Laozi (UK: /ˈlaʊˈzɪə/;[1] US: /ˈlaʊˈtsiː/; Chinese: 老子; literally "Old Master"), also rendered as Lao Tzu (/ˈlaʊˈtsuː/[1] or /ˈlaʊˈdzʌ/[2][3]) and Lao-Tze (/ˈlaʊˈdzeɪ/[4]), was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer.[5] He is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching,[6] the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.

A semi-legendary figure, Laozi was usually portrayed as a 6th-century BC contemporary of Confucius, but some modern historians consider him to have lived during the Warring States period of the 4th century BC.[7] A central figure in Chinese culture, Laozi is claimed by both the emperors of the Tang dynasty and modern people of the Li surname as a founder of their lineage. Laozi's work has been embraced by both various anti-authoritarian movements[8] and Chinese Legalism.[9]

Zhang Lu-Laozi Riding an Ox
Laozi by Zhang Lu; Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Born601 BC
Chujen village, state of Chu
DiedUnknown, departed to the West in 531 BC (aged 70)
EraAncient philosophy
RegionChinese philosophy
Notable ideas
Tao, wu wei
Laozi (Chinese characters)
"Lǎozǐ" in seal script (top) and regular (bottom) Chinese characters
Chinese name
Hanyu PinyinLǎozǐ
Literal meaning"Old Master"
Vietnamese name
VietnameseLão Tử
Korean name
Japanese name


In traditional accounts, Laozi's personal name is usually given as Li Er (, Old *ʔ nəʔ,[10] Mod. Lǐ Ěr) and his courtesy name as Boyang (trad. , simp. , Old *Pˤrak-lang,[10] Mod. Bóyáng). A prominent posthumous name was Li Dan (, Lǐ Dān).[11][12][13]

Laozi itself is a honorific title: (Old *rˤu ʔ, "old, venerable")[10] and (Old *tsəʔ, "master").[10] It has been romanized numerous ways, sometimes leading to confusion. The most common present form is Laozi or Lǎozǐ,[14] based on the Hanyu Pinyin system adopted by Mainland China in 1958[15] and by Taiwan in 2009.[16] During the 20th century, Lao-tzu[17] was more common,[14] based on the formerly prevalent Wade–Giles system. In the 19th century, the title was usually romanized as Lao-tse.[14][18] Other forms include the variants Lao-tze[19] and Lao-tsu.[20]

As a religious figure, he is worshipped under the name "Supreme Old Lord" (太上老君, Tàishàng Lǎojūn)[21] and as one of the "Three Pure Ones." During the Tang dynasty, he was granted the title "Supremely Mysterious and Primordial Emperor" (太上玄元皇帝, Tàishàng Xuānyuán Huángdì).[22]

Historical views

According to Chinese legend, Laozi left China for the west on a water buffalo.[23]

In the mid-twentieth century, a consensus emerged among scholars that the historicity of the person known as Laozi is doubtful and that the Tao Te Ching was "a compilation of Taoist sayings by many hands".[24] Alan Watts urged more caution, holding that this view was part of an academic fashion for skepticism about historical spiritual and religious figures and stating that not enough would be known for years – or possibly ever – to make a firm judgment.[25]

The earliest certain reference to the present figure of Laozi is found in the 1st‑century BC Records of the Grand Historian collected by the historian Sima Qian from earlier accounts. In one account, Laozi was said to be a contemporary of Confucius during the 6th or 5th century BC. His surname was Li and his personal name was Er or Dan. He was an official in the imperial archives and wrote a book in two parts before departing to the west. In another, Laozi was a different contemporary of Confucius titled Lao Laizi () and wrote a book in 15 parts. In a third, he was the court astrologer Lao Dan who lived during the 4th century BC reign of Duke Xian of the Qin Dynasty.[26][27] The oldest text of the Tao Te Ching so far recovered was written on bamboo slips and dates to the late 4th century BC;[6] see Guodian Chu Slips.

According to traditional accounts, Laozi was a scholar who worked as the Keeper of the Archives for the royal court of Zhou.[28] This reportedly allowed him broad access to the works of the Yellow Emperor and other classics of the time. The stories assert that Laozi never opened a formal school but nonetheless attracted a large number of students and loyal disciples. There are many variations of a story retelling his encounter with Confucius, most famously in the Zhuangzi.[29][30]

He was sometimes held to have come from the village of Chu Jen in Chu.[31] In accounts where Laozi married, he was said to have had a son named Zong who became a celebrated soldier.

The story tells of Zong the Warrior who defeats the enemy and triumphs, and then abandons the corpses of the enemy soldiers to be eaten by vultures. By coincidence Laozi, traveling and teaching the way of the Tao, comes on the scene and is revealed to be the father of Zong, from whom he was separated in childhood. Laozi tells his son that it is better to treat respectfully a beaten enemy, and that the disrespect to their dead would cause his foes to seek revenge. Convinced, Zong orders his soldiers to bury the enemy dead. Funeral mourning is held for the dead of both parties and a lasting peace is made.

