Major World Religions Taoism

About the major world religion Taoism, some of the history, varieties, beliefs and meanings behind the religious tradition.


According to Chinese tradition, the founder of Taoism was Lao-tze ("old master" or "old philosopher" in Chinese), who is said to have lived in the 6th century B.C., in Honan Province. His name at birth was Li Erh, and he served as an astrologer or librarian in the court of the Chou dynasty. Tradition relates that he had a meeting with Confucius, whom he criticized for his egotism and pride.

The main text of Taoism is the Tao-te-Ching, a beautifully simple book allegedly written by Lao-tze. It teaches that peace can be found only in the cultivation of optimism, humility, passivity, and inner calm. The simple, natural life is the ideal one, the wise person seeks to conform to the slow, gentle rhythm of the universe.

Modern Taoism has strayed far from the teachings of Lao-tze, having accumulated an elaborate array of gods and rituals. Because the communists officially banned Taoism when they came to power in China in 1949, it is difficult to estimate how many followers the religion has today. Some say 30 million, others say 55 million.

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