Taoism > Tao

What is Tao?

The word "tao" is usually translated as "way", "road", "method", "technique" or "principle". As a concept, Tao is the most important topic in the philosophical Taoism (tao-chia).

tao graph
The Chinese character for tao is made of 2 signs: head and foot or walking. That is the conscious walking or the ancient (way of) walking

In Tao-te ching, Tao is the name given by Lao-tzu to the Great Pervader or the Mother of all Things. Tao is the creator and sustainer of everything in the Universe. It is described as follows:

    There was something undefined and complete, coming into existence before Heaven and Earth... (Tao-te ching, chap. 25, Legge)

Tao is the model of conduct to be followed by the Taoist disciples and it is linked with wu-wei (nondoing) and wu (emptiness) in this respect.

The word "tao" points further to the special skills of some people such as: a good archer, musician, painter or writer etc. The skill itself was called a "tao" as much as Chinese sovereigns showed very much interest in these persons - they were invited at the court, put to the test, and rewarded properly when they proved their skill.

Finally, the Tao concept may be found at Confucians as well. In this case it points to the art of ruling of the ancient Chinese emperors taken as models of virtue and humanism.

You may learn more about Tao by following our email courses.
- Lao-tzu and Tao-te ching Revealed (10-lessons email course) - explains the main Lao-tzu's concepts, including the Tao, developed in his famous Tao-te ching. More information
- Initiation into Taoism (3-level email course) - provides teachings on what is Tao and its meaning in Taoism. More information


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