The Way of Flourishing

By Mayuri Raja, Yuna Oh, and Grace Lu (2nd period)


  • Lao-Zi: official founder of Daoism (wrote the Daodejing)
  • not much known about Daoism's founding since it was in the first or second century
  • 142 C.E.: Zhang Daoling established The Way of Orthodox Unity (first form of Daoism, when rituals, texts, and beliefs took shape)
  • after 1100 C.E.: the Way of Complete Perfection was founded by Wang Zhe.

Basic Beliefs

  • Problem: people have unaligned with dao (also spelled tao, meaning way or path)
  • Solution: nurture life by seeking life-giving dao and merging with it
  • Dao cannot be comprehended by ordinary words, but it is the power from which things are created and eventually return to.
  • Dao is present in everything
  • obtain de (also spelled te) from being absorbed in dao
  • avoid daily activities/routines and do not resist change to live in harmony with the universe
  • social harmony attained when everyone behaves naturally
  • wandering: method of enlightenment, helps us return to the creativity of the Dao and to our natural selves
  • Daoists prize wandering in the mountains and hold some mountains sacred

Classification of Religion

  • Ethnic Religion

Branches/Divisions of Religion

  • Philosophical and Religious branches (see below for more notes)

Religious Daoism

  • practiced at varying levels of intesnity
  • meant for regular people of society that do not have time to follow Daoism to extremes
  • organized religious structure with priests, rituals, festivals unknown to Lao Zi and Zhang Daoling when Daoism was first founded
  • sects: the Way of Orthodox Unity and Complete Perfection
  • The Way of Orthodox Unity (Way of Celestial Masters): wandering, pilgrimages in nature, avoiding conflict
  • The Complete Perfection sect: focuses more on inner alchemy and self-cultivation to achieve spiritual immortality (practicing meditation and tai chi)
  • overall goal: overcome death through physical or spiritual immortality

Philosophical Daoism

  • hermits and ascetics of Daoism
  • spend long periods of time in the mountains
  • overall goal: prepare for death


  • do not believe in sending missionaries to spread religion (to convert to Daoism, you must go to the Daoists; they will not come to you)
  • has not diffused outside of China very far until recent years
  • within China: contagious diffusion because Emperor Zhang Daoling founded Mount Qingcheng, a sacred Daoist place, as the center of the empire.

Holy Places

  • Mount Qingcheng
  • Mountain Mao
  • Mountain Longh
  • Taishan City
  • Nanyan Gong (South Cliff Palace)
  • LONGMEN DONG (Dragon Gate Grotto)

Where is it practiced today

  • practiced in Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, and China

Number of followers

  • an estimated 20-50 million followers.
  • hard to calculate because most Chinese people adhere to Daoism along with other East Asian Ethnic Religions.

Key Figures/Important People

  • Lao-tzu (founder)
  • Three Star Gods (gods of long life, wealth, and happiness)
  • Eight Immortals (show people how to become immortals)

To the left is a statue of Lao Tzu.

Holy Texts

  • Daodejing (Tao Te Ching, shown to the right)
  • Chuang Tzu

Religious Symbols

  • Yin Yang symbol
  • yin: darkness, water, femininity
  • yang: light, activity, air, masculinity

Watch the first two minutes of the video below to learn more about the yin yang symbol.

The Most Basic Secret Of Yin Yang

Place of Worship

  • no official place of worship-- home altars or private worship
  • through meditation and control of the body

To the left is a picture of the entrance to Qingcheng Mountain.

Impact on Social and Family Structures

  • respect cripples and physically disadvantaged
  • against competition and self assertion
  • effect of humility on social behavior: in China, if someone gives you something, it is customary to say no the first time, no the second time, but yes the third time you are offered, and some Chinese people will actually consider it rude if you accept their gift the first time they offer it
  • serious Daoists spend much time meditating or wandering the mountains, so they do not spend as much time with their family
  • social life is less strict since Daoists believe that everyone should behave naturally
  • Daoists are against social classes
  • Daoist priests carry out rituals and prayers for the common Daoists that do not know the rituals

Impact on Cultural Beliefs and Expectations

  • close link between the mind, the physical body, and the environment
  • powerful and life giving force that makes a path through the natural world
  • aspects of Tao and ch’i have diffused to many Asian countries
  • beliefs have developed the art of t’ai chi, a form of martial arts, which has become a very popular form of exercise in China and other Asian countries
  • Acupuncture is also believed to promote the flow of ch’i.
  • contributed to the popularity of ghost and nature worshiping in the Chinese society
  • belief that daily routines should be avoided affects cultural beliefs about routines

To the side is a picture of a tai chi class, showing how tai chi has diffused and is followed by so many people. Tai chi is accepted not only in the Chinese culture but also in popular culture around the globe.

Essential Question

How do the values of Daoism associate and coexist with the values of pop culture in places where Daoism is practiced? What might this suggest about the values of places where Daoism is not practiced?


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