Is Daoism (Taoism) a Religion or a Philosophy?

Feb 16, 2024

The Daoist Religion

You will find Daoism as a religious practice in the temples around China where priests pray to a variety of Gods, following ancestral rituals of worship in the pursuit of spiritual immortality. Throughout history,

Bringing the Daoist Religion to the West

Chinese immigrants have carried their religious practices, including Daoism, to various parts of the world where they settled. As a result, you can find Daoist temples and communities in countries with significant Chinese diaspora populations.

While religious Daoism may not be as widespread or deeply rooted in non-Chinese cultures compared to its presence in China, there are certainly practitioners and communities around the world who engage with Daoist rituals, beliefs, and spiritual practices outside of its country of origin.

Daoism as a philosophy

More often though, in the West, we follow the Daoist philosophy which encompasses philosophical teachings centered around the concept of the Dao (Tao), which can be translated as "the Way."

The Dao De Jing (also spelled Tao Te Ching) is a fundamental text in Daoism, written by the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi (also spelled Lao Tzu).

It is a collection of 81 short chapters or verses that guide living a harmonious life and understanding the nature of the universe.

The title can be translated in various ways;

  • Dao  (Tao) means "the Way" or "the Path,"
  • De (Te) means "virtue" or "integrity,"
  • Jing (Ching) means "classic" or "book."

Daoist philosophy prioritizes harmony with nature, simplicity, spontaneity, and detachment from worldly desires. It emphasizes balance, moderation, inner peace, humility, non-action (wu-wei), and naturalness. By following the Dao, individuals can attain harmony within themselves, with others, and with the natural world.

In Conclusion

Daoism encompasses both religious and philosophical elements, with some practitioners emphasizing one aspect over the other or integrating both into their practice. The Dao De Jing, despite its age, remains highly regarded for its wisdom and impact on Chinese culture, philosophy, and spirituality over the ages.


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