The Tao Te Ching ([tâu tɤ̌ tɕíŋ] (listen)), also known by its pinyin romanization Dao De Jing,[a] 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.
|Tao Te Ching|
Ink on silk manuscript of the Tao Te Ching, 2nd century BC, unearthed from Mawangdui
|Author||Laozi (traditionally credited)|
|4th century BC|
Published in English
|道德經 at Chinese Wikisource|
|Translation||Tao Te Ching at Wikisource|
|Tao Te Ching|
|Wade–Giles||Tao⁴ Tê² Ching¹|
|Hanyu Pinyin||Dàodé Jīng|
|Literal meaning||"Scripture of the Way and Morality"|
|Laozi's Tao Te Ching|
|Wade–Giles||Lao³ Tzŭ³ Tao⁴ Tê² Ching¹|
|Hanyu Pinyin||Lǎozǐ Dàodé Jīng|
|Wade–Giles||Tao⁴ Tê² Chên¹ Ching¹|
|Hanyu Pinyin||Dàodé Zhēnjīng|
|Literal meaning||"Sutra of the Way and Its Power"|
|Literal meaning||"Old Master"|
|Wade–Giles||Wu³ Ch‘ien¹ Wên²|
|Hanyu Pinyin||Wǔqiān Wén|
|Literal meaning||"The 5000 Characters"|
The first character can be considered to modify the second or can be understood as standing alongside it in modifying the third. Thus, the Tao Te Ching can be translated as The Classic of the Way's Virtue(s), The Book of the Tao and Its Virtue, or The Book of the Way and of Virtue. It has also been translated as The Tao and its Characteristics, The Canon of Reason and Virtue, The Classic Book of Integrity and the Way, and A Treatise on the Principle and Its Action.
Ancient Chinese books were commonly referenced by the name of their real or supposed author, in this case the "Old Master", Laozi. As such, the Tao Te Ching is also sometimes referred to as the Laozi, especially in Chinese sources.
The Tao Te Ching has a long and complex textual history. Known versions and commentaries date back two millennia, including ancient bamboo, silk, and paper manuscripts discovered in the twentieth century.
The Tao Te Ching is a short text of around 5,000 Chinese characters in 81 brief chapters or sections (章). There is some evidence that the chapter divisions were later additions—for commentary, or as aids to rote memorization—and that the original text was more fluidly organized. It has two parts, the Tao Ching (道經; chapters 1–37) and the Te Ching (德經; chapters 38–81), which may have been edited together into the received text, possibly reversed from an original Te Tao Ching. The written style is laconic, has few grammatical particles, and encourages varied, contradictory interpretations. The ideas are singular; the style poetic. The rhetorical style combines two major strategies: short, declarative statements and intentional contradictions. The first of these strategies creates memorable phrases, while the second forces the reader to reconcile supposed contradictions.
The Chinese characters in the original versions were probably written in zhuànshū (篆書 seal script), while later versions were written in lìshū (隸書 clerical script) and kǎishū (楷書 regular script) styles.
The first reliable reference to Laozi is his "biography" in Shiji (63, tr. Chan 1963:35–37), by Chinese historian Sima Qian (c. 145–86 BC), which combines three stories. First, Laozi was a contemporary of Confucius (551–479 BC). His surname was Li (李 "plum"), and his personal name was Er (耳 "ear") or Dan (聃 "long ear"). He was an official in the imperial archives, and wrote a book in two parts before 'departing to the West' (an allusion to death). Second, Laozi was Lao Laizi (老來子 "Old Come Master"), also a contemporary of Confucius, who wrote a book in 15 parts. Third, Laozi was the grand historian and astrologer Lao Dan (老聃 "Old Long-ears"), who lived during the reign (384–362 BC) of Duke Xian (獻公) of Qin.
Generations of scholars have debated the historicity of Laozi and the dating of the Tao Te Ching. Linguistic studies of the text's vocabulary and rhyme scheme point to a date of composition after the Shijing yet before the Zhuangzi. Legends claim variously that Laozi was "born old"; that he lived for 996 years, with twelve previous incarnations starting around the time of the Three Sovereigns before the thirteenth as Laozi. Some Western scholars have expressed doubts over Laozi's historical existence, claiming that the Tao Te Ching is actually a collection of the work of various authors.
