Taoism or Daoism, is a religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (; Dào; literally: “the Way”, also romanized as Dao). The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasizing rigid rituals and social order, but is similar in the sense that it is a teaching about the various disciplines for achieving “perfection” by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the universe called “the way” or “dao”. Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasize wu wei (action without intention), “naturalness”, simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: 慈 “compassion“, 儉 “frugality“, and 不敢為天下先 “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, the I Ching, which expounds a philosophical system about how to keep human behavior in accordance with the alternating cycles of nature. The “Legalist” Shen Buhai (c. 400 – c. 337 BCE) may also have been a major influence, expounding a realpolitik of wu wei. The Tao Te Ching, a compact book containing teachings attributed to Laozi (老子Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Lao³ Tzŭ³), is widely considered the keystone work of the Taoist tradition, together with the later writings of Zhuangzi.

Taoist Meditation

The following outline (Outline of Taoism) is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Taoism:

Common Concepts in East Asian Religions

The yin and yang symbolizes the duality in nature and all things in the Taoist religion.

The yin and yang symbolizes the duality in nature and all things in the Taoist religion.

Articles on Taoism

Taoist beliefs and the theories

Taoist Texts

Taoist practices

History of Taoism

Influential Taoists

Huà Shān is one of the five sacred Taoist mountains.

Outline of Taoism

Outline of Taoism Taoism – philosophical, ethical, and religious tradition of Chinese origin that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (also romanized as Dao). The term Tao means “way”, “path” or “principle”, and can also be found in Chinese philosophies and religions other than Taoism. In Taoism, however, Tao denotes something that is both the...

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Neijia Neijia (内家) is a term in Chinese martial arts, grouping those styles that practice neijing, usually translated as internal martial arts, occupied with spiritual, mental or qi-related aspects, as opposed to an “external” approach focused on physiological aspects. The distinction dates to the 17th century, but its modern application is due to...

Some books about Taoist Sexual Practices

Taoist Sexual Practices

Taoist Sexual Practices Taoist sexual practices (房中术; 房中術; fángzhōngshù; ‘arts of the bedchamber’) are the ways Taoists may practice sexual activity. These practices are also known as “Joining Energy” or “The Joining of the Essences”. Practitioners believe that by performing these sexual arts, one can stay in good health, and attain longevity or...

Yoga Zen Meditation Position Relax Relaxation


Neidan Neidan, or internal alchemy (內丹术; 內丹術; nèidān shù), is an array of esoteric doctrines and physical, mental, and spiritual practices that Taoist initiates use to prolong life and create an immortal spiritual body that would survive after death (Skar and Pregadio 2000, 464). Also known as Jindan (金丹 “golden elixir”), inner alchemy combines...

Tang dynasty Zhuangzi manuscript preserved in Japan (1930s replica)


Zhuangzi (book) The Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzŭ) is an ancient Chinese text from the late Warring States period (476–221 BC) which contains stories and anecdotes that exemplify the carefree nature of the ideal Taoist sage. Named for its traditional author, “Master Zhuang” (Zhuangzi), the Zhuangzi is one of the two foundational texts of Taoism, along with...

Painting of two of the Eight Immortals, Iron-crutch Li on the left releasing a bat, Liu Haichan on the right holding one of the Peaches of Immortality and accompanied by the three-legged toad, Jin Chan. By Soga Shōhaku (曾我蕭白), done about 1760.

Xian in Taoism

Xian in Taoism Xian (仙/仚/僊; xiān; Wade–Giles: hsien) refers to a person or similar entity having a long or immortal lifespan. The concept of xian has different implications dependent upon the specific context: philosophical, religious, mythological, or other symbolic or cultural occurrence. The Chinese word xian is translatable into English as: (in Daoist philosophy and cosmology) spiritually immortal; transcendent; super-human;...

Partial text of Dao De Jing engraved in Tai Qing Dian (Hall of Supreme Purity) in Changchun Temple, Wuhan.

Tao Te Ching

Tao Te Ching The Tao Te Ching (道德经; 道德經; Dàodé Jīng)[Note1], also known as Lao Tzu or Laozi, 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 late 4th...

