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Taoism: Origins, History and Beliefs
Joseph R Batson
Regis University

Taoism is one of the “Three Doctrines”, along with Buddhism and Confucianism that has helped to shape Chinese culture and history (Molloy, 2013.) Taoism is based on the earliest beliefs of the Chinese people, and includes several elements of the ancient indigenous religion. These include a belief in spirits, both good and bad; the concept of T’ien, translated as Heaven, and described as an impersonal divine force and a cosmic moral principle; the discernment of patterns in nature, some easy to see like the progression of seasons, others not so much like the ripple of waves; and Yin and Yang, two opposing yet complimentary principles such as light and dark or hot and cold (Molloy, 2013.) The actual origins of Taoism are shrouded in mystery. The founder was Lao Tzu, meaning “old sage” (, 2014) a legendary figure who may or may not have existed, and possible may be the blending of several historical figures (Molloy, 2013.) Lao Tzu, according to traditional stories, was born in the early sixth century BCE (circa 600 BCE) and worked as an archivist at the imperial court. Eventually Lao Tzu tired of his position and travelled to Western China, where he was stopped by a guard and asked to write his teachings down. This writing, which consisted of five thousand Chinese characters, became the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power, considered to be one of the central scriptures of Taoism (, 2014.) In many of the myths and stories that have grown up since then Lao Tzu is said to have become the human incarnation of the Tao who is still worshipped as divine by many people (Molloy, 2013.) Taoism was further developed by the writings of Chuang Tzu called Zhuangzi, another philosopher and scholar of the Warring States period, approximately the Third century BCE, whose origin and...

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