, the main symbol of the Taoist spirituality. Please note however, that the true Taijitu symbol shows the white (or red) spiral on the top, so that the dividing line creates a backwards S shape. See the Yin and Yang page for more info.
Taoism or Daoism is the English name for:
- (a) a philosophical school based on the Tao te Ching (Daode Jing), ascribed to Laozi, and the Zhuangzi".
- (b) a family of organised Chinese religious movements such as the Tianshi Dao ("Way of the Celestial Masters") or Quanzhen ("complete reality") sects, which collectively trace back to Zhang Daoling in the late Han dynasty;
- (c) a Chinese folk religion.
The Chinese character Tào
The English word "Taoism" is used to translate the Chinese terms Daojiao (道教) and Daojia (道家). The character Tao 道 (or Dao, depending on the transliteration scheme one prefers) literally means "path" or "way", but in Chinese religion and philosophy has taken on more abstract meanings. The compound Daojiao refers to Daoism as a religion (i.e., people worshipping at altars); Daojia refers to the activity of scholars in their studies. (It must be noted that this distinction is itself controversial and fraught with hermeneutic difficulty.)
Much uncertainty exists over the meaning of "Taoism". In some countries and contexts (for example, the national "Taoism" organisations of China and Taiwan), the label has come to be applied to the Chinese folk religion, which would otherwise not have a readily recognizable English name. However many, if not most, of its practitioners would not recognize "Taoism" (in any language) as the name of their religion. Moreover, the several forms of what we might call "elite" or "organized" Taoism often distinguish their ritual activities from those of the folk religion, which some professional "Taoists" (Daoshi) view as debased.
The Chinese Taoist Association (Chinese: 中国道教协会), founded in April 1957, is the main association of Taoism in the People's Republic of China. It is recognized as one of the main religious associations in the People's Republic of China. Dozens of regional and local daoist associations are encapsulated into this overarching group, which is encouraged by the government to be a bridge between Chinese Taoists and the government, to encourage a patriotic merger between Taoism and government initiatives. The group also disseminates information on traditional Taoist topics, including forums and conferences. The association was a major sponsor of the 2007 International Forum on the Tao Te Ching.
The Chinese Taoist Association advocates the recompensation of losses inflicted on Taoism by the Cultural Revolution. Taoism was banned for several years in the People's Republic of China. Recently, the central government of China has supported and encouraged the Association, along with other official religious groups, in promoting the "harmonious society" initiative of President Hu Jintao.
The Chinese Taoist Association advocates ecology. This can be explained by the fact that Taoism places a special significance to nature. As they put it, people should live in harmony with nature instead of trying to conquer it.
The Tao Te Ching or Daodejing (simplified Chinese: 道德经; traditional Chinese: 道德經; pinyin: Dàodéjīng), originally known as the eponymous Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ), is a Chinese classic text. Its name comes from the opening words of its two sections: 道 dào "way," Chapter 1, and 德 dé "virtue," Chapter 38, plus 經 jīng "classic." According to tradition, it was written around the 6th century BCE by the Taoist sage Laozi (or Lao Tzu, "Old Master"), a record-keeper at the Zhou Dynasty court, by whose name the text is known in China. The text's true authorship and date of composition or compilation are still debated.
The Tao Te Ching is fundamental to Taoist philosophy and Taoist politics (Dàojiā 道家) and strongly influenced other schools, such as Legalism and Neo-Confucianism. This ancient book is also central in Taoism (Dàojiāo 道教) as a manual of spirituality.
The Three Pure Ones (Chinese: 三清; Cantonese: Sarm Tsing; Mandarin: San-ch'ing), also translated as "The Three Clarities", or "The Three Purities", are the three highest Taoist deities. They are:
- the Jade Pure Pellucid One (玉清; Cantonese: Yoc-Tsing; Mandarin: Yu-ch'ing), also known as "The Universally Honoured One of Origin", or "The Universal Lord of the Primordial Beginning" (元始天尊, Yuan Shi Tian Zun).
- the Upper Pure Pellucid One (上清; Cantonese: Serng Tsing; Mandarin: Shang-ch'ing), also known as "The Universally Honoured One of Divinities and Treasures", or "The Universal Lord of the Numinous Treasure" (靈寶天尊, Ling Bao Tian Zun).
