Taoism refers to the teachings in the scripture, Tao Te Ching. The philosophy was
derived from a man called Lao Tzu who lived in the sixth century. His teachings
formed the moral and social foundations for China as a nation for many centuries.
Tao means "the" path in Chinese. Taoism is the peaceful religion and philosophy
of humans taking part in nature. The belief is that there is a natural and proper
way of doing everything. Done properly, the Taoist will receive peace and prosperity.
Done incorrectly, there will be chaos. Taoist aims to ride the Way (Tao) to a
long, prosperous, immortal life but worldly possession and desires can negatively
Tao is a mystery. It is indescribable. According to the Taoism Scripture, Tao
Te Ching, it refers Tao as being in existence before the heaven and earth began.
It is soundless and formless. You cannot touch or feel it but it operates everywhere.
Tao is the force that flows through nature. The manner that it flows brings peace,
happiness, health and harmony. Taoist attempts to achieve harmony within the natural
world by balancing male, hard (yang) forms with soft, liquid, female (yin) aspects.
The yin yang symbol is now a common place in the western world.
Taoism as a religion began to form in the third century B.C.E. and includes Tao priests'
practices of alchemy or mixing of elixirs to ensure immortality of the body. The
priests are also spirit mediums and experts in levitation (make bodies rise). Tao
religion believes in physical immortality, alchemy (elixir to extend life), deities,
breath control, hygiene, monasticism (monks and monasteries), and revealed scriptures.
Tao priests are most prevalent in Taiwan today.
Types of Taoism Beliefs
Religious Taoism (Tao Chiao) - teaching of the way.
Philosophical Taoism - wise thinking
Heavenly (Celestrial) Master - believed in faith healing through the confession of
Common Types of Taoism Beliefs
There are common beliefs to the different strands of Taoism. Here are some examples
of the more common ones.
Te means proper attitude, morality, and lifestyle. Te is the active living or cultivation
of "way" or Tao.
Wu Wei means without action or action without action. Wu Wei aligns with Tao or
the "way" demonstrating soft and invisible power in all things. A classic Tao example
is the flowing of water in nature. Water is soft and weak but it can carve through
rocks, mountains and dirt over time.
P'u means uncarved block or simplicity. It is a state of receptiveness where the
mind is not burdened with knowledge or experiences. There is no right or wrong,
and no ugly or beautiful.
Spirituality - various rituals are believed to have a positive effect on one's physical
and spiritual well being.
Ethics - The Three Jewels (compassion, moderation, humility) are translated as kindness,
simplicity, and modesty.
Pantheon - Taoism has many deities that are part of the heavenly hierarchy. It reflects
the bureaucracy of Imperial China.
There are many types of Taoism in existence today. Here are some examples:
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