Taoist Philosophy and Religion

Tao (Dao), the Way. Ink calligraphy by Stefan Stenudd.

Tao Chia and Tao Chiao

In its original form, Taoism is not a religion. Gods and the afterlife are vague, almost non-existent. It is all about here and now: how to live a pleasant life, without causing unnecessary commotion or distress.

       Tao, the Way, is a kind of natural law behind all of creation. The one who can harmonize with it is sure to find bliss.

Taoist philosophy

Tao Chia

Basically, there are two forms of Taoism: the philosophy and the religion. The former, which is the oldest, is called Tao chia (also spelled Dao jia), and the latter Tao chiao (Dao jiao). When westerners talk about Taoism as a religion, they refer to Tao chiao - often unknowingly. Tao chia has little to do with gods, the afterlife, and such matters. It is a philosophy for the here and now.

Tao chia - Taoist philosophy        The two major sources to Tao chia, the Taoist philosophy, are Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, who both lived several centuries BC. Lao Tzu was the legendary writer of Tao Te Ching, the foremost classic of Taoism. Chuang Tzu has left behind a book named after him, with 33 chapters (whereof at least the first nine are regarded as of his making).

       On this website you find both these major works of Taoist philosophy. See the menu on the left.

Taoist religion

Tao Chiao

Tao chiao - Taoist religion Taoist religion, Tao chiao, which is not treated on this website, consisted of a number of rituals and traditions by which to prolong one's life, reach spiritual insight, and come to peace with existence. It is a very rich and complex tradition of mysticism and magical rites that emerged during the later part of the Han dynasty, around the beginning of the Christian Era.

       They referred to Tao Te Ching and other Taoist sources, but did so quite liberally, with interpretations that sometimes got very far from the texts they leaned on.

       For example, their ideas about longevity were based on Tao Te Ching's chapter 33, which ends with a line that they interpreted: "The one who dies without perishing gets a long life." Findings of the 1970's in Mawangdui show that the accurate reading of that line should be: "The one who dies without being forgotten gets a long life." This form of longevity - in the memory of others - is an old wisdom also found in many other cultures.

       Tao Te ching actually expresses no belief in a significantly prolonged life, and certainly not an eternal one.

       So, I dare say that the major sources of Taoism agree that Taoism is a philosophy, and not much of a religion.

My Taoism Books:

Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching

The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. The great Taoist philosophy classic by Lao Tzu translated, and each of the 81 chapters extensively commented. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.

Tao Quotes - the Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes

The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. 389 quotes from the foremost Taoist classic, divided into 51 prominent topics. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

       More about the book here.

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My Other Websites:

I Ching Online

The 64 hexagrams of the Chinese classic I Ching and what they mean in divination. Try it online for free.

Qi Energy Exercises

The ancient Chinese life energy qi (chi) explained, with simple instructions on how to exercise it.

Life Energy

The many ancient and modern life force beliefs all over the world explained and compared.

Creation Myths

Creation stories from around the world, and the ancient cosmology they reveal.

Taoismen på svenska

Other Books by Stefan Stenudd:

Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients

The Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

QI - increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Qi - Increase Your Life Energy

The life energy qi (also chi or ki) explained, with exercises on how to awaken, increase and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles

Basic concepts of the peaceful martial art. Aikido principles, philosophy, and fundamental ideas. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Life Energy Encyclopedia

Qi, prana, spirit, ruach, pneuma, and many other life forces around the world explained and compared. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.

Stefan Stenudd, Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction. Stefan Stenudd

About me

I'm a Swedish author and aikido instructor. In addition to fiction, I've written books about Taoism and other East Asian traditions. I'm also an historian of ideas, researching ancient thought and mythology. Click the image to get to my personal website.