religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin

Taoism or Daoism (道教) is a type of belief, or a way of thinking about life. It is at least 2,500 years old and it comes from China. Taoism is now said to be a philosophy. Tao (or Dao, ) is the name of the force or the "Way" that Taoists believe makes everything in the world. Taoists think that words cannot be used to correctly describe Tao. The very first line of the Dào Dé Jīng (道德经), the most important text in Taoism, says "the Way that can be explained in words is not the true Way." There are many other sacred writings by the teachers of Taoism.

Yin Yang Sky Earth - Illustration

Instead of spending a lot of time trying to explain what the Tao is, Taoists focus on living a simple and balanced life in harmony with nature. This is one of the most important principles in Taoism. Taoists also believe that conflict is not good and that if you have a problem with something, it is better to find a way around it.



Taoism first showed up in writing in China in 142 C.E. People do not always write about their religions at first, so this religion may be much older. Some important people of the history of Taoism are:

  • Laozi, or Lao Tzu (老子). He is assumed to have written Tao Te Ching.
  • Zhuangzi, or Chuang Tzu (庄子). Like Lao Tzu, his sayings and stories are today put together as a book, and translated into English and other languages.
  • Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor, 黄帝). He is assumed to have been the first Taoist, but nobody knows for sure if he was a real person or not.

Beliefs and practices


Taoists believe that the main principle behind the universe is an esoteric force known as the Tao. The Tao can best be described as the chaotic power of reality that causes change to happen and things to come in and out of the world without direction or intention. The essence of the Tao is seen in nature, in which all action occurs without any sort of meaning or greater purpose, but is rather the flow of change and energy. Some Taoists describe the Tao as God. Many scholars have labeled Taoism as pantheistic.

Taoists use the word qi to describe energy moving through and altering things in the universe as a result of the Tao.

Taoists believe the best way to live life is through the principle of "wu-wei", which translates to "inaction" or "inexertion". The doctrine of wu-wei advocates to not push back or resist what ever comes your way in life, and to let it be and accept its presence. It also advocates for being happy with what you have and not pursuing unrealistic dreams.

The yin and yang symbol, the famous icon of Taoism, encapsulates the idea that one must be in a harmony between two opposing forces in one's life and remain neutral to either side.

Traditionalist polytheistic Taoists believe in traditional concepts of Heaven and the Underworld, but many modern Taoists today disregard old conceptions of the afterlife and instead believe that people can live on in the Tao after their physical death through metaphysical union.

There are several different types of Taoism, some that combine the principles of Laozi with traditional Chinese deity worship, and some that adhere more strictly to the original tenets and believe only in the concepts of the Tao, qi, and wu-wei.

Other websites

  • "What is Evil in Taoism". Tin Yat Dragon.

  Media related to Taoism at Wikimedia Commons