compiled by Dee Finney

"Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river."
                                                                              Lao Tse

"The essence of Tao is in the art of wu wei, action through inaction.
This does not mean, "sit on your ass and wait for everything to fall into your lap."

He who conquers others is strong;
He who conquers himself is mighty.

~Lao Tzu


It is the nature of the Tao,
that even though used continuously,
it is replenished naturally,
never being emptied,
and never being over-filled,
as is a goblet
which spills its contents
upon the ground.


Only the soft overcomes the hard,
by yielding, bringing it to peace.
Even where there is no space,
that which has no substance enters in.

Through these things is shown
the value of the natural way.
The wise man understands full well,
that wordless teaching can take place,
and that actions should occur
without the wish for self-advancement.

Dao De Jing - Chapter 66

If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility.
If he would lead them, he must follow behind.
In this way when the sage rules, the people will not feel oppressed;
When he stands before them, they will not be harmed.
The whole world will support him and will not tire of him.

Because he does not compete,
He does not meet competition.


11-10-2002 - I was in my brother Marty's library room. I opened up a cabinet and on the top shelf were 3 stacks of Reader's Digest Magazines he had collected.  They were light green books. On the edge of each book, it said, "The Life of Lao Tse Tung" There were a total of 18 books in the 3 stacks, 6 in each stack.

I told my brother, "I should write a manuscript of the 'Life of Lao Tse Tung' from these magazines and submit it to Reader's Digest."

As soon as I said that, a voice boomed into my head inside. It said, "If you are going to write this manuscript, you should publish it yourself".

Lao Tze Tung was the first philosopher of Taoism and author of the Tao Te Ching (The Classic of the Way and its Virtue).

Lao-Tse b. 604-531 BCE

Little is known of the history of Lao Tzu. He was a native of Ch'ü-jen, which is in the modern day Honan Province, China. His given name was Li Erh; the name Lao Tzu means "old sage" or "old boy".

The author of the "Dao De Jing" (Tao Te Ching), Lao Tzu, kept the Imperial Archives of the Court of Chou, in the province of Honan in the sixth century, B.C. Some historical records indicate that he had personally instructed Confucius and was an elderly contemporary, although others claim that he passed away before the birth of Confucius.

Lao Tzu, thoughout his life, taught that "The Dao that can be told, is not the eternal Dao", as is referenced within his writings. According to legend, when Lao Tzu was about to retire from public service, he mounted a horse and began riding west into the desert regions of China. When the guardian of the pass to the province of Ch'in requested that he write down his thoughts so that it could be passed on to mankind, Lao Tzu sat down for two days and wrote the "Dao De Jing". After turning over the works to the guardian, he rode into the desert, never to be seen from again.

Most researchers agree that he became disillusioned with Chinese society and disappeared into the western wilderness; however before leaving, he left the last gatekeeper of the Middle Kingdom a written record of his wisdom. This is consistent with the habits of the early Taoist recluses who left society behind to attain oneness with nature, thus oneness with the Tao. One legend states that Confucius was a student of Lao Tzu and that he was so overwhelmed by the elder sage's wisdom that he compared him to "a dragon ascending to heaven on wind and clouds." His name translates as "old master" and there is very little evidence that a man by that name actually lived, let alone be verified as the author of the Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu would appear to be a composite of "old masters" of a philosophical movement that began in the sixth century B.C. rather than a single person of that period.

As for the Tao Te Ching itself, the oldest manuscripts, dated around the second century B.C., were divided into only two parts, the Tao and the Te. The division into 81 chapters, or poems, seems to have been added later. The number 81 may be the result of Buddhism’s influence on Chinese thought after it’s introduction in the first century A.D., 1 being the square of 9, having great symbolic significance for Indian mystics.

The first known Chinese librarian was the philosopher Lao Tse, who was appointed keeper of the royal historical records for the Chou rulers about 550 BC.

Although ascetics and hermits such as Shen Tao (who advocated that one "abandon knowledge and discard self") first wrote of the "Tao," it is with the sixth century B.C. philosopher Lao Tzu (or 'Old Sage' -- born Li Erh) that the philosophy of Taoism really began. Some scholars believe he was a slightly older contemporary of Confucius (Kung-Fu Tzu, born Chiu Chung-Ni). There is also a close association between Lao Tzu and the legendary Yellow Emperor, Huang-ti. In ancient China, the keeper of the Imperial Library, Lao Tzu, was famous for his wisdom. Perceiving the growing corruption of the government, he left for the countryside. On his way, the guard at the city gates asked Lao Tzu to write out the essence of his understanding to benefit future generations. Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching, left, and was never heard of again.

