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published: 9/3/04
updated: 5/8/13

Taoism Symbols



What are the Symbols of Taoism?

yin yang

Name: Yin-Yang or Taijtu

The yin-yang (Taijitu) symbol 太極圖 is one of the most common Taoist symbols. Most of the time, this symbol represents two opposing and complementary forces that make up all phenomena of life. Most Taoist organizations display the yin-yang in some way. This symbol is also very common among all Chinese religious faiths.

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eight trigrams
Name: Eight Trigrams or Bagua

The other often-displayed symbol in Taoism is called the Eight Trigrams, also known as the Bagua 八卦. This symbol represents the fundamental principles of reality. Starting at the top of the symbol and moving left, they are: heaven/sky (12:00 o'clock), lake/marsh, fire (9:00 o'clock), thunder, wind (6:00 o'clock), water, mountain (3:00 o'clock), and earth.

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tao chinese script

Name: Chinese Character for "Tao"

Another image that might be called a symbol of Taoism is the Chinese character for the word "Tao," literally mean "way" or "path."

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dragon in taoism

Name: Dragon

Certain animals are often incorporated into Taoism imagery, such as dragons and lions. These depictions represent protection and so are usually found at sacred places.

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taoism big dipper

Name: The Big Dipper

These seven bright stars of Ursa Major, commonly known as the Big Dipper, have been tradtionally used as a symbol in Chinese religion, including Taoism. During the Shang Dynasty (cr. 1,600-1,000 B.C.), the Big Dipper was considered a deity, and in later dynasties it has been venerated as well.

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