- the Ultra Pure Pellucid One (太清; Cantonese: Tai Tsing; Mandarin: T'ai-ch'ing), also known as "The Universally Honoured One of Tao and Virtues" or "The Universal Lord of the Way and its Virtue" (道德天尊, De Dai Tian Zun) or the "Ultra Supreme Elder Lord" (太上老君, Tai Shang Lao Zun).
In some Taoist systems, Hong-jun lao-zu (鸿钧老祖 or 鸿元老祖, the great balancer or the great primal originator) is the common teacher of The Three Pure Ones.
According to Taoist scriptures, The Universally Honoured One of Tao and Virtues had manifested many various incarnations to teach living beings, and Laozi is one of his incarnations.
The Three Pure Ones also represent the three divine natures of all living beings. They symbolize a kind of Taoist trinity: Tao begets One; one begets two; two begets three; three begets all things (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 42).
- Neo-Confucianism has origins in Taoism. Most of this Taoist derived Neo Confucian belief comes from the I Ching (Book of Changes) or is derived from the Yin and Yang philosophical concept.
- The United Nations' Zero Emissions Project is based on the project designer's original inspiration from the Tao based on the principles of flowing water.
Detailed information about the Taoism can be found under these sub-categories:
Selected Religious Figure
Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Lao tzu; also Lao Tse, Laotze, Lao Zi, and other variations) was a philosopher of ancient China and is a central figure in Taoism (also spelled "Daoism"). Laozi literally means "Old Master" and is generally considered an honorific.
According to Chinese tradition, Laozi lived in the 6th century BC. Historians variously contend that Laozi is a synthesis of multiple historical figures, that he is a mythical figure, or that he actually lived in the 4th century BC, concurrent with the Hundred Schools of Thought and Warring States period. Laozi is credited with writing the seminal Taoist work, the Tao Te Ching (道德經), and is a sacred figure in the Taoist spirituality, conceived as an embodiment of one of the Three Purities with the title of Taishang Laojun.
A central figure in Chinese culture, both nobility and common people claim Laozi in their lineage. Zhuangzi, widely considered the intellectual and spiritual successor of Laozi, had a notable impact on Chinese literature, culture and spirituality. Throughout history, Laozi's work was embraced by various anti-authoritarian movements.
Selected Religious Practice
The Five Precepts (Chinese: 五戒; Pinyin: Wu Jie; Cantonese: Ng Gye), constitute the basic code of ethics undertaken mainly by Taoist lay-cultivators. For Taoist monks and nuns, there are more advanced and stricter precepts. These precepts are similar to the Buddhist Five Precepts, but with minor differences.
According to The Ultra Supreme Elder Lord's Scripture of Precepts, the five basic precepts are:
- The first precept: No Murdering;
- The second precept: No Stealing;
- The third precept: No Sexual Misconduct;
- The fourth precept: No False Speech;
- The fifth precept: No Taking of Intoxicants.
Wu wei (simplified Chinese: 无为; traditional Chinese: 無為; pinyin: wúwéi) is an important tenet of Taoism that involves knowing when to act and when not to act. Another perspective to this is that "Wu Wei" means natural action - as planets revolve around the sun, they "do" this revolving, but without "doing" it; Or as trees grow, they "do", but without "doing". Thus knowing when (and how) to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think "now" is the right time to do "this", but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing.
Wu may be translated as not have or without; Wei may be translated as do, act, serve as, govern or effort. The literal meaning of Wu Wei is "without action" and is often included in the paradox wei wu wei : "action without action" or "effortless doing". The practice of wu wei and the efficacy of wei wu wei are fundamental tenets in Chinese thought and have been mostly emphasized by the Taoist school. The aim of wu wei is to achieve a state of perfect equilibrium, or alignment with the Tao, and, as a result, obtain an irresistible form of "soft and invisible" power. There is also another uncommon interpretation of wu wei (" action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort"). In this instance, Wu means " without" and Wei means "Effort" , so it follows Wu wei is not ("non-action").
- Wudang Tradition
- Study centers