What was the association between an emperor long gone and the court librarian who founded Taoism? Although deeply rooted in Chinese history Taoism is a way of life rather than a religion. It's essence being strongly based on Lao Tzu's (570?-490? B.C.) writings called the Tao Te Ching. The book is separated into two parts: the first is the "book of the way," the second is the "book of virtue." He believed that a harmony existed between Heaven and Earth and that it could be found by anyone, at anytime- all they needed to do was follow the natural flow of nature called the Tao or "the Way."

His basic teaching was that the Tao could not be spoken of, for words cannot describe the infinite Universe.

Alongside the development of Taoism as a philosophy another more strictly religious interpretation of Taoism was evolving. This "religious" Taoism had its own temples, priests, rites and symbolic images. Lao Tzu was venerated as a "saint" and imperial sacrifices were made to him. It drew strongly upon the ideas of yin-yang and of the "Five Agents" (metal, wood, water, fire & earth). During this time there began to develop a pantheon of Taoist deities that were often venerated as gods. So prominent were astrology, alchemy and divination in this stream of Taoism that it had veered away from philosophy to occultism. This movement was sometimes known as Huang-Lao after the legendary Yellow Emperor, Huang-ti and Lao Tzu.

Yin originally meant "shady, secret, dark, mysterious, cold." It thus could mean the shaded, north side of a mountain or the shaded, south bank of a river. Yang in turn meant "clear, bright, the sun, heat," the opposite of yin and so the lit, south side of a mountain or the lit, north bank of a river. From these basic opposites, a complete system of opposites was elaborated. Yin represents everything about the world that is dark, hidden, passive, receptive, yielding, cool, soft, and feminine. Yang represents everything about the world that is illuminated, evident, active, aggressive, controlling, hot, hard, and masculine. Everything in the world can be identified with either yin or yang. Earth is the ultimate yin object. Heaven is the ultimate yang object. Of the two basic Chinese "Ways," Confucianism is identified with the yang aspect, Taoism with the yin aspect.

Although it is correct to see yin as feminine and yang as masculine, everything in the world is really a mixture of the two, which means that female beings may actually be mostly yang and male beings may actually be mostly yin. Because of that, things that we might expect to be female or male because they clearly represent yin or yang, may turn out to be the opposite instead.

From this form of Taoism emerged very strong alchemical currents as Taoist practitioners (much like Western mystics a millennium later) at the court of Shih Huang-ti of the Qin (Ch'in) dynasty (221-207 BC) tried to cultivate powers that would transform base metals to gold, and hence would serve as a metonym for the transformation of human qualities to the transcendent. These practitioners were also acclaimed as spirit mediums and experts in levitation .

Was the knowledge of strange powers given to Lao Tzu by those who held the legacy of the Yellow Emperor? Or did the Emperor himself give this knowledge to Lao Tzu?

The Emperor's legacy

Chinese civilization owes much to the legendary ruler. Agriculture and husbandry simultaneously developed in the ancient times when Huang-ti ruled. Silkworm raising was accomplished earliest in China. Yue Jue Shu says Emperor Huang-ti started the silk clothing industry and cultivated mulberry (for silkworms) and hemp; as the Chinese archaeologists state "it is from historical records" (Selections of Chinese Relics and Archaeology, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1995). We should be grateful that at least some historical records reach to us from the mists of time. Ancient scribes took care to leave us an incredible tale of a very strange being, the one they called the "Yellow Emperor." And it was in Huang-ti's age that the most ancient Chinese writing was "invented."

Like other ancient peoples, the Chinese developed unique attributes. Their form of writing, developed by 2000 BC, was a complex system of picture writing using forms called ideograms, pictograms, and phonograms. Such early forms of Chinese became known through the discovery by archaeologists of oracle bones, which were bones with writings inscribed on them. They were used for fortune-telling and record keeping in ancient China. In 1899 a small group of Chinese scholars and antiquarians collected quantities of inscribed bones from the fields around Hsiao T'un. Five years passed before enough symbols could be deciphered to reveal the true nature of the "dragon bones."

They were a record of a people who called themselves Shang, and ruled lands surrounding Anyang some four thousand years ago. The objects embedded in the fields of Hsiao T'un came not from dragons but from tortoises and cattle. Shang kings desired to glimpse into the future, and their diviners inscribed the royal inquiries on a carefully scraped and polished tortoise shell or ox blade or leg bone.