Among the many transmitted editions of the Tao Te Ching text, the three primary ones are named after early commentaries. The "Yan Zun Version", which is only extant for the Te Ching, derives from a commentary attributed to Han Dynasty scholar Yan Zun (巖尊, fl. 80 BC – 10 AD). The "Heshang Gong Version" is named after the legendary Heshang Gong (河上公 "Riverside Sage") who supposedly lived during the reign (180–157 BC) of Emperor Wen of Han. This commentary has a preface written by Ge Xuan (葛玄, 164–244 AD), granduncle of Ge Hong, and scholarship dates this version to around the 3rd century AD. The "Wang Bi Version" has more verifiable origins than either of the above. Wang Bi (王弼, 226–249 AD) was a famous Three Kingdoms period philosopher and commentator on the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching.
Tao Te Ching scholarship has advanced from archeological discoveries of manuscripts, some of which are older than any of the received texts. Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, Marc Aurel Stein and others found thousands of scrolls in the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang. They included more than 50 partial and complete "Tao Te Ching" manuscripts. One written by the scribe So/Su Dan (素統) is dated 270 AD and corresponds closely with the Heshang Gong version. Another partial manuscript has the Xiang'er (想爾) commentary, which had previously been lost.
In 1973, archeologists discovered copies of early Chinese books, known as the Mawangdui Silk Texts, in a tomb dating from 168 BC. They included two nearly complete copies of the text, referred to as Text A (甲) and Text B (乙), both of which reverse the traditional ordering and put the Te Ching section before the Tao Ching, which is why the Henricks translation of them is named "Te-Tao Ching". Based on calligraphic styles and imperial naming taboo avoidances, scholars believe that Text A can be dated to about the first decade and Text B to about the third decade of the 2nd century BC.
In 1993, the oldest known version of the text, written on bamboo tablets, was found in a tomb near the town of Guodian (郭店) in Jingmen, Hubei, and dated prior to 300 BC. The Guodian Chu Slips comprise about 800 slips of bamboo with a total of over 13,000 characters, about 2,000 of which correspond with the Tao Te Ching, including 14 previously unknown verses.
Both the Mawangdui and Guodian versions are generally consistent with the received texts, excepting differences in chapter sequence and graphic variants. Several recent Tao Te Ching translations (e.g., Lau 1989, Henricks 1989, Mair 1990, Henricks 2000, Allan and Williams 2000, and Roberts 2004) utilize these two versions, sometimes with the verses reordered to synthesize the new finds.
The Tao Te Ching has been translated into Western languages over 250 times, mostly to English, German, and French. According to Holmes Welch, "It is a famous puzzle which everyone would like to feel he had solved." The first English translation of the Tao Te Ching was produced in 1868 by the Scottish Protestant missionary John Chalmers, entitled The Speculations on Metaphysics, Polity, and Morality of the "Old Philosopher" Lau-tsze. It was heavily indebted to Julien's French translation and dedicated to James Legge, who later produced his own translation for Oxford's Sacred Books of the East.
Other notable English translations of the Tao Te Ching are those produced by Chinese scholars and teachers: a 1948 translation by linguist Lin Yutang, a 1961 translation by author John Ching Hsiung Wu, a 1963 translation by sinologist Din Cheuk Lau, another 1963 translation by professor Wing-tsit Chan, and a 1972 translation by Taoist teacher Gia-Fu Feng together with his wife Jane English.
Many translations are written by people with a foundation in Chinese language and philosophy who are trying to render the original meaning of the text as faithfully as possible into English. Some of the more popular translations are written from a less scholarly perspective, giving an individual author's interpretation. Critics of these versions claim that their translators deviate from the text and are incompatible with the history of Chinese thought. Russell Kirkland goes further to argue that these versions are based on Western Orientalist fantasies, and represent the colonial appropriation of Chinese culture. In contrast, Huston Smith, scholar of world religions, said of the Stephen Mitchell version, "This translation comes as close to being definitive for our time as any I can imagine. It embodies the virtues its translator credits to the Chinese original: a gemlike lucidity that is radiant with humor, grace, largeheartedness, and deep wisdom." Other Taoism scholars, such as Michael LaFargue and Jonathan Herman, argue that while they don't pretend to scholarship, they meet a real spiritual need in the West. These Westernized versions aim to make the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching more accessible to modern English-speaking readers by, typically, employing more familiar cultural and temporal references.
