Taoism, or Daoism, is an ancient religion based on various Chinese philosophies, religions, and customs. The Tao is central to Taoism. The Tao is difficult to describe, but it is connected to all things. Taoists do not worship the Tao, but they worship various deities that depend on the Tao.

History of Taoism

Taoism does not have a specific founder. Its development was influenced by many religions and philosophies that existed in ancient China. It is believed that it first developed as a religion in the 4th or 3rd centuries BC. In 142 AD in China, the Tao revealed itself to Zhang Daoling, who formed the first organized school of the religion.

He also became the first Celestial Master, a tradition that survives today. During the Tang and Song dynasties, Taoism was a semi-official religion in China. This changed when Confucianism became popular. Nonetheless, Taoism was still well-spread. However, Taoism suffered greatly when Communists took over China and banned the religion. Taoism then moved to its new home, Taiwan. After some time, Chinese officials started becoming somewhat tolerant to religions and started reappearing in China.

Taoism Beliefs

The principle of yin and yang is important to Taoism. Accordingly, the religion emphasizes the union of the opposite and complementary forces of the universe. Taoism also stresses harmony with nature, immortality, benevolence, self improvement, as well as participation in helping society and the world. The concept of the Tao, which is at the core of Taoism, is often misunderstood by people who do not follow the religion. The Tao cannot be defined, according to Taoism. The Tao is the ultimate creative energy of the universe, and it is also the organic universe or cosmos itself, as well as the way of nature and the world. Deities, along with everything in the universe rely on the Tao. Taoism has borrowed most of its deities from other religions. The most important book of Taoism is the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power), which was composed around the 3rd century BC. It includes guiding words on life and describes the nature of the universe in a poetic style. A Taoist book that is famous throughout the world is The Art of War by Sun Tsu.

Taoism Customs

Rituals of Taoism attempt to bring harmony to the universe, the world, society, and individuals. Worship includes praying to deities, purification, meditation on talismans, and making offerings to deities. Due to their complicated nature, Taoist rituals are performed by priests and their assistants, who chant, dance, and play percussion and wind instruments. The chiao (jiao) is an important Taoist ritual for cosmic revival which consists of various rituals. It involves each village family bringing offerings for the deities, which are then dedicated to the deities through a ceremony by a Taoist priest. The ceremony also involves rituals asking for order for the universe and for the village. Through temple rituals, Taoists seek to stabilize the yin and yang for individuals and the community as a whole. Feng shui and fortune telling are also part of Taoism.

By Ryan Brown