Many clans of the Li family trace their descent to Laozi,[32] including the emperors of the Tang dynasty.[33][32][34] This family was known as the Longxi Li lineage (隴西李氏). According to the Simpkinses, while many (if not all) of these lineages are questionable, they provide a testament to Laozi's impact on Chinese culture.[35]

Laozi meets Yin Xi
Laozi meets Yinxi
Confucius meets Laozi, Shih Kang, Yuan dynasty

The third story in Sima Qian states that Laozi grew weary of the moral decay of life in Chengzhou and noted the kingdom's decline. He ventured west to live as a hermit in the unsettled frontier at the age of 80. At the western gate of the city (or kingdom), he was recognized by the guard Yinxi. The sentry asked the old master to record his wisdom for the good of the country before he would be permitted to pass. The text Laozi wrote was said to be the Tao Te Ching, although the present version of the text includes additions from later periods. In some versions of the tale, the sentry was so touched by the work that he became a disciple and left with Laozi, never to be seen again.[36] In others, the "Old Master" journeyed all the way to India and was the teacher of Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha. Others say he was the Buddha himself.[29][37]

Lao Tzu - Project Gutenberg eText 15250
Depiction of Laozi in E. T. C. Werner's Myths and Legends of China

A seventh-century work, the Sandong Zhunang ("Pearly Bag of the Three Caverns"), embellished the relationship between Laozi and Yinxi. Laozi pretended to be a farmer when reaching the western gate, but was recognized by Yinxi, who asked to be taught by the great master. Laozi was not satisfied by simply being noticed by the guard and demanded an explanation. Yinxi expressed his deep desire to find the Tao and explained that his long study of astrology allowed him to recognize Laozi's approach. Yinxi was accepted by Laozi as a disciple. This is considered an exemplary interaction between Taoist master and disciple, reflecting the testing a seeker must undergo before being accepted. A would-be adherent is expected to prove his determination and talent, clearly expressing his wishes and showing that he had made progress on his own towards realizing the Tao.[38]

The Pearly Bag of the Three Caverns continues the parallel of an adherent's quest. Yinxi received his ordination when Laozi transmitted the Tao Te Ching, along with other texts and precepts, just as Taoist adherents receive a number of methods, teachings and scriptures at ordination. This is only an initial ordination and Yinxi still needed an additional period to perfect his virtue, thus Laozi gave him three years to perfect his Tao. Yinxi gave himself over to a full-time devotional life. After the appointed time, Yinxi again demonstrates determination and perfect trust, sending out a black sheep to market as the agreed sign. He eventually meets again with Laozi, who announces that Yinxi's immortal name is listed in the heavens and calls down a heavenly procession to clothe Yinxi in the garb of immortals. The story continues that Laozi bestowed a number of titles upon Yinxi and took him on a journey throughout the universe, even into the nine heavens. After this fantastic journey, the two sages set out to western lands of the barbarians. The training period, reuniting and travels represent the attainment of the highest religious rank in medieval Taoism called "Preceptor of the Three Caverns". In this legend, Laozi is the perfect Taoist master and Yinxi is the ideal Taoist student. Laozi is presented as the Tao personified, giving his teaching to humanity for their salvation. Yinxi follows the formal sequence of preparation, testing, training and attainment.[39]

The story of Laozi has taken on strong religious overtones since the Han dynasty. As Taoism took root, Laozi was worshipped as a god. Belief in the revelation of the Tao from the divine Laozi resulted in the formation of the Way of the Celestial Masters, the first organized religious Taoist sect. In later mature Taoist tradition, Laozi came to be seen as a personification of the Tao. He is said to have undergone numerous "transformations" and taken on various guises in various incarnations throughout history to initiate the faithful in the Way. Religious Taoism often holds that the "Old Master" did not disappear after writing the Tao Te Ching but rather spent his life traveling and revealing the Tao.[40]

Taoist myths state that Laozi was conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star. He supposedly remained in her womb for 62 years before being born while his mother was leaning against a plum tree. (The Chinese surname Li shares its character with "plum".) Laozi was said to have emerged as a grown man with a full grey beard and long earlobes, both symbols of wisdom and long life.[41][42] Other myths state that he was reborn 13 times after his first life during the days of Fuxi. In his last incarnation as Laozi, he lived nine hundred and ninety years and spent his life traveling to reveal the Tao.[40]

Tao Te Ching

Ping Sien Si - 016 Lao zi (16135526115)
Laozi Immortal and Grand Master of Heaven

Laozi is traditionally regarded as the author of the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing), though the identity of its author(s) or compiler(s) has been debated throughout history.[43][44] It is one of the most significant treatises in Chinese cosmogony. As with most other ancient Chinese philosophers, Laozi often explains his ideas by way of paradox, analogy, appropriation of ancient sayings, repetition, symmetry, rhyme, and rhythm. In fact, the whole book can be read as an analogy – the ruler is the awareness, or self, in meditation and the myriad creatures or empire is the experience of the body, senses and desires.

