2. Taoism was first only philos.; it became an organized religion in the 5th c. AD and was made a state cult 440. Embodies elements of quietism.* Named after tao (a key term in all ancient Chinese philos, schools; hard to translate; has been rendered, e.g., way; truth; doctrine; path; road; course; reason; principle; logos [Gk. 'word'; cf. Jn 1:1]); has been regarded as the eternal and ubiquitous, or universal, impersonal principle, or Spirit, by which the universe was produced and is supported and governed (see also Chinese Philosophy, 2), a kind of primary or first cause (see Causa secunda); other concepts include nature, providence, order of the universe, rotation of the seasons, time, absolute. Hence, acc. to Taoism, all true virtue and the highest goal of human development consists in being one with tao. He who in self-effacement, suppression of desire, and in meditation tries to understand tao will not perish in death but be saved. Lao-tzu emphasized welfare of the individual, advocating gentleness, moderation, modesty, and love for one's fellowmen.
4. Modern Taoism (regarded as founded by Chang Tao-ling [fl. 1st c. AD]) is characterized by superstitious magic, occultism, and a quest for the elixir of immortality. Its pantheon, which to some extent reflects docetic Buddhism, includes San-Ch'ing (Three Pure Ones, of which Lao-tzu is the 3d). Yü Hwang Shang-ti (Yü-huang shang-ti) is the supreme Taoist god. There are gods for almost everything (e.g., stars, ancestors, parts of the body, ideals, famous hist. beings), temples, a priesthood, and a monastic system with a kind of pope (who, however, is not recognized as head by all the Taoist priesthood). Confucianism gained ascendancy over Taoism, but the latter's spirit of harmony, naturalism, peace, and simplicity continues to mark and mold Chinese life.
See bibliography of Religion, Comparative.
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