Taoism Overview

March 11, 2015 · updated December 23, 2023

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Fast Facts on Taoism
Adherents 20 million specifically of Taoism (Chinese religion contains Taoist elements)
Sects/Branches Religious Taoism (Daojiao) and Philosophical Taoism (Daojia)
Beliefs Pantheism: the Tao pervades all. Yin-yang: opposites make up a unity.
Practices General attitude of detachment and non-struggle, "go with the flow" of the Tao. Tai-chi, acupuncture, and alchemy to help longevity.
Texts Tao-te Ching; Chuang-tzu

Taoism (also spelled Daoism) is based on the teachings of the Tao Te Ching, a short tract written in the 6th century BCE in China.

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 alternative medicine and martial arts like Tai Chi.

Taoism emphasizes spiritual harmony within the individual, complementing 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 schools within Taoism, usually called "philosophical Taoism" (Tao-chia) and "religious Taoism" (Tao-chaio). The two are not as strongly distinguished as once thought, but philosophical Taoism tends to focus on the philosophical writings of Lao-Tzu, Chuang-Tzu and other early mystics while religious Taoism emphasizes religious rituals aimed at attaining immortality.


  • "Taoism." Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004.
  • John Bowker, ed., Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions (2000).
  • Xian (Daoist Immortal) - Wikipedia (Janurary 2007)

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