The Tao Te Ching, often called simply Laozi after its reputed author, describes the Dao (or Tao) as the source and ideal of all existence: it is unseen, but not transcendent, immensely powerful yet supremely humble, being the root of all things. People have desires and free will (and thus are able to alter their own nature). Many act "unnaturally", upsetting the natural balance of the Tao. The Tao Te Ching intends to lead students to a "return" to their natural state, in harmony with Tao.[45] Language and conventional wisdom are critically assessed. Taoism views them as inherently biased and artificial, widely using paradoxes to sharpen the point.[46]

Livia Kohn provides an example of how Laozi encouraged a change in approach, or return to "nature", rather than action. Technology may bring about a false sense of progress. The answer provided by Laozi is not the rejection of technology, but instead seeking the calm state of wu wei, free from desires. This relates to many statements by Laozi encouraging rulers to keep their people in "ignorance", or "simple-minded". Some scholars insist this explanation ignores the religious context, and others question it as an apologetic of the philosophical coherence of the text. It would not be unusual political advice if Laozi literally intended to tell rulers to keep their people ignorant. However, some terms in the text, such as "valley spirit" (gushen) and "soul" (po), bear a metaphysical context and cannot be easily reconciled with a purely ethical reading of the work.[46]

Wu wei (無爲), literally "non-action" or "not acting", is a central concept of the Tao Te Ching. The concept of wu wei is multifaceted, and reflected in the words' multiple meanings, even in English translation; it can mean "not doing anything", "not forcing", "not acting" in the theatrical sense, "creating nothingness", "acting spontaneously", and "flowing with the moment."[47]

It is a concept used to explain ziran (自然), or harmony with the Tao. It includes the concepts that value distinctions are ideological and seeing ambition of all sorts as originating from the same source. Laozi used the term broadly with simplicity and humility as key virtues, often in contrast to selfish action. On a political level, it means avoiding such circumstances as war, harsh laws and heavy taxes. Some Taoists see a connection between wu wei and esoteric practices, such as zuowang "sitting in oblivion" (emptying the mind of bodily awareness and thought) found in the Zhuangzi.[46]


Laozi is traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoism, intimately connected with the Tao Te Ching and "primordial" (or "original") Taoism. Popular ("religious") Taoism typically presents the Jade Emperor as the official head deity. Intellectual ("elite") Taoists, such as the Celestial Masters sect, usually present Laozi (Laojun, "Lord Lao") and the Three Pure Ones at the top of the pantheon of deities.[48][49]


A Western Han (202 BC – 9 AD) fresco depicting Confucius and Laozi, from a tomb of Dongping County, Shandong province, China

Confucius, fresco from a Western Han tomb of Dongping County, Shandong province, China
Confucius and Laozi, fresco from a Western Han tomb of Dongping County, Shandong province, China
Laozi 002
A stone sculpture of Laozi, located north of Quanzhou at the foot of Mount Qingyuan

Potential officials throughout Chinese history drew on the authority of non-Confucian sages, especially Laozi and Zhuangzi, to deny serving any ruler at any time. Zhuangzi, Laozi's most famous follower in traditional accounts, had a great deal of influence on Chinese literati and culture.

Political theorists influenced by Laozi have advocated humility in leadership and a restrained approach to statecraft, either for ethical and pacifist reasons, or for tactical ends. In a different context, various anti-authoritarian movements have embraced the Laozi teachings on the power of the weak.[50]

Laozi was a proponent of limited government.[51] Left-libertarians in particular have been influenced by Laozi – in his 1937 book Nationalism and Culture, the anarcho-syndicalist writer and activist Rudolf Rocker praised Laozi's "gentle wisdom" and understanding of the opposition between political power and the cultural activities of the people and community.[52] In his 1910 article for the Encyclopædia Britannica, Peter Kropotkin also noted that Laozi was among the earliest proponents of essentially anarchist concepts.[53] More recently, anarchists such as John P. Clark and Ursula K. Le Guin have written about the conjunction between anarchism and Taoism in various ways, highlighting the teachings of Laozi in particular.[54] In her rendition of the Tao Te Ching, Le Guin writes that Laozi "does not see political power as magic. He sees rightful power as earned and wrongful power as usurped... He sees sacrifice of self or others as a corruption of power, and power as available to anyone who follows the Way. No wonder anarchists and Taoists make good friends."[55]

The right-libertarian economist Murray Rothbard suggested that Laozi was the first libertarian,[56] likening Laozi's ideas on government to Friedrich Hayek's theory of spontaneous order.[57] James A. Dorn agreed, writing that Laozi, like many 18th-century liberals, "argued that minimizing the role of government and letting individuals develop spontaneously would best achieve social and economic harmony."[58] Similarly, the Cato Institute's David Boaz includes passages from the Tao Te Ching' in his 1997 book The Libertarian Reader.[59] Philosopher Roderick Long, however, argues that libertarian themes in Taoist thought are actually borrowed from earlier Confucian writers.[60]



  1. ^ a b "Lao Zi". Collins English Dictionary.
  2. ^ "Lao-tzu". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  3. ^ "Lao Tzu". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2016.
  4. ^ "Laotze". Collins English Dictionary.
  5. ^ "Lao-tzu – Founder of Taoism". Government of Hubei, China. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Laozi". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy by Stanford University. 2018. The discovery of two Laozi silk manuscripts at Mawangdui, near Changsha, Hunan province in 1973 marks an important milestone in modern Laozi research. The manuscripts, identified simply as "A" (jia) and "B" (yi), were found in a tomb that was sealed in 168 BC. The texts themselves can be dated earlier, the "A" manuscript being the older of the two, copied in all likelihood before 195 BC.

    Until recently, the Mawangdui manuscripts have held the pride of place as the oldest extant manuscripts of the Laozi. In late 1993, the excavation of a tomb (identified as M1) in Guodian, Jingmen city, Hubei province, has yielded among other things some 800 bamboo slips, of which 730 are inscribed, containing over 13,000 Chinese characters. Some of these, amounting to about 2,000 characters, match the Laozi. The dated around 300 BC.

