Glossary of Taoist Terms

All non-English words in this Taoism Glossary are Chinese unless otherwise indicated.

Traditional Chinese medical treatment using needles to stimulate the flow of ch'i in the body.
(lit. "enduring"). The permanent and eternal.
Chang Kuo-lao
One of the Eight Immortals. Connected with a historical figure of the T'ang dynasty, his symbol is a fish-drum.
(lit. "doctrine"). Religion.
(lit. "school of transmission"). Philosophy.
(lit. "air, "breath, "strength"). Life energy that flows throughout the human body and the universe.
(lit. "semen", "seed"). Vital essence.
Chung-li Ch'uan
One of the Eight Immortals. He is depicted as a stout man with a near-bald head but a long beard. His symbol is a fan, indicating power to raise the dead.
Han Hsiang-tzu
One of the Eight Immortals. He is depicted as a peaceful mountain-dweller with a flute, flowers and a peach. He is the patron of music.
Ho Hsien-ku
The only female Immortal.
(lit. "fluttering") The Immortals, who are described in the Chuang-tzu. Perhaps originally intended to be allegorical, the nature and abilities of these beings became a practical goal for later Taoists.
Heart or mind.
Ling-pao P'ai
(lit. "School of the Magic Jewel"). Movement within religious Taoism based on Ling-pao Ching. Influenced by Buddhist devotion to bodhisattvas, it teaches that liberation depends on help from deities (t'ien-tsun). A central ritual is a formal fast (chai).
Name. In Chinese thought, to name something is to assign it a place in the hierarchy of the universe. The Tao is therefore nameless.
(lit. "Eight Immortals"). Taoist figures associated with good fortune and the eight conditions of life that are frequently portrayed in Chinese art and literature. They are: Li T'ieh-juai; Chang Kuo-lao; Ts'ao Kuo-chiu; Han Hsiang-tzu; Lu Tung-pen; Ho Hsien-ku; Lan Ts'ai-ho; and Chung-li Ch'uan.
Taoist creator of the world and also the first human. He emerged from the original chaos in the form of an egg, and at this death, his body was allocated to the creation of different parts of the world.
(lit. "uncarved block"). State of simplicity and true nature, as in infancy, before being shaped by knowledge, morality and other influences of society. For Lao-Tzu, this is the state of the ideal ruler.
Spiritual consciousness.
t'ai chi
(lit. "Great Polarity.") Yin and yang.
t'ai chi chu'uan
(lit. "Great Polarity Boxing.") Martial art aimed at harnessing the strength of chi.
(lit. "Way"). Unchanging principle behind the universe; unproduced producer of all that is. The Tao-te Ching describes it as "something formlessly fashioned, that existed before Heaven and Earth."
Scholars and ritual functionaries of religious Taoism.
Tao-te Ching
(lit. "Book of the Way and its Power.") Foundational text of Taoism. Attributed to Lao-tzu and probably composed in the 4th century BCE, it teaches about the Tao
Tao-te t'ien-tsun
Ruler of Taoist heavent of highest purity; San-ch'ing.
Taoist canon of authoritative texts.
Exercise for guiding the breath to different parts of the body.
(lit. "power" or "virtue"). Means through which the Tao becomes manifest and actualized.
Spontaneity; unconditioned and totally itself. The Tao is characterized by tzu-jan.
Not-Being. Not synonymous with nothingness, wu is an immense void containing all potentialities. It is thus interdependent with yu, Being.
(lit. "non-action.") The ideal for rulers as set out in the Tao te Ching.