The Tao Te Ching is written in Classical Chinese, which can be difficult to understand completely. Classical Chinese relies heavily on allusion to a corpus of standard literary works to convey semantic meaning, nuance, and subtext. This corpus was memorized by highly educated people in Laozi's time, and the allusions were reinforced through common use in writing, but few people today have this type of deep acquaintance with ancient Chinese literature. Thus, many levels of subtext are potentially lost on modern translators. Furthermore, many of the words that the Tao Te Ching uses are deliberately vague and ambiguous.
Since there are no punctuation marks in Classical Chinese, it can be difficult to conclusively determine where one sentence ends and the next begins. Moving a full-stop a few words forward or back or inserting a comma can profoundly alter the meaning of many passages, and such divisions and meanings must be determined by the translator. Some editors and translators argue that the received text is so corrupted (from originally being written on one-line bamboo strips linked with silk threads) that it is impossible to understand some chapters without moving sequences of characters from one place to another.
Chinese Taoist Association (CTA ; Chinese: 中国道教协会), founded in April 1957, is the main association of Taoism in the People's Republic of China. It is recognized as one of the main religious associations in the People's Republic of China, and is overseen by the State Administration for Religious Affairs. Dozens of regional and local Taoist associations are included in this overarching group, which is encouraged by the government to be a bridge between Chinese Taoists and the government, to encourage a patriotic merger between Taoism and government initiatives. The group also disseminates information on traditional Taoist topics, including forums and conferences. The association was a major sponsor of the 2007 International Forum on the Tao Te Ching. The Chinese Taoist Association advocates the recompensation of losses inflicted on Taoism by the Cultural Revolution. Taoism was banned for several years in the People's Republic of China during that period.
Taoist practitioners in China are required to register with the Chinese Taoist Association in order to be granted recognition and official protection. The CTA exercises control over religious doctrine and personnel, and dictates the proper interpretation of Taoist doctrine. It also encourages Taoist practitioners to support the Communist Party and the state. For example, a Taoist scripture reading class held by the CTA in November 2010 required participants to ‘‘fervently love the socialist motherland [and] uphold the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.’’ The central government of China has supported and encouraged the Association, along with other official religious groups, in promoting the "harmonious society" initiative of Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao.Chinese creation myths
Chinese creation myths are symbolic narratives about the origins of the universe, earth, and life. In Chinese mythology, the term "cosmogonic myth" or "origin myth" is more accurate than "creation myth", since very few stories involve a creator deity or divine will. Chinese creation myths fundamentally differ from monotheistic traditions with one authorized version, such as the Judeo-Christian Genesis creation myth: Chinese classics record numerous and contradictory origin myths.
Some Chinese cosmogonic myths have familiar themes in comparative mythology. For example, creation from chaos (Chinese Hundun and Hawaiian Kumulipo), dismembered corpses of a primordial being (Pangu and Mesopotamian Tiamat), world parent siblings (Fuxi and Nüwa and Japanese Izanagi and Izanami), and dualistic cosmology (yin and yang and Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu). In contrast, other mythic themes are uniquely Chinese. While the mythologies of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece believed primeval water was the single element that existed "in the beginning", the basic element of Chinese cosmology was qi ("breath; air; life force"). Birrell explains that qi "was believed to embody cosmic energy governing matter, time, and space. This energy, according to Chinese mythic narratives, undergoes a transformation at the moment of creation, so that the nebulous element of vapor becomes differentiated into dual elements of male and female, Yin and Yang, hard and soft matter, and other binary elements."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.Daozang
Daozang (Chinese: 道藏; pinyin: Dàozàng; Wade-Giles: Tao Tsang), meaning "Taoist Canon", consists of around 1,400 texts that were collected c. 400 (after the Dao De Jing and Zhuang Zi which are the core Taoist texts). They were collected by Taoist monks of the period in an attempt to bring together all of the teachings of Taoism, including all the commentaries and expositions of the various masters from the original teachings found in the Tao Te Ching and Zhuangzi. It was split into Three Grottoes, which mirrors the Buddhist Tripitaka (three baskets) division. These three divisions were based on the main focus of Taoism in Southern China during the time it was made, namely; meditation, ritual, and exorcism.