  7. ^ Kohn (2000, p. 4)
  8. ^ "Lao-tse".
  9. ^ Han Fei Tzu, the paradigm legalist, wrote one of the earliest commentaries on the Lao Tzu (cf. University of Hong Kong page).
  10. ^ a b c d Baxter, William; Sagart, Laurent (2014-09-20). "Baxter–Sagart Old Chinese Reconstruction" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-05-01.
  11. ^ Luo (2004, p. 118)
  12. ^ Kramer (1986, p. 118)
  13. ^ Kohn (2000, p. 2)
  14. ^ a b c Franz, Alex et al. ed. Google corpus. 2008. Accessed 17 Jan;2014.
  15. ^ Xinhua News Agency. "Pinyin celebrates 50th birthday". 11 Feb 2008. Accessed 20 Sept 2008.
  16. ^ Taipei Times. "Hanyu Pinyin to be standard system in 2009". 18 Sept 2008. Accessed 20 Sept 2008.
  17. ^ Also encountered as Lao Tzu and Lao-Tzu.
  18. ^ Also encountered as Lao Tse and Lao-Tse.
  19. ^ Also encountered as Lao Tze and Lao-Tze.
  20. ^ Also encountered as Lao Tsu and Lao-Tsu.
  21. ^ "Lao Zi and the Canon of Virtue".
  22. ^ 傅勤家 (1996). 道教史概論 (in Chinese). Taipei: 臺灣商務印書館. p. 82. ISBN 978-957-05-1324-0.
  23. ^ Renard (2002, p. 16)
  24. ^ Watson (1968, p. 8)
  25. ^ Watts (1975, p. xxiii)
  26. ^ Fowler (2005, p. 96)
  27. ^ Robinet (1997, p. 26)
  28. ^ "Lao Tzu (Lao Zi) Scroll Paintings and Posters". Retrieved 2013-02-15.
  29. ^ a b Simpkins & Simpkins (1999, pp. 12–13)
  30. ^ Morgan (2001, pp. 223–24)
  31. ^ Morgan (2001)
  32. ^ a b Woolf, Greg (2007). Ancient civilizations: the illustrated guide to belief, mythology, and art. Barnes & Noble. pp. 218–19. ISBN 978-1-4351-0121-0.
  33. ^ Latourette, Kenneth Scott (1934), The Chinese: their history and culture, Volume 1 (2 ed.), Macmillan, p. 191, retrieved February 8, 2012, T'ai Tsung's family professed descent from Lao Tzu (for the latter's reputed patronymic was likewise Li)
  34. ^ Hargett, James M. (2006). Stairway to Heaven: A Journey to the Summit of Mount Emei. SUNY Press. pp. 54–. ISBN 978-0-7914-6682-7.
  35. ^ Simpkins & Simpkins (1999, p. 12)
  36. ^ Kohn & Lafargue (1998, pp. 14, 17, 54–55)
  37. ^ Morgan (2001, pp. 224–25)
  38. ^ Kohn & Lafargue (1998, p. 55)
  39. ^ Kohn & Lafargue (1998, pp. 55–56)
  40. ^ a b Kohn (2000, pp. 3–4)
  41. ^ Simpkins & Simpkins (1999, pp. 11–12)
  42. ^ Morgan (2001, p. 303)
  43. ^ Simpkins & Simpkins (1999, pp. 11–13)
  44. ^ Morgan (2001, p. 223)
  45. ^ Van Norden & Ivanhoe (2005, p. 162)
  46. ^ a b c Kohn (2000, p. 22)
  47. ^ Watts (1975, pp. 78–86)
  48. ^ Maspero (1981, p. 41)
  49. ^ Robinet (1997, p. 63)
  50. ^ Roberts (2004, pp. 1–2)
  51. ^ Dorn (2008, pp. 282–283)
  52. ^ Rocker (1997, pp. 256, 82)
  53. ^ "Britannica: Anarchism". Retrieved 2011-11-14.
  54. ^ Clark, John P. "Master Lao and the Anarchist Prince". Archived from the original on 2017-10-20. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
  55. ^ Le Guin (2009, p. 20)
  56. ^ Rothbard, Murray (2005). Excerpt from "Concepts of the Role of Intellectuals in Social Change Toward Laissez Faire", The Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. IX, No. 2 (Fall 1990) at
  57. ^ Rothbard, Murray (2005). "The Ancient Chinese Libertarian Tradition", Mises Daily, (December 5, 2005) (original source unknown) at
  58. ^ Dorn (2008)
  59. ^ Boaz (1997)
  60. ^ Long (2003)


