An Overview of Tao and Taoism


China is not only a great ancient civilization, but also a country of interesting cultures and faiths. There are numerous philosophical and religious that originated in China. Tao is one of the religious belief and philosophical idea very native to China.

Tao and Taoism can be defined in many ways. Tao can simply be understood as the Way or Path, and Taoism means the Universal Way or the Path. Tao, which literally means the Way or the Path, in its subtlety, explores simple truth. Taoism is the philosophical and practical approach to Tao.

Tao and Taoism are also sometimes written as Dao and Daosim.

Ying-YangTao And Taoism

The basic definition of Tao and Taoism is mysterious, however, Tao and Taoism explores truth related to life, living and the universe. Tao means to speak or to guide, a principle or a system of logic. Taoism is a pathway and a method to explore life, living and the world. Taoism is the ultimate principle of the universal Way.

Taoism, or Tao, is an ancient philosophy, religion, and a way of life. Taoism evolved in China. Taoism is credited to ancient Chinese thinker Confucius. Confucius is believed to have lived in China in 5th century BCE. The most authoritative explanations on Taoism are said to be explained by Lao-tzu, who is also believed to have lived in the time of Confucius. However, Taoism is believed to be older than Confucius and Lao-tzu. Some of the Taoist who elaborated on Taoism by following Confucius and Lao-tzu are Chuang-tzu, Mo-tzu, and Mencius.

The Birth of Taoism

Ancient China was in great disorder and confusion at the time of people like Confucius (551-449 BCE), Lao-tzu, Chuang-tzu, Mo-tzu, and Mencius. These Masters taught and wrote about human values like ethics and morality, and enlightenment. Their teachings were aimed at restoring peace and freedom in the society. The path devised by these saints was called Tao. The roots of Taoism are very old. Taoism spread in China during the time when Buddhism was taking deep root in Indian subcontinent.

The Tao literally means the Way. Taoism emphasize in intuitive wisdom and not the rational knowledge. Taoism shows the way to liberate the soul from suffering and pain and achieve eternal happiness and joy. Taoism is related to liberation. The Taoist liberation means liberation from strict rules of conventions.

Yang Ying SymbolElaboration of Taoism

The philosophical and practical aspects of Tao has been well explained in two Chinese books Tao TeChing and Chuang-tzu, which are the most ancient authoritative text on Taoism. These esoteric books contain practical wisdom, covering wide subjects ranging from culture, politics and economy to psychology and mysticism.

The Tao TeChing and Chuang-tzu are two ancient books on Taoism. These books explain the philosophy as well as the practical approach on Taoism. The Tao TeChing and Chuang-tzu explores the philosophy of Tao and provides the way to use the philosophy in everyday life.

Tao TeChing and Chuang-tzu are believed to have written by Lao-tzu and Chuang Chou respectively. Lao-tzu and Chuang Chou are two old grand masters of Tao.

Ancient Chinese Books on Taoism

Taoism is an ancient philosophy which evolved in China during the time of Confucius and Lao-tzu around 500 BCE. Philosophy related to Taoism is said to have been present in China before Confucius and Lao-tzu, however, they are credited with the elaboration on Taoism. While Confucius left no specific literature on Taoism, Lao-tzu is credited with the Tao TeChing, one of the earliest books on Taoism. Another authoritative book on Taoism is The Chuang-tzu. The Chuang-tzu is credited to Chuang Chou, another old master of Taoism.

Lao-tsuLao-tzu and Tao TeChing

Lao-tzu is the oldest grand master of Taoism. He lived around 500 BC.

Tao TeChing, also called I Ching sometimes, is the most ancient book on Tao. I Ching is attributed to Lao-tzu. It is believed that Lao-tzu did not actually propagate Taoism, he just compiled ideology of the Taoists’ who lived long before him in his book.

Lao-tzu always avoided rigidity in his elaboration of Taoism. Therefore, there are many explanations of Tao and Taoism. Tao can be interpreted as the doctrine or a system of the world; a law or a passageway for life and living. Tao can also be understood as the universal reality, which is the source of everything.

In Tao TeChing, Lao-tzu defines the Tao. He says, “The Tao is infinite and eternal…Eternal (because)…It was never born; thus it can never die….Infinite (because)…It has no desires for itself. Tao TeChing is a guidebook for individuals to live a happy life. The poems and proverbs touch heart and mind, and help the readers to search true meaning of his/her life.

The Tao TeChing is dated somewhere in 500 BC. It is an anthology of ancient sayings, poems and proverbs, which is said to be compiled by Lao-tzu, “The Old Master.” Lao-tzu is one of the earliest Taoists, who not only explains about Taoism but also talks about ancient Taoists in his book Taoism. Tao TeChing is also called I Ching. There are 81 chapters in Tao TeChing.

Tao TeChing or I Ching provides simple explanations on the ideas related to life and living. In this book on Taoism, Lao-tzu talks about the rights and wrongs, ultimate aim of human life, and how to live a happy life.

Chuang-tzu by Chuang Chou

The Chuang-tzu, which is believed to have written around 300 BC, is ascribed to Chuang Chou. Chuang-tzu is a great book on Taoism.Chuang-tzu is a collection of stories and monologues explaining the teachings of the Tao TeChing.

There are seven chapters in Chuang-tzu. The lessons in these chapters are explained in parables. The parables are titled: Freedom, On Equalizing Things, Mastery of Nurturing Life, The Human World, Tallying with Fulfillments of Virtue, The Great Teacher of the Source, and Responsive Leadership.

The first parable in Chuang-tzu is about Freedom, which tells a story of two men Chien Wu and Lien Shu. Chuang Chou, the author of Chuang-tzu, speaks about the stabilization of the spirit, resulting in overall improvement of health throughout the physical and social bodies.



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