These Three Grottoes were used as levels for the initiation of Taoist masters, from lowest (exorcism) to highest (meditation).
As well as the Three Grottoes there were Four Supplements that were added to the Canon c. 500. These were mainly taken from older core Taoist texts (e.g. Tao Te Jing) apart from one which was taken from an already established and separate philosophy known as Tianshi Dao (Way of the Heavenly Masters).
Although the above can give the appearance that the Canon is highly organized, this is far from the truth. Although the present-day Canon does preserve the core divisions, there are substantial forks in the arrangement due to the later addition of commentaries, revelations and texts elaborating upon the core divisions.Derek Lin
Derek Lin is a Taiwanese-American author in the Tao genre.
Lin translated the Tao Te Ching and annotated it. His translation is published by Skylight Paths Publishing in 2006.Lin is also the author of four books published by the Tarcher imprint of the Penguin Group: The Tao of Daily life, The Tao of Success, The Tao of Joy Every Day and The Tao of Happiness.Dudeism
Dudeism is a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle inspired by "The Dude", the protagonist of the Coen Brothers' 1998 film The Big Lebowski. Dudeism's stated primary objective is to promote a modern form of Chinese Taoism, outlined in Tao Te Ching by Laozi (6th century BC), blended with concepts from the Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BC), and presented in a style as personified by the character of Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, a fictional character portrayed by Jeff Bridges in the film. Dudeism has sometimes been regarded as a mock religion due to its use of comedic film references and occasional criticism of religion in its traditional sense. However, its founder and many adherents take the underlying philosophy seriously. March 6 is the annual sacred high holy day of Dudeism: The Day of the Dude.Frederic H. Balfour
Frederic Henry Balfour (1846—27 May 1909) was a British expatriate editor, essayist, author, and sinologist, living in Shanghai during the Victorian era. He is most notable for his translation of the Tao Te Ching. Many of these translations appeared in his 1884 Taoist Texts: Ethical, Political and Speculative, also known simply as Taoist Texts.Hide and Seek (Howard Jones song)
"Hide and Seek" was the third single by musician Howard Jones. It was released in February 1984, and reached number 12 in the UK Singles Chart. It appears on Jones' album Human's Lib. Musically, the song is darker than other songs by Jones, featuring an eerie gothic-tinged sound that is comparable to dark ambient.
The B-sides, "Tao Te Ching" and "China Dance", are both instrumentals. All tracks were written by Jones.
Jones performed a solo acoustic version of the song at the 1985 Live Aid benefit concert.
The track reached the top 5 in many countries including Ireland and has been covered by many artists, including a version by the band Gregorian on their fourth Masters of Chant album.
The theme of the song, is the story of the origin of the universe according to Buddhist, Advaita Vedanta (Hinduism) and other Eastern ontological philosophies. The original being manifests the universe and then 'loses' him/herself (Jones uses both, to defeat the duality of gender) in the creation, as part of a game of hide and seek, with the goal of life being to discover that one is nothing other than the original primordial being.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.Jane English
Jane English (was born 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts) is a philosopher, physicist, photographer, journalist and translator.
English received her B.A. in Physics from Mount Holyoke College in 1964 and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin–Madison for her work in high energy particle physics. She taught courses in Oriental thought and modern physics at Colorado College.English is known for her collaborative translation of the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tsu which she illustrated through photography, in collaboration with her spouse Gia-Fu Feng.Laozi
Laozi (UK: ; US: ; Chinese: 老子; literally "Old Master"), also rendered as Lao Tzu ( or ) and Lao-Tze (), was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, 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. 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 and Chinese Legalism.Louguantai
The Louguantai Temple (Chinese: 楼观台寺), in Tayu village (塔峪村), Zhouzhi county, Shaanxi province, about 70 km, west of Xian, is the place where tradition says that Lao Tze composed the Tao Te Ching.