  • Boaz, David (1997), The libertarian reader: classic and contemporary readings from Lao-tzu to Milton Friedman, New York: Free Press, ISBN 978-0-684-84767-2
  • Dorn, James A. (2008). "Lao Tzu (C. 600 B.C.)". In Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n169. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  • Fowler, Jeaneane (2005), An Introduction To The Philosophy And Religion Of Taoism: Pathways To Immortality, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, ISBN 978-1-84519-085-9
  • Kohn, Livia (2000), Daoism Handbook (Handbook of Oriental Studies / Handbuch der Orientalisk – Part 4: China, 14), Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 978-90-04-11208-7
  • Kohn, Livia; Lafargue, Michael, eds. (1998), Lao-Tzu and the Tao-Te-Ching, Albany: State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-3599-1
  • Kramer, Kenneth (1986), World scriptures: an introduction to comparative religions, New York: Paulist Press, ISBN 978-0-8091-2781-8
  • Long, Roderick T. (Summer 2003), "Austro-Libertarian Themes in Early Confucianism" (PDF), The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 3, 17: 35–62
  • Le Guin, Ursula K. (2009), Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way (2nd ed.), Washington, DC: Shambhala Publications Inc., ISBN 978-1-59030-744-1
  • Luo, Jing (2004), Over a cup of tea: an introduction to Chinese life and culture, Washington, DC: University Press of America, ISBN 978-0-7618-2937-9
  • Maspero, Henri (1981), Taoism and Chinese religion, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, ISBN 978-0-87023-308-1
  • Morgan, Diane (2001), The Best Guide to Eastern Philosophy and Religion, New York: St. Martin's Griffin, ISBN 978-1-58063-197-6
  • Renard, John (2002), 101 Questions and answers on Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto, New York: Paulist Press, ISBN 978-0-8091-4091-6
  • Roberts, Moss (2004), Dao De Jing: The Book of the Way, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-24221-0
  • Robinet, Isabelle (1997), Taoism: Growth of a Religion, Stanford: Stanford University Press, ISBN 978-0-8047-2839-3
  • Simpkins, Annellen M.; Simpkins, C. Alexander (1999), Simple Taoism: a guide to living in balance (3rd Printing ed.), Boston: Tuttle Publishing, ISBN 978-0-8048-3173-4
  • Van Norden, Bryan W.; Ivanhoe, Philip J. (2006), Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (2nd ed.), Indianapolis, Ind: Hackett Publishing Company, ISBN 978-0-87220-780-6
  • Watson, Burton (1968), Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, New York: Columbia Univ. Press (UNESCO Collection of Representative Works: Chinese Series), ISBN 978-0-231-03147-9
  • Watts, Alan; Huan, Al Chung-liang (1975), Tao: The Watercourse Way, New York: Pantheon Books, ISBN 978-0-394-73311-1
  • Rocker, Rudolf (1997). Nationalism and Culture. Black Rose Books.

Further reading

  • Kaltenmark, Max (1969), Lao Tzu and Taoism, Translated by Greaves, Roger, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, ISBN 978-0-8047-0689-6
  • Kohn & Lafargue (1998)
  • Lao, Tzu (2009), Lao-Tzu's Taoteching, Porter, Bill (Red Pine) (3rd Revised ed.), Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, ISBN 978-1-55659-290-4
Translations into English

External links

6th century BC

The 6th century BC started the first day of 600 BC and ended the last day of 501 BC.

This century represents the peak of a period in human history popularly known as Axial Age. This period saw the emergence of five major thought streams springing from five great thinkers in different parts of the world: Buddha and Mahavira in India, Zoroaster in Persia, Pythagoras in Greece and Confucius in China.

Pāṇini, in India, composed a grammar for Sanskrit, in this century or slightly later. This is the oldest still known grammar of any language.

In Western Asia, the first half of this century was dominated by the Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean empire, which had risen to power late in the previous century after successfully rebelling against Assyrian rule. The Kingdom of Judah came to an end in 586 BC when Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem, and removed most of its population to their own lands. Babylonian rule was ended in the 540s by Cyrus, who founded the Persian Empire in its place. The Persian Empire continued to expand and grew into the greatest empire the world had known at the time.

In Iron Age Europe, the Celtic expansion was in progress. China was in the Spring and Autumn period.

Mediterranean: Beginning of Greek philosophy, flourishes during the 5th century BC

The late Hallstatt culture period in Eastern and Central Europe, the late Bronze Age in Northern Europe

East Asia: the Spring and Autumn period. Confucianism, Legalism and Moism flourish. Laozi founds Taoism

West Asia: During the Persian empire, Zoroaster, a.k.a. Zarathustra, founded Zoroastrianism, a dualistic philosophy. This was also the time of the Babylonian captivity of the ancient Jews.

Ancient India: the Buddha and Mahavira found Buddhism and Jainism

The decline of the Olmec civilization in Central America

Daode Tianzun

Daode Tianzun (道德天尊) is the official title for Tàiqīng (太清): the Grand Pure One, which is one of the Three Pure Ones. He is commonly known as Taishang Laojun (太上老君) "The Grand Supreme Elderly Lord". His other names include Daode Zhizun 道德至尊 "The Universally Honoured Virtuous One", Daojiao Zhizu (道教之祖), the Taoist Ancestor. Laozi is regarded to be a manifestation of Daode Tianzun who authored the classic Tao Te Ching.

His manifestation anniversary falls on the 15th day of 2nd month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

Dongping County

Dongping County (simplified Chinese: 东平县; traditional Chinese: 東平縣; pinyin: Dōngpíng Xiàn; literally: 'eastern peace') is a county in the southwestern part of Tai'an, in the west of Shandong Province, China.

In 2007 a remarkable series of well-preserved frescoes dating to the Western Han Period (206 BC - 25 AD) was discovered in a tomb as construction workers were excavating for a planned shopping mall. The frescoes show, among other things, one of the earliest pictorial representations of Confucius meeting Laozi.

