Taoism is a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the “Dao” or “Tao”. Tao, the core concept of Taoism, stands for “way”, the way of everything, the way shows how our universe run, the way how individuals can improve their soles better. In Zhou dynasty, there were many different philosophers talking about Tao/Dao. Gradually, the main definition of Taoism became ambiguous. Taoism, known by a religion, is very ancient in China. Taoism is about multi-gods. Besides those gods who once appeared in the immortal stories, there are many gods who were greatest educator or philosophers as well.
Such as the founder of the theory of Taoism, Lao Zi, he is the highest-level god in the religion. Moreover, great educators and historical people like Confucian and Mencius or the hero Yue Fei or Guan Gong, they are also the gods in the religion. Taoists are seeking immortality. From the foundation of Taoism in 2 AD, Taoists have been seeking the best way to longer their lives. Taoists don’t care about what will happen “after life”. During these two thousand years, besides the development of their belief, Taoists also make a great contribution to iatrology.
There are two part of Taoism in China. One is called “Zheng Yi Jiao” and the other called “Quan Zhen Jiao”. “Zheng Yi Jiao” was original from “Wu Dou Mi Jiao”, founded by Zhang Daoling while “Quan Zhen Jiao” was founded by Wang Chongyang. Now, in China main land, most Taoism temples are Quan Zhen Jiao. As for Zheng Yi Jiao, most Taoists are living in Taiwan now. Taoists of Quan Zhen Jiao must be vegetarians, living in temple and wearing the Taoist clothes. On the contrary, Zheng Yi Taoist don’t need to live in the temple. They can get married and eat meat as well.
In China, Taoism is important not because it is a religion but it is part of the culture. In other words, there is a strong interaction between the developments of Taoism and Chinese culture. Taoism is an ancient philosophy and also a religion. When talking about Taoism as a philosophy, it is based on the theories from Lao Zi, Kong Zi (Confucian), Zhuang Zi, Meng Zi (Mencius) etc. All of them are from Zhou to Zhanguo Dynasty but Lao Zi is the founder of the philosophy of Taoism. Lao Zi was a wise man in Zhou Dynasty that is the third dynasty of Chinese culture.
The main book of Lao Zi is called <Dao De Jing>. It is said that Lao Zi was sitting on a bull going out of the city. The guard recognized Lao Zi and asked him where he was going. Lao Zi did not say a thing but left <Dao De Jing> to the guard. In <Dao De Jing>, Lao Zi addressed the basic theories of the universe and individual behaviors. Lao Zi maintains the universe is the root of everything. We should obey the natural changes so that we can make things better. The book is the foundation of Taoism and also of other philosophers’ theories because, as what I mentioned above, the core concept is Tao/Dao (way).
Zhuan Zi, which is seen as the main developer as Lao Zi’s theory. In China, people will say “Lao Zhuang Zhe Xue” which means “Lao/Zhuang Philosophy”. Zhuang Zi hold the view that Tao/Dao is before human beings and is spirit. Therefore we should follow our spirit. According to L/Z Philosophy, Tao/Dao is metaphysis, is beyond our mind, is something we can/should not to change. When it came to Confucian and Mencius, the theories become a little different from the previous ones. Confucian and Mencius focus more on humanity even they started their concept from Tao/Dao.
Most western point of view describe Confucian and Mencius’ theories as Confucianism. Literately differentiated from Taoism. Personally, comparing Confucianism and Taoism, I would say Taoism is the highest form of Taoism. Confucianism is based on humanity. It is about how to behave as a nice person, to people, to society. However, Taoism is more about the universe and about “Tao/Dao” the highest level in Chinese philosophy and culture. Thus, only learnt how to become a “nice person” can individuals reach the higher level of the philosophy.