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Taoism or Daoism is a type of belief, or a way of thinking about life. It is at least 2,500 years old and it comes from China. Taoism is now said to be a philosophy. Tao (or Dao, 道) is the name of the force or the "Way" that Taoists believe makes everything in the world. Taoists think that words cannot be used to correctly describe Tao. The very first line of the Dào Dé Jīng (道德经), the most important text in Taoism, says "the Way that can be explained in words is not the true Way." There are many other sacred writings by the teachers of Taoism.
Instead of spending a lot of time trying to explain what the Tao is, Taoists focus on living a simple and balanced life in harmony with nature. This is one of the most important principles in Taoism. Taoists also believe that conflict is not good and that if you have a problem with something, it is better to find a way around it.
Taoism first showed up in writing in China about 2000 years ago. People do not always write about their religions at first, so this religion may be much older. Some important people the history of Taoism are:
- Laozi, or Lao Tzu (老子). He is assumed to have written Dào Dé Jīng.
- Zhuangzi, or Chuang Tzu (庄子). Like Lao Tzu, his sayings and stories are today put together as a book, and translated into English and other languages.
- Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor, 黄帝). He is assumed to have been the first Taoist, but nobody knows for sure if he was a real person or not.
Beliefs and practices
People who follow this religion believe that doing something with words, thoughts, symbolic actions, etc. can make things in the real world change. That idea is hard to understand. Here is an example: There is an old story that says China was once covered by a flood. The world was saved from the flood by 禹 Yǔ, who had only one leg that worked. Yǔ went to different parts of China in a special order, and he dug ditches to let the flood water go into the ocean. When something very bad happens in the world, a Daoist priest can go to the Daoist temple and act out what Yǔ did, and just doing that will make the world get fixed.
Daoist priests do many other things. For instance, they can use fire and noise to scare demons away. They can do things to cure sickness. They can perform funerals and help keep the new ghosts safe from harm.