History of Taoism

The history of Taoism stretches throughout Chinese history. Originating in prehistoric China, it has exerted a powerful influence over Chinese culture throughout the ages. Taoism evolved in response to changing times, with its doctrine and associated practices being revised and refined. The acceptance of Taoism by the ruling class has waxed and waned, alternately enjoying periods of favor and rejection. Most recently, Taoism has emerged from a period of suppression and is undergoing a revival in China.

Laozi is traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoist religion and is closely associated in this context with "original", or "primordial", Taoism. Whether he actually existed is disputed, however, the work attributed to him - the Daodejing - is dated to the 4th or 3rd century BC. However, Taoism clearly predates Laozi (Lao Tzu) as he refers to "The Tao masters of antiquity" in Chapter 15 of the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching). Moreover, the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi (2697–2597 BCE) Is often associated with origin of the Tao.

Sinologist Isabelle Robinet identifies four components in the emergence of Taoism:

Philosophical Taoism, i.e. the Daodejing and Zhuangzi

Techniques for achieving ecstasy

Practices for achieving longevity or immortality

ExorcismSome elements of Taoism may be traced to prehistoric folk religions in China that later coalesced into a Taoist tradition. In particular, many Taoist practices drew from the Warring-States-era phenomena of the Wu (shaman) (connected to the "shamanism" of Southern China) and the Fangshi (which probably derived from the "archivist-soothsayers of antiquity, one of whom supposedly was Laozi himself"), even though later Taoists insisted that this was not the case. Both terms were used to designate individuals dedicated to "... magic, medicine, divination,... methods of longevity and to ecstatic wanderings" as well as exorcism; in the case of the wu, "shamans" or "sorcerers" is often used as a translation. The fangshi were philosophically close to the School of Yin-Yang, and relied much on astrological and calendrical speculations in their divinatory activities.


The Huahujing (formerly written Hua Hu Ching) is a Taoist book. The work is traditionally attributed to Laozi (formerly written Lao Tzu).

Two unrelated versions are claimed to exist, a partial manuscript discovered in a cave in China and a modern English rendering from oral tradition, while some scholars believe the whole work to be a forgery.

Li (surname 李)

Li (Chinese: 李; pinyin: Lǐ) is the second most common surname in China, behind only Wang. It is one of the most common surnames in the world, shared by 92.76 million people in China, and more than 100 million worldwide. It is the fourth name listed in the Song dynasty classic text Hundred Family Surnames.The name is pronounced as "Lei" in Cantonese, but is often spelled as Lee in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and many other overseas Chinese communities. In Macau, it is also spelled as Lei. In Indonesia it is commonly spelled as Lie.The common Korean surname, Lee (also romanized as Yi, Ri, or Rhee), and the Vietnamese surname, Lý, are both derived from Li and are historically written with the same Chinese character, 李. The character also means "plum" or "plum tree".

According to tradition, the Li surname originated from the title Dali held by Gao Yao, a legendary minister of the Xia dynasty, and was originally written with the different character, 理. Laozi (Li Er), the founder of Taoism, was the first historical person known to have the surname and is regarded as the founding ancestor of the surname.

As the surname of the emperors of the Tang dynasty, Li was bestowed upon or adopted by numerous people, including many foreigners, during the period, and became one of the most common Chinese surnames.

Li Hong (Taoist eschatology)

Li Hong (Chinese: 李洪) is a messianic figure in religious Taoism prophesied to appear at the end of the world cycle to rescue the chosen people, who would be distinguished by certain talismans, practices and virtues. Myths surrounding Li Hong took shape in literature during the Han dynasty. He is depicted in the Taoist Divine Incantations Scripture as an ideal leader who would reappear to set right heaven (tian) and earth (dì) at a time of upheaval and chaos. Li Hong is sometimes considered to be an avatar or reincarnation of Laozi, with whom he shares the surname Li. Prophesies concerning Li Hong's appearance have been used to legitimize numerous rebellions and insurgencies, all of which rallied around a Li Hong. These were particularly prevalent during the fifth century, and continued to appear until the Song dynasty.


Lier may refer to:

Lier, Belgium

Lier, Norway

De Lier, Netherlands

Li Er, also known as Laozi, a Chinese philosopher

List of Taoists

List of Taoists contains list of historical figures in Taoism. Other mystic figures are not listed.

Research Association of Laozi Taoist Culture

Research Association of Laozi Taoist Culture or Chinese Research Association of Laozi Taoist Culture (RALTC or CRALTC) is a religious and academic organisation founded in March 2008 in China. Aim of the organisation is to promote higher education and research on Taoism in China and abroad.

The inauguration ceremony took place at the Great Hall of the People of Beijing with supervision of Ge Rongjin, a professor from Renmin University of China.

Super Best Friends

"Super Best Friends" is the third episode of the fifth season of the American animated television series South Park, and the 68th episode of the series overall. It first aired on Comedy Central in the United States on July 4, 2001. In the episode, Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny discover the magician David Blaine performing in South Park and decide to join his cult, the Blaintologists. Stan quickly finds out that the Blaintologists are not as nice as everyone thinks and tries to convince the other boys they've been brainwashed, and have forsaken their friends and families. Teaming up with Jesus, Stan calls upon the Super Best Friends, a parody of the Super Friends, to destroy Blaine and thwart the mass suicide pact he has launched.