The Daqin Pagoda is located less than one mile to the west of Louguantai.Marcel Conche
Marcel Conche (born 27 March 1922 in Altillac), is a French philosopher, emeritus professor at the Sorbonne University (Paris).
"Philosophizing ad infinitum" has been published by SUNY (State University of New York) Press, June 2014. It is the translation of one of his major works: "Philosopher à l'infini", published by PUF, Presses Universitaires de France, in 2005.
A recent publication (2003), the Tao Te Ching translation and comments in French, follows the format of previous works, such as Héraclite - Fragments (fragments of Heraclitus):
French translation of the original text
Commentary in the immediately ensuing chapterIn this book he draws an interesting parallel between the nearly contemporaries Lao Zi (see Tao Te Ching) and Heraclitus: the river of the Greek is compared to the Dao of the Chinese.
In some cases (such as the Heraclitus) the text (as handed down by tradition, copyists, historians or other authors quoting the now unavailable original text) is reordered to follow a more logical order, from the simplest of principles to the most advanced.Mawangdui Silk Texts
The Mawangdui Silk Texts (Chinese: 馬王堆帛書; pinyin: Mǎwángduī Bóshū) are Chinese philosophical and medical works written on silk which were discovered at the Mawangdui site in Changsha, Hunan, in 1973. They include some of the earliest attested manuscripts of existing texts (such as the I Ching), two copies of the Tao Te Ching, a copy of Zhan Guo Ce, works by Gan De and Shi Shen and previously-unknown medical texts, such as Wushi'er Bingfang (Prescriptions for Fifty-Two Ailments). Scholars arranged them into 28 types of silk books. Their approximately 120,000 words cover military strategy, mathematics, cartography and the six classical arts: ritual, music, archery, horsemanship, writing and arithmetic.Straw dog
Straw dogs (simplified Chinese: 刍狗; traditional Chinese: 芻狗; pinyin: chú gǒu), a figure of a dog made out of straw, were used as ceremonial objects in ancient China, but often thrown away after their usage.
In one translation Chapter 5 of the Tao Te Ching begins with the lines "Heaven and Earth are heartless / treating creatures like straw dogs".
Su Zhe's commentary on this verse explains: "Heaven and Earth are not partial. They do not kill living things out of cruelty or give them birth out of kindness. We do the same when we make straw dogs to use in sacrifices. We dress them up and put them on the altar, but not because we love them. And when the ceremony is over, we throw them into the street, but not because we hate them."Tao
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 science'. 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.Taoism
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.Taoist meditation
Taoist meditation (, ), also spelled "Daoist" () refers to the traditional meditative practices associated with the Chinese philosophy and religion of Taoism, including concentration, mindfulness, contemplation, and visualization. Techniques of Daoist meditation are historically interrelated with Buddhist meditation, for instance, 6th-century Daoists developed guan 觀 "observation" insight meditation from Tiantai Buddhist anapanasati "mindfulness of breath" practices.
Traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese martial arts have adapted certain Daoist meditative techniques. Some examples are Tao yin "guide and pull" breathing exercises, Neidan "internal alchemy" techniques, Neigong "internal skill" practices, Qigong breathing exercises, Zhan zhuang "standing like a post" techniques. The opposite direction of adoption has also taken place, when the martial art of Taijiquan, "great ultimate fist", become one of the practices of modern Daoist monks, while historically it was not among traditional techniques.Three Treasures (Taoism)
The Three Treasures or Three Jewels (Chinese: 三寶; pinyin: sānbǎo; Wade–Giles: san-pao) are basic virtues in Taoism. Although the Tao Te Ching originally used sanbao to mean "compassion", "frugality", and "humility", the term was later used to translate the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) in Chinese Buddhism, and to mean the Three Treasures (jing, qi, and shen) in Traditional Chinese Medicine.