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Religious Studies: Taoism/Daoism

Religion 101


Approach it and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end. You can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life. Just realize where you come from: this is the essence of wisdom. (Tao Te Ching, pg 14)


A term used in the Western world to describe both philosophical Taoism, tao-chia or School of the Way, and religious Taoism, tao-chiao, a diverse collection of religious movements and schools among which the main were the Way of the Realization of Truth (ch’üan-chen tao), and the Way of Right Unity (cheng-I tao).

Taoism. (2001). In A. P. Iannone, Dictionary of world philosophy. Routledge

Kirkland, R. (1996). Taoism. In J. J. Chambliss (Ed.), Philosophy of education: an encyclopedia. Routledge.

"Traditionally founded by the Chinese philosopher Lao Zi in the 6th century BC . He is also attributed authorship of the scriptures, Tao Te Ching , although these were apparently compiled in the 3rd century BC."

Taoism. (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Helicon.

  1.  The universe is believed to be kept in balance by the opposing forces of yin and yang that operate in dynamic tension between themselves.
  2. Yin is female and watery: the force in the Moon and rain which reaches its peak in the winter. 
  3. Yang is masculine and solid: the force in the Sun and earth which reaches its peak in the summer.
  4. The interaction of yin and yang is believed to shape all life.
  • Physical immortality: achieved through dietary regulation, fasting, and alchemy.
  • Worship of gods: e.g. Stove God
  • Monastic communities

Taoism. (2018). In Helicon (Ed.), The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Helicon.


"The Complete Reality movement, or Quanzhen Daoism, is a major Daoist sect that was begun in China by Wang Chongyang (Wang Zhe, 1113-70), a member of the literati, during the Jin dynasty (1115-1234). A particular goal of Wang's Complete Reality movement was to refine the body's energies through the practices of inner alchemy (neidan). Wang called his meditative practice jing zuo, “quiet sitting,” a term probably borrowed from Chan Buddhism. He borrowed from Confucianism an emphasis on filial piety and ascetic practices. His teaching emphasized abstaining from sex, alcohol, and strong vegetables. Quanzhen practitioners evolved a monastic lifestyle, in contrast to most other Daoist groups. Quanzhen monks were expected to own only seven articles: a meditation cushion, a robe, a bowl, a straw hat, a horsehair whisk, a scripture bag, and a staff."

Irons, E. A. (2016). Quanzhen Daoism. In E. Irons (Author), Encyclopedia of World Religions: Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Facts On File. 

"Classical Daoism began in 142 CE, when Zhang Daoling started the Zhengyi Dao (Way of Orthodox Unity), also called Tianshi Dao (Way of the Celestial Masters), the first organized Daoist religion. Classical Daoism took general shape in this period as an organized religious spirit. It developed fixed rituals and important texts. Zhengyi Dao was founded in Sichuan, in far western China. Zhengyi Dao was a theocracy—civil and religious administrations were the same. The group also used public ritual to expatiate or atone for sins. It taught that Laozi was a god. All offices in Zhengyi Dao were hereditary. So eventually Zhang Daoling's son and grandson took over. Zhang Lu, the grandson, finally surrendered power to the revolutionary leader Cao Cao in 215. At this point all Zhengyi Dao followers dispersed to different regions of China."

Irons, E. A. (2016). Zhengyi Dao. In E. Irons (Author), Encyclopedia of World Religions: Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Facts On File.


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