Taoism (the Way), along with Buddhism and Confucianism, is one of the three great religions of China. It began as a philosophy with the writing of the classic text the Tao-Te-Ching. Its author may have been the sage Lao Tse (604 – 531 BCE), although it is not at all certain that he is, in fact, a historical figure. The Tao-Te-Ching was the outcome of Lao Tse’s search for a means of dealing with the constant feudal warfare of the time in which he lived. He believed that man must practice non-action, detachment and the cultivation of softness and flexibility. The Tao represents the life force flowing throughout the universe and nature and man’s relationship are important themes in Taoism. Taoists believe that nature is a constantly fluctuating balance between opposites and any attempt to change events will be unsuccessful and doomed to failure. The detached observer allows nature to take its course, watching, but not intervening in the flow of events from good to bad and back again. The well known Taoist tai chi, or yin-yang symbol shows this balance of opposing forces in nature, inside and outside, earthly and spiritual, good and bad, dark and light. The three jewels of Taoism are compassion, moderation and humility.
Taoism emphasizes health, healing and longevity and Taoists have traditionally used various exercises and healing techniques to promote this, among them TCM, meditation, and martial arts, in particular tai chi and the medical practice of qi gong. TCM believes that illness is caused by blockages in the body’s energy flow. Acupuncture, tai chi and qi gong are all methods of stimulating the flow of energy to promote health and long life and are important practices in modern China and, increasingly, in the western world.