Taoism or Daoism — Definition, Belief, History, and Facts

Taoism Symbol

Taoism or Daoism Definition

Taoism or Daoism is an ancient Chinese philosophical school that is in respect to the law of nature and freedom, the Dao.

 

It pays attention to the essence and patterns of the universe, and the relationship between humans and nature. 

Unlike other traditional Chinese philosophies such as Confucianism, Legalism, and Mohism which are active participants in society, Taoism is a neutral observer.

 

It tries to experience and comprehend the universe and society, and the inner fundamental principles of everything. 

Gradually, Taoism developed some related fields, such as Taoist literature, science, military, medicine, music, art, folk religion, governance and military methodology, self-cultivation, martial art, and longevity preservation. 

 
Taoism Symbol
Taoism Aesthetic Unearthed Porcelain Plate of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907)

Chinese Taoist Aesthetics, Unearthed Porcelain Plate of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

 
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Taoism or Daoism Founder and Influential Philosophers

Taoist thoughts originated in China around 5,500 to 6,000 years ago. Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) (2717 BC — 2599 BC) and strategist Jiang Ziya (1156 BC — 1017 BC) formulated some fundamental thoughts.

Centuries later, after the great philosopher Lao Zi (or Lao Tzu) (about 571 BC — 471 BC) had finished his masterpiece Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Jing), Taoism was officially formed. 

Hence, Lao Zi is respected as the founder, and Tao Te Ching is the most important classic of Taoism.

Another contributive philosopher is Zhuang Zi or Chuang Tzu (about 369 BC — 286 BC), who further developed Taoist belief, as an exceptional philosopher and writer. 

Silk Manuscript of Dao De Jing (Tao Te Chin), Unearthed From Tomb of Prime Minister Li Cang (? — 185 BC)

Silk Manuscript of Dao De Jing (Tao Te Chin), Unearthed From Tomb of Prime Minister Li Cang (? — 185 BC) — Mawangdui Museum of Hunan Province

 

Extension and Influence of Taoist Philosophy

As a fundamental philosophy, Taoism has influenced other ancient Chinese ideologies to different extents. 

Confucius had visited and consulted Lao Zi several times and was highly impressed by his ideas and talent. 

Legalism and Mohism referred to some ideas from Taoist classics; in other words, they also could be considered as extensions of certain Taoist ideas in different directions. 

Most importantly, Taoism Religion, one of the most significant folk religions in China, evolved out of this philosophical school. 

Taoism Lotus Shaped Jade Guan (Used to Decorate Tied Hair of Men) of the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279)

Taoist Lotus Shaped Jade Guan (Used to Decorate Tied Hair of Men) of the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279) — Capital Museum