The episode was written by series co-creator Trey Parker and is rated TV-MA in the United States. It depicts several religious figures, including Muhammad, whose appearance at the time of the original airing caused little to no controversy. Following Islamists' death threats regarding Muhammad's portrayal in the 2010 episode titled "201", the South Park Studios website no longer streams "Super Best Friends", nor is it available for streaming or purchase from online stores. The episode has been replaced on the South Park Studios with a notice: "We apologize that South Park Studios cannot stream Super Best Friends." The episode was also featured in syndication, but was permanently removed after the threats. It is one of three episodes which are unavailable on Hulu, along with season 14's "200" and the aforementioned "201."

In 2013, fans voted "Super Best Friends" as the best episode of Season 5.


Tao (, ) or Dao () DOW; from Chinese: 道; pinyin: Dào [tâu] (listen)) is a Chinese word signifying 'way', 'path', 'route', 'road' or sometimes more loosely 'doctrine', 'principle' or 'holistic beliefs'. In the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, Tao is the natural order of the universe whose character one’s human intuition must discern in order to realize the potential for individual wisdom. This intuitive knowing of “life” cannot be grasped as a concept; it is known through actual living experience of one’s everyday being.

Laozi in the Tao Te Ching explains that the Tao is not a 'name' for a 'thing' but the underlying natural order of the Universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe due to it being non conceptual yet evident' in one's being of aliveness. The Tao is "eternally nameless" (Tao Te Ching-32. Laozi) and to be distinguished from the countless 'named' things which are considered to be its manifestations, the reality of life before its descriptions of it.

The Tao lends its name to the religious tradition (Wade–Giles, Tao Chiao; Pinyin, Daojiao) and philosophical tradition (Wade–Giles, Tao chia; Pinyin, Daojia) that are both referred to in English with the single term Taoism.

Tao Te Ching

The Tao Te Ching ([tâu tɤ̌ tɕíŋ] (listen)), also known by its pinyin romanization Dao De Jing, is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. The text's authorship, date of composition and date of compilation are debated. The oldest excavated portion dates back to the late 4th century BC, but modern scholarship dates other parts of the text as having been written—or at least compiled—later than the earliest portions of the Zhuangzi.The Tao Te Ching, along with the Zhuangzi, is a fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism. It also strongly influenced other schools of Chinese philosophy and religion, including Legalism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, which was largely interpreted through the use of Taoist words and concepts when it was originally introduced to China. Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers, and gardeners, have used the Tao Te Ching as a source of inspiration. Its influence has spread widely outside East Asia and it is among the most translated works in world literature.


Taoism (, ), or Daoism (), is a religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (Chinese: 道; pinyin: Dào; literally: 'the Way', also romanized as Dao). The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasizing rigid rituals and social order, but is similar in the sense that it is a teaching about the various disciplines for achieving "perfection" by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the universe called "the way" or "dao". Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasize wu wei (action without intention), "naturalness", simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: 慈 "compassion", 儉 "frugality", and 不敢為天下先 "humility".

The roots of Taoism go back at least to the 4th century BCE. Early Taoism drew its cosmological notions from the School of Yinyang (Naturalists), and was deeply influenced by one of the oldest texts of Chinese culture, the I Ching, which expounds a philosophical system about how to keep human behavior in accordance with the alternating cycles of nature. The "Legalist" Shen Buhai (c. 400 – c. 337 BCE) may also have been a major influence, expounding a realpolitik of wu wei. The Tao Te Ching, a compact book containing teachings attributed to Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Lao³ Tzŭ³), is widely considered the keystone work of the Taoist tradition, together with the later writings of Zhuangzi.

By the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), the various sources of Taoism had coalesced into a coherent tradition of religious organizations and orders of ritualists in the state of Shu (modern Sichuan). In earlier ancient China, Taoists were thought of as hermits or recluses who did not participate in political life. Zhuangzi was the best known of these, and it is significant that he lived in the south, where he was part of local Chinese shamanic traditions.Female shamans played an important role in this tradition, which was particularly strong in the southern state of Chu. Early Taoist movements developed their own institution in contrast to shamanism, but absorbed basic shamanic elements. Shamans revealed basic texts of Taoism from early times down to at least the 20th century. Institutional orders of Taoism evolved in various strains that in more recent times are conventionally grouped into two main branches: Quanzhen Taoism and Zhengyi Taoism. After Laozi and Zhuangzi, the literature of Taoism grew steadily and was compiled in form of a canon—the Daozang—which was published at the behest of the emperor. Throughout Chinese history, Taoism was nominated several times as a state religion. After the 17th century, however, it fell from favor.

Taoism has had a profound influence on Chinese culture in the course of the centuries, and Taoists (Chinese: 道士; pinyin: dàoshi, "masters of the Tao"), a title traditionally attributed only to the clergy and not to their lay followers, usually take care to note distinction between their ritual tradition and the practices of Chinese folk religion and non-Taoist vernacular ritual orders, which are often mistakenly identified as pertaining to Taoism. Chinese alchemy (especially neidan), Chinese astrology, Chan (Zen) Buddhism, several martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, feng shui, and many styles of qigong have been intertwined with Taoism throughout history. Beyond China, Taoism also had influence on surrounding societies in Asia.

