Taoism (also called Daoism) is one of two major philosophical and religious traditions that have influenced the Chinese mind and been included in texts and encyclopedias of major world religions.   Taoism and Confucianism arrived amid social strife and political upheaval in China.  Within Taoism are the philosophical, religious, and folk interpretations.  Taoism is a way of life. 

The Three Jewels of Tao are compassion, moderation, and humility which have also been translated as kindness, simplicity, and modesty.  Observing and acting in harmony with nature is important to Taoists as it embodies harmonious balance and adaptation.  Taoists accept the concepts of yin and yang which represent light and dark, male and female, positive and negative, active and passive. The interplay between these two is continually at work in natural and human events.

Written sources of inspiration for Taoists begin with Tao Te Ching (The Book of The Way and its Power) by Lao Tzu who also is credited with writing Hua Hu Ching.  The Heshang Gong is a commentary on Tao Te Ching.  Chuang Tzu  is a collection of writings from different people and times. A third major work is Daozang or the Treasury of Tao.  Tao Te Ching was written for the sage-king while the Chuang Tzu was written for private life and the wisdom of individuals.


Concepts in the Tao Te Ching 

  • Tao is the way of ultimate reality, the universe, human life.  It is an unknown mystery and all encompassing.  It includes the natural process, reason, truth, goodness, and for religious Taoists, views of God.  Metaphors to describe it include the hollow space inside the hub of a wheel that makes it move;  the hollow shape of an empty pot that makes it useful;  the inner space of a house that makes it livable; and water that makes no resistance as it flows.
  • Te or De  is power from the Tao.  Actions of every living thing are an expression of power or virtue.
  • Fu is the return of all things from the extreme state to a balanced state.
  • P'u means simplicity and represents the passive state of receptiveness or pure potential and perception.
  • Ch'i means breath, vapor, air, or cosmic energy. Breathing lengthens life and breath control, along with diet, exercises, and sexual control can nourish the life spirit.  
  • Wu wei is creative quietude, effortlessness, or inaction. It is action carried out in such a way and at a time when there would be minimal resistance.  The action is also in accord with the circumstances and leaves no trace of the actor.

Sample Texts

​"The Tao is like a well: Used but never used up.  It is like the eternal void: Filled with infinite possibilities.  It is hidden but always present.  I don't know who gave birth to it.  It is older than God." (Tao Te Ching 2)

"Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao.  It springs into existence, unconscious, perfect, free, takes on a physical body, lets circumstances complete it.  That is why every being spontaneously honors the Tao. The Tao gives birth to all beings, nourishes them, maintains them, cares for them, comforts them, protects them, takes them back to itself, creating without possessing, acting without expecting, guiding without interfering.  That is why love of the Tao is in the very nature of things." (Tao Te Ching 31)

"I have just three things to teach:  simplicity, patience, compassion.  These three are your greatest treasures.  Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being.  Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are.  Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world." (Tao Te Ching 67)

"Would you like to liberate yourself from the lower realms of life?  Would you like to save the world from degradation and destruction it seems destined for?  Then step away from shallow mass movements and quietly go to work on your own self-awareness.

If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself....Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation." (Hua Hu Ching 75)

"In ancient times, people lived holistic lives.  They didn't overemphasize the intellect, but integrated mind, body and spirit in all things.... If you want to stop being confused, then emulate these ancient folk:  join your body, mind and spirit in all you do.  Choose food, clothing and shelter that accords with nature.  Rely on your own body for transportation.   Allow your work and your recreation to be one and the same.  Do exercise that develops your whole being and not just your body....Serve others and cultivate yourself simultaneously.  Understand that truer growth comes from meeting and solving the problems of life in a way that is harmonizing to yourself and to others.  If you can follow these simple old ways, you will be continually renewed." (Hua Hu Ching 43)​