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published: 9/3/04
updated: 6/19/14

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Fast Facts on Taoism (Daoism)

An Overview of Taoism

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Taoism (also spelled Daoism) is based on the teachings of the Tao Te Ching, a short tract written in the 6th century BC in China. Its emphasis on spiritual harmony within the individual complements Confucianism's focus on social duty. The two great Chinese belief systems were founded at about the same time and continue to exist side-by-side in today's China.

There are two main strands and schools within Taoism, usually labeled "philosophical Taoism" (Tao-chia) and "religious Taoism" (Tao-chaio). Scholars now say the two are not as strongly distinguished as once thought, but the former generally focuses on the philosophical writings of Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu and other early mystics while the latter emphasizes religious rituals aimed at attaining immortality.

Today, there are 20 million Taoists worldwide, most of whom live in China, Taiwan or Southeast Asia. Taoism is also increasingly influential in the West, especially in the fields of alternative medicine and martial arts like Tai Chi.

Facts on the Taoist religion

date founded:
c. 550 BCE
place founded:
20 million specifically Taoist
225 million adherents of Chinese religion
main location:
sacred texts:
Tao Te Ching, Chuang-Tzu
original language:
spiritual leader:
Sage (see Taoist beliefs)
house of worship:
Pantheism (see Taoist deities)
ultimate reality:
The Tao
human nature:
Born in a state of purity, imperfect but capable of seeking the Tao and doing good
purpose of life:
Inner harmony and peace; longevity.
how to live:
In accordance with the Tao
Revert back to state of non-being

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