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Where and when did Taoism originate? What do the followers of Taoism believe?

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  1. Taoism (or Daoism) is the English name referring to a variety of related Chinese philosophical and religious traditions and concepts. These traditions influenced East Asia for over two thousand years and some have spread internationally. [1] Taoist propriety and ethics emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao; namely, compassion, moderation, and humility. Taoist thought focuses on wu wei (“non-action”), spontaneity, humanism, and emptiness. Taoists believe order comes from strict rules and harsh punishments. An emphasis is placed on the link between people and nature. Taoism teaches that this link lessens the need for rules and order, and leads one to a better understanding of the world.

  2. It originated around the same time as Confucianism, and I think the founders of both ‘schools’ even discussed things together, even though they were at complete opposites.
    Confucianism is based on morals and ethics without regard to an afterlife. Daoism’s concerned with what some would call mysticism or superstition, like the mysterious flow of energy in the cosmos and how we can use the energy to our own advantage (ie. feng shui) and understanding.

  3. It evolved out of the shaman traditions of ancient China, around 5,000 years or so ago. It’s a very gentle philosophy that focuses on following the flow of nature. A lot of its central text, the Tao Te Ching, was something of a refutation of rigid Confucian rules that dominated Chinese society at the time … where Confucianism advocated a benevolent but active central government, Taoists advocated leadership that helped without interfering and then stepped out of the way.
    There’s a lot of focus on simplicity and spontaneity, and giving up rigid rules and regulations so that you can be more open and receptive to whatever life might throw at you. The point isn’t to be passive but rather flexible … the idea being that a supple tree bends with the changing winds but remains standing, while the old, rigid tree will crack and fall to the ground. The Taoist ideal is thus one of “effortless action” … you go with the flow of whatever comes your way, but because you never break, you ultimately prevail in the end, yet you do it so subtly that no one ever really notices until you’ve ended up changing the world, like the stream of water that over centuries wears down the rock and creates a massive canyon.
    Taoism also seeks to transcend duality, an ideal that you see in the famous yin-yang symbol. That symbol is a mixture of male and female forces creating each other and penetrating the deepest parts of each other (which is why there’s that little black dot in the middle of the white part, and vice versa), to show that nothing is ever just “yin” or “yang” … the two forces constantly balance each other and create each other.
    The unifying force above all of this is the Tao, from which all things come and from which all things will return. But it’s nothing like the personal God we imagine in the West. It’s more like an impersonal cosmic repository that constantly creates and absorbs. One Taoist text refers to its power as being like an “empty vessel,” in the sense that the thing that makes a cup useful is its empty opening, or the thing that makes a wheel useful is the hole in the middle where you put the axle. It’s a very counterintuitive concept to us in the West, but it’s also very liberating if you can try to come to grips with it, because it encourages you to want to simplify and stop fighting, harmonize with the rhythms of nature and do more with less.
    If nothing else, read the Tao Te Ching. It may not make any sense at first, but it starts revealing subtle layers of meaning the more you read it. It can help almost anyone gain a fresh perspective and think outside the box, and at best, it’ll give you a brand new spiritual outlook.

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