael. Tao
and Method: A Reasoned Approach to the Tao Te Ching (SUNY Press, 1994) ISBN 0-7914-1601-1 . * LaFargue, Michael. The tao of the Tao
te ching: a translation and commentary (SUNY Press, 1992). ISBN 0-7914-0986-4 . * Lau, D. C., tr. The Analects
(Lun yu), (Penguin, 1979). * Li Fanggui 李方桂. Shanggu yin yanjiu 上古音研究 (Tsinghua Journal of Chinese Studies 1971, 9:1–61). (in Chinese) * Liu, Da. The Tao
and Chinese culture (Taylor an entirely new translation based on the recently discovered Ma-wang-tui manuscripts (Bantam Books, 1990). * Martinson, Paul Varo. A theology of world religions: Interpreting God, self, and world in Semitic, Indian, and Chinese thought (Augsburg Publishing House, 1987). ISBN 0-8066-2253-9 . * Maspero, Henri. Translated by Frank A. Kierman, Jr. Taoism
and Chinese Religion
(University of Massachusetts Press, 1981). ISBN 0-87023-308-4 . * Moeller, Hans-Georg. The Philosophy of the Daodejing. (Columbia University Press, 2006). ISBN 0-231-13679-X . * Pulleyblank, E.G. "Lexicon of Reconstructed Pronunciation in Early Middle Chinese, Late Middle Chinese, and Early Mandarin" (UBC Press, 1991). * Schuessler, Axel. ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese (University of Hawaii Press, 2007). * Sharot, Stephen. A Comparative Sociology of World Religions: virtuosos, priests, and popular religion (New York: NYU Press, 2001). ISBN 0-8147-9805-5 . * Taylor, Rodney Leon & Choy, Howard Yuen Fung. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Confucianism: N-Z, Volume 2 of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Confucianism (Rosen Publishing Group, 2005). ISBN 0-8239-4081-0 . * Watts, Alan Wilson. Tao: The Watercourse Way with Al Chung-liang Huang (Pantheon, 1977). ISBN 0-394-73311-8 . * Zhou Fagao 周法高 . "Shanggu Hanyu he Han-Zangyu 上古漢語和漢藏語" (Journal of the Institute of Chinese Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong 1972 5:159–244). (in Chinese)


* Translation of the Tao
te Ching by Derek Lin * http://ctext.org/dao-de-jing Translation of the Dao de Jing by James Legge * https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/216 Legge translation of the Tao Teh King at Project Gutenberg * Gia-Fu Feng ">

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