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Qi In traditional Chinese culture, qi or ch’i (气; 氣; qì) is believed to be a vital force forming part of any living entity. Qi translates as “air” and figuratively as “material energy”, “life force”, or “energy flow“. Qi is the central underlying principle in Chinese traditional medicine and in Chinese martial arts. The practice of cultivating and balancing qi is called qigong....

Three Treasures

Three Treasures

Three Treasures (Taoism) The Three Treasures or Three Jewels (三寶; sānbǎo; Wade–Giles: san-pao) are basic virtues in Taoism. Although the Tao Te Ching originally used sanbao to mean “compassion“, “frugality“, and “humility“, the term was later used to translate the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) in Chinese Buddhism, and to mean the Three Treasures (jing, qi, and shen) in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tao Te Ching Sanbao “three treasures” first occurs...

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Ziran Ziran is a key concept in Daoism that literally means “self so; so of its own; so of itself” and thus “naturally; natural; spontaneously; freely; in the course of events; of course; doubtlessly”. This Chinese word is a two-character compound of zi (自) “nose; self; oneself; from; since” and ran (然) “right; correct; so;...

A diagram of I Ching hexagrams sent to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz from Joachim Bouvet. The Arabic numerals were added by Leibniz.

I Ching

I Ching The I Ching or Yi Jing (易經; Yìjīng) usually translated as Book of Changes or Classic of Changes, is an ancient Chinese divination text and among the oldest of the Chinese classics. With more than two and a half millennia’s worth of commentary and interpretation, the I Ching is an influential text read throughout the world, providing inspiration to the worlds...

Zhaoming Mirror frame, Western Han dynasty

Wu Wei

Wu Wei Wu wei (無爲; wú wéi) 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 most commonly used to refer to an ideal form of government, including the...

Laozi Statue,Tai Lake


Laozi Lǎozǐ (Laozi or Lao Tzu) was a naturalistic philosopher-sage attributed with founding the Chinese way of life known as Daoism, and credited with having written the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching), though both claims have been historically disputed by scholars. Perhaps a legendary figure, Laozi’s influence on Chinese history, thought, and...

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History of Taoism

History of Taoism The history of Taoism stretches throughout Chinese history. Originating in prehistoric China, it has exerted a powerful influence over Chinese culture throughout the ages. Taoism evolved in response to changing times, with its doctrine and associated practices being revised and refined. The acceptance of Taoism by the ruling...

Folk ritual masters conducting a ceremony.

De (Chinese)

De (Chinese) De (Chinese: 德), also written as Te, is a key concept in Chinese philosophy, usually translated “inherent character; inner power; integrity” in Taoism, “moral character; virtue; morality” in Confucianism and other contexts, and “quality; virtue” (guna) or “merit; virtuous deeds” (punya) in Chinese Buddhism. The word Chinese de 德 is an ancient and linguistically complex word. The...

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Tao Tao or Dao (Chinese: 道; pinyin: Dào) is a Chinese word signifying “way”, “path”, “route”, “road” or sometimes more loosely “doctrine”, “principle” or “holistic beliefs”. In the context of East Asian philosophy and East Asian religions, Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one’s human intuition must discern in order to realize the potential...

The Chinese character for dao

Taoist Philosophy

Taoist Philosophy Taoist philosophy (道家; dàojiā; lit. “school or family of the Tao”) also known as Taology (道學; dàoxué; lit. “learning of the Tao“) refers to the various philosophical currents of Taoism, a tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (道; Dào; literally: ‘the Way’, also romanized as Dao). The Tao is a...

The Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu (Laozi) Laozi (老子; literally “Old Master”), also rendered as Lao Tzu and Lao-Tze, was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. A semi-legendary figure, Laozi was usually portrayed as a 6th-century BC contemporary...

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Taoism and Death

Taoism and Death There is significant scholarly debate about the Taoist understanding of death. The process of death itself is described as shijie or “release from the corpse”, but what happens after is described variously as transformation, immortality or ascension to heaven. For example, the Yellow Emperor was said to have...

Taoist Meditation

Taoist Meditation

Taoist Meditation Taoist meditation also spelled “Daoist” refers to the traditional meditative practices associated with the Chinese philosophy and religion of Taoism, including concentration, mindfulness, contemplation, and visualization. The earliest Chinese references to meditation date from the Warring States period (475–221 BCE). Techniques of Daoist meditation are historically interrelated with Buddhist meditation, for instance,...

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