Daoism (or Taoism) is a Chinese philosophical system that began around the 6th century B.C with the life and teachings of the founder of Daoism—Laozi (or Lao Tzu). Laozi allegedly wrote the Tao Te Ching (“The Way and Its Power”) which explains basic Daoist beliefs.
According to Daoism the absolute concept in the universe is Dao. The Dao is a mysterious, cosmic power that is present in all experiences. It is an impersonal and invisible way that the universe follows. Indescribable in nature, the Dao is a natural force that makes the universe the way it is.
With Daoism, the universe is neither good nor evil—it is beyond good and evil. The universe just is. The secret to living a good and harmonious life is through inactivity. One of the key concepts of Daoism is wuwei which is the accomplishing of tasks without assertion or aggression. According to Daoism, active attempts to conquer nature or improve society are futile and only make things worse. Thus, Daoism is often against education, rituals, and participation in social and political institutions. These things are artificial structures that draw people away from the peace and harmony that come through inaction. Trouble and suffering come when people are too active.
According to Daoism the best life is the simple life of inactivity and attention to the basic needs of yourself and your family. A motto of Daoism could be “Live and let live.” By doing nothing, humans can exist in harmony with nature. A long life is often viewed as the reward for those who live in harmony with the Dao.
The concepts of “Yin and Yang” come from Daoism. “Yin and Yang” means “shaded” and “sunny” and refers to the opposite and complementary forces in the universe. “Yin” refers to the dark and female aspect of things and “Yang” represents the light and male aspects of things. According to Daoism opposites are identical aspects of the same reality.
The concept of “Feng Shui” is also linked to Daoism. Literally meaning “wind and water,” Feng Shui refers to the practice of establishing harmony and juxtaposition with objects, furniture, buildings, etc. The proper positioning of a home, office, or building through Feng Shui can positively affect the fortunes of the owner.
Although Daoism is often identified as a religion it is more appropriately classified as a philosophy since it lacks many of the metaphysical elements of other religions. In fact, many Daoists have accepted Buddhism as their primary religion. Among the native Chinese, the influence of Daoism has been second only to that of Confucianism.