Taoism is one of the great pillars of chinese philisophical thought (the other being Confucianism). Yet, to describe it as merely a ‘philisophical thought’ is kind of like saying of the colour red “it’s not blue and it’s not green.” But notice that neither description actually conveys anything of use in helping you to imagine what the colour red looks like if you’ve never seen it.
I’ve read Taoism described as a religion, a philosophy and a way of life and I believe it is all of the above and many more aside.
However, I do favour a couple of definitions; one being that Taoism is the safety valve for life.
In my experience, it is very difficult to make your way out of the traditional lifestyle pattern that we seem to adhere to here in the ‘westernised world’. That being junior state-sponsored education, state-backed higher education, the promise of a good paying job for life, a nice house, family and then happily ever after.
In actual fact, for me, instead of being the formula to a “better life”, this kind of lifestyle has proven extremely high pressured and quite unhealthy. It has placed emotional, financial, social and spiritual demands upon me that, deep down, I could feel, weren’t quite ‘right’ or ‘natural’ for me.
I do believe it is true that many people feel trapped in their lives (the rat race, the 9-5, the ‘system’) and Taoism seemed to offer me an alternative.
Taoism was the release valve, the ghost in the machine or the ‘way’ to a different kind of life.
It is an extension of the word ‘Tao’.
Tao-ism is the practice of following ‘Tao’, which “can literally be translated as ‘way’, or one of its synonyms, and this was extended to mean ‘the Way’. This term has special meaning within the context of Taoism, where it implies the essential yet unnameable process of nature and the Universe.” – David James Lees
To follow Taoism then, is the practice of following the way of nature and the universe.
But don’t be fooled. It’s influence spans beyond a mere philisophical definition and lifestyle choice. It’s teachings can be applied to health, medicine, work, relationships and any other aspect of life. It is said to originate from the writings of Lao Tzu, in the book ascribed to his name, the Tao Te Ching.
However, the Tao Te Ching is only a book and it would make perfect sense in the context of the Tao, that the verses found in the Tao Te Ching are actually the collation of hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of years’ prior life experience, handed down through the ages traditionally by spoken word.
But perhaps Lao Tzu was among the first who felt that capturing some of the essence of these teachings in writing was the only natural way to share it across time and space?
Anyway, to Taoism, there’s a saying I heard once, “if it happens, it’s Tao. If it doesn’t happen, it’s Tao.”
Who am I to argue with that?
Further Reading for What is Taoism?
The Chinese Taoist Association
Chinese Taoist Association
A General Introduction to Daoism in China. The site is chinese in origin and you’ll need to translate. There are English and Espanol language options available on the website.
Taoism (or Daoism) refers to a variety of related philosophical and religious traditions that have influenced Eastern Asia for more than two millennia, and have had a notable influence on the western world particularly since the 19th century.
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How can we understand Taoism? It appears at first to be a school of philosophy, but then we learn that ordained Taoist priests, wearing formal robes, perform prescribed rituals before precisely laid-out altars. It seems firmly rooted in humanism, but then we discover that it boasts an extensive pantheon of deities who populate an elaborate network of heavens…
Advice and resources for foreigners in China. China Expat’s offer a great deal of free information regarding Chinese culture and traditions. In addition to in depth guides related to Chinese Opera, literature and culture in general, we offer a very detailed section devoted to Taoism, supported by many pictures and factual information.
We are a small school hidden deep in the Wudang mountains, China. We offer traditional training in :- Kung Fu, Qigong, Taiji (tai chi), Doaist Philosophy, Meditation and Internal Alchemy.
Our aim is to provide an amazing, enjoyable experience when you come and study at our school. We have picked a secret spot up in the mountains to run our school, this helps to remove all of life’s distractions and allows you to focus on training. We keep class sizes small and food clean and healthy – the way it should be.
Jade Dragon Online, your source for Asian culture, expands your knowledge of Asian culture through feature articles on Asian philosophy, martial arts, holistic health, travel, doing business in Asia, the overseas Asian experience, and much, much more!
Tao Manor allows visitors to learn more about Taoism through videos, books, online articles, and a link directory. Bias is more toward philosophical Taoism and practical applications, but resources for other traditions are available.
i take things as they come. i try to do it as often as i can. i feel more full[filled] when i stop and look at no thing than when i work non-stop all day. i think this is why i philosophise over tao and practice tai chi. i don't know why i read law books though...