Today, the Taoist tradition is one of the five religious doctrines officially recognized in the People's Republic of China (PRC) as well as the Republic of China (ROC), and although it does not travel readily from its East Asian roots, it claims adherents in a number of societies, in particular in Hong Kong, Macau, and in Southeast Asia.

The Northern Celestial Masters

The Northern Celestial Masters type of the Way of the Celestial Master (simplified Chinese: 天师道; traditional Chinese: 天師道; pinyin: Tiān Shī Dào) Daoist movement existed in the north of China during the Southern and Northern Dynasties. The Northern Celestial Masters were a continuation of the Way of the Celestial Masters as it had been practiced in Sichuan province by Zhang Lu and his followers. After the community was forced to relocate in 215 CE, a group of Celestial Masters established themselves in Northern China. Kou Qianzhi, from a family who followed the Celestial Master, brought a new version of Celestial Master Daoism to the Northern Wei. The Northern Wei government embraced his form of Daoism and established it as the state religion, thereby creating a new Daoist theocracy that lasted until 450 CE. The arrival of Buddhism had great influence on the Northern Celestial Masters, bringing monasticism and influencing the diet of practitioners. Art produced in areas dominated by the Northern Celestial Masters also began to show Buddhist influence. When the theocracy collapsed, many Daoists fled to Louguan, which quickly became an important religious center. The Northern Celestial Masters survived as a distinct school at Louguan until the late 7th century CE, when they became integrated into the wider Daoist movement.

Western Liang (Sixteen Kingdoms)

The Western Liang (traditional Chinese: 西涼; simplified Chinese: 西凉; pinyin: Xī Liáng; 400-421) was a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms in China, one of the "Five Liang" (Wu Liang) of this era. Western Liang was founded by the Li family of the Han Chinese. The founder of the Tang Dynasty, Li Yuan (Emperor Gaozu), traced his patrilineal ancestry to the Western Liang rulers, and traced the ancestry of the Western Liang rulers to Li Guang and Laozi in the paternal line. The Li family of Western Liang were known as the Longxi Li lineage (隴西李氏).All rulers of the Western Liang proclaimed themselves "wang".

Wu wei

Wu wei (无为) is a concept literally meaning "without exertion". Wu wei emerged in the Spring and Autumn period, and Confucianism, to become an important concept in Chinese statecraft and Taoism, and was most commonly used to refer to an ideal form of government including the behavior of the emperor. Describing a state of unconflicting personal harmony, free-flowing spontaneity and savoir faire, it generally also more properly denotes a state of spirit or mind, and in Confucianism accords with conventional morality. Sinologist Jean François Billeter describes it as a "state of perfect knowledge of the reality of the situation, perfect efficaciousness and the realization of a perfect economy of energy", which in practice Edward Slingerland qualifies as a "set of ("transformed") dispositions (including physical bearing)... conforming with the normative order."


Xuanxue (simplified Chinese: 玄学; traditional Chinese: 玄學; pinyin: Xuánxué; Wade–Giles: Hsüan-hsüeh; literally: 'mysterious learning'), Neo-Taoism, or Neo-Daoism was the focal school of thought in Chinese philosophy from the third to sixth century CE. Xuanxue philosophers combined elements of Confucianism and Taoism to reinterpret the Yijing, Daodejing, and Zhuangzi.The name compounds xuan 玄 "black, dark; mysterious, profound, abstruse, arcane," occurs in the first chapter of the Lao-tzu. Xue 學 "study, learn, learning," literally the "learning" or "study" of the "arcane," "mysterious," or "profound." In Modern Standard Chinese usage, xuanxue can mean "neo-Daoism," "Buddhism," "metaphysics," "spiritualism," or "mysticism".French sinologist Terrien de Lacouperie (1845-1894) believed Neo-Daoism originally developed out of an amalgamation of "wonderism" (or Jixia Academy thought) and the philosophical Daoism of Laozi.Two influential Xuanxue scholars were Wang Bi and Guo Xiang, editors and leading commentators on the Daodejing and Zhuangzi, respectively. For instance, the Daodejing exists in two received versions named after the commentaries. While the "Heshang Gong version" explains textual references to Daoist meditation, the "Wang Bi version" does not. Richard Wilhelm said the Wang Bi commentary changed the Daodejing "from a compendiary of magical meditation to a collection of free philosophical aperçus."


Ziran is a key concept in Daoism that literally means "self so; so of its own; so of itself" and thus "naturally; natural; spontaneously; freely; in the course of events; of course; doubtlessly". This Chinese word is a two-character compound of zi (自) "nose; self; oneself; from; since" and ran (然) "right; correct; so; yes", which is used as a -ran suffix marking adjectives or adverbs (roughly corresponding to English -ly). In Chinese culture, the nose (or zi) is a common metaphor for a person's point of view.

Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinLǎozǐ
Bopomofoㄌㄠˇ   ㄗˇ
Gwoyeu RomatzyhLaotzyy
Wade–GilesLao³ Tzŭ³
Yale RomanizationLǎudž
Yue: Cantonese
Yale RomanizationLóuhjí
Southern Min
Hokkien POJLó-chú
Old Chinese
Baxter–Sagart (2014)*C.rˤuʔ tsəʔ
Revised RomanizationNoja
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