The word Tao means path or way, although the original meaning in Chinese philosophy and religion is more abstract. Behind all material things and all the change in the world lies one fundamental, universal principle which is the Way or Tao.
This principle governs everything, all change and all life. Behind the multiplicity and contradictions of the world lies a unity: the Tao. The Power of the Way is Te. The purpose of human life is to live life according to the Tao.

"Beyond the gate of experience flows the Way,
Which is ever greater and more subtle than the world."

From the Tao Te Ching

Major Taoist Scriptures

The Tao Te Ching written by Lao Tzu. It is not thematically ordered, but the leading themes are about the nature of Tao and how to attain it. The opening lines are:

"The Way that can be experienced is not true;
The world that can be constructed is not real."

Zhuangzi, written by the same named sage is a book of prose, poetry, humor and disputation.

The Daozang or Treasury of Tao is considered as the Taoist canon. It is divided into three gongs or caves: The Zhen (Truth), The Xuan (Mystery) and The Shen (Divine revelation).


Teachings & Beliefs

  • Tao is the flow of the universe, the force behind the natural order that keeps the universe balanced and ordered. Universe works harmoniously according to its own ways.
  • Te is the active living, the power of Tao or cultivation of "way" over power, virtue; and integrity; Living simply in harmony with Te and Tao lead to a joyful life;
  • Wu Wei or action without action is like water yielding through nature, soft and weak, but moving earth and carving stone. Exerting the will against the world disrupts the harmony. Humans must place the will in harmony with the natural universe;
  • P'u is a passive state of receptiveness, state of perception without prejudice. In which everything is seen as it is, without preconceptions or illusion. It is an impersonal creative principle without judging and moral distinction between right and wrong;
  • Human individum is a microcosm for the universe and by understanding it, we gain the knowledge of the universe; Three basic virtues are compassion or kindness, moderation or simplicity and humility or modesty; Self-control and moderation are emphasized in sex (abstinence and indulgence are equally dangerous);
  • The Taijitu or "Yin and Yang" is a Taoist symbol for polar or seemingly contrary forces which are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn.
    All is interdependence of dualities. Labeling something 'good' automatically creates evil. Any action would have some negative (yin) and some positive (yang) aspect. Nature is continued balance of yin and yang, as nothing has a permanent independent existence;
  • Ba gua or "Eight Trigrams" is a Taoist symbol for cosmology representing the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts (each consisting of three lines, each line, "broken" or "unbroken" represents yin or yang), referred as trigrams in English because of their tripartite structure. The ancient Chinese classic I Ching consists of the 64 possible pairs of trigrams (called "hexagrams") and commentary on them;

Taoist Practices

Neidan, or spiritual alchemy is a series of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines that help in prolonging the life of the body and create an immortal spiritual body that would survive after death. In Neidan, Three Treasures of Jing, Chi, and Shen are cultivated in the human body for improving physical, emotional and mental health, making it immortal and merging with the Tao;

TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine, including herbal treatments, acupuncture, dietary therapy, Tui na and Shiatsu massage, many styles of Qigong breath training and Taijiquan;

Feng shui is the knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure the health and good fortune for people inhabiting it;

Sacrificing food to the spirits of the deceased or gods at certain dates;

Burning Joss paper, made from coarse bamboo paper, also known as "ghost money" burned for the purpose of ensuring that spirit of the deceased has lots of good things in the afterlife;

Vegan diet (excludes the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose);

Street parades on particular holidays with firecrackers, traditional music, lion and dragon dances, "spirit medium", human-occupied puppets;

Some martial arts traditions such as T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Wing Chun, to name a few;

Fortune telling includes primary The Book of Changes, I Ching, one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts that contains a divination system widely used for this purpose along with Chinese Astrology.

"The Tao that can be told of is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The Named is the mother of all things.
Therefore, let there always be non-being, so we may see their subtlety,
And let there always be being, so we may see their outcome.
The two are the same,
But after they are produced, they have different names.
They both may be called deep and profound.
Deeper and more profound,
The door of all subtleties!"

Lao Tzu