Years later the People's Republic of China archaeologists uncovered thousands more Shang oracle bones. Corps of learned people created a whole new branch of linguistic study, Jia gu shu, the study of shell and bone writing. As scholars pored over the writings of ancient diviners, they reached a provocative conclusion: Shang writing was not the oldest Chinese writing, not by a thousand years at least. The characters used then were already so sophisticated that they undoubtedly had many centuries of development behind them. Very little is known pre-Shang writing. The Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BC) is the first documented era of ancient China. The highly developed hierarchy consisted of a king, nobles, commoners, and slaves. The capital city was Anyang, in north Henan Province. Some scholars have suggested that travelers from Mesopotamia and from Southeast Asia brought agricultural methods to China, which stimulated the growth of ancient Chinese civilization. If so, there may be a direct connection with Sumer. The Shang peoples were known for their use of jade, bronze, horse-drawn chariots, ancestor worship, and highly organized armies. A significant aspect of China is its long cultural and national history. The Chinese people have shared a common culture longer than any other group on Earth. The Chinese writing system dates back almost 4,000 years.

History of Taoism:

Tao (pronounced "Dow") can be roughly translated into English as path, or the way. It is basically indefinable. It has to be experienced. It "refers to a power which envelops, surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living. The Tao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance in the Universe. It embodies the harmony of opposites (i.e. there would be no love without hate, no light without dark, no male without female.)"

The founder of Taoism is believed by many to be Lao-Tse (604-531 BCE), a contemporary of Confucius. (Alternate spellings: Lao Tze, Lao Tsu, Lao Tzu, Laozi, Laotze, etc.). He was searching for a way that would avoid the constant feudal warfare and other conflicts that disrupted society during his lifetime. The result was his book: Tao-te-Ching (a.k.a. Daodejing). Others believe that he is a mythical character.

Taoism has provided an alternative to the Confucian tradition in China. The two traditions have coexisted in the country, region and generally within the same individual.

Tao is the first-cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life.

Each believer's goal is to become one with the Tao.

Yin (dark side) is the breath that formed the earth. Yang (light side) is the breath that formed the heavens. They symbolize pairs of opposites which are seen throughout the universe, such as good and evil, light and dark, male and female. Intervention by human civilization upsets the balances of Yin and Yang. The symbol of Taoism, seen in the background of this page, represents Yin and Yang in balance.

Each person must nurture the Ch'i (air, breath) that has been given to them.

Development of virtue is one's chief task. The Three Jewels to be sought are compassion, moderation and humility.

Taoists follow the art of "wu wei," which is to let nature take its course. For example, one should allow a river to flow towards the sea unimpeded; do not erect a dam which would interfere with its natural flow.

One should plan in advance and consider carefully each action before making it.


In a combat situation, one must not adhere to a unique style to overcome the opponent, for surely he will be defeated. Rather, one should adapt techniques to overcome the weaknesses of the opponent. Therefore, in order to become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are. This can be accomplished by a proper use of training.

Training is one of the most neglected phases of athletics. The problem is that too much time is given to the development of skill rather than the development of the individual for participation. Training deals not with an object, but with human spirit and human emotions. It is also the psychological and physiological conditioning of an individual preparing for intense neural and muscular reaction. It demands discipline of the mind and power and endurance of the body. Training means not only knowledge of things which will build the body, but also knowledge of the things which will tear down or injure it. Training, then, is concerned with the prevention of injuries as well as first-aid to injuries. (The latter paragraph was taken from Bruce Lee's "The Tao of Jeet Kune Do" and is given proper credit here)

In the martial arts, one should draw on experience to make the correct decisions. The sixth chapter of Lao Tse Tung's "Tao Te Ching" states:

"Experience is a riverbed
Its source hidden, forever flowing:
Its entrance, the root of the world,
The Way moves within it:
Draw upon it; it will not run dry."

Much of the essence of Tao is in the art of wu wei, action through inaction. This does not mean, "sit on your ass and wait for everything to fall into your lap."

What it really means is a practice of minimal action, particularly violent action. It is the practice of going against the stream not by struggling against it and thrashing about, but by standing still and letting the stream do all the work.

Thus the sage knows that relative to the river, he still moves against the current. To the outside world the sage appears to take no action - but in fact he takes action long before others ever foresee the need for action. Thinking well about one's actions before making them is another aspect of the Tao.

Likewise, the Taoist is not precisely a pacifist. He will take military action when he has not seen far enough ahead to prevent the need for violence in the first place. When violence is needed, the Taoist leader will fight until he has achieved his goal, and then stop, saddened at the need for bloodshed and with resolve to foresee better into the future.

Among the oldest stories of man flying is the inhabitants of the Chinese kingdom of

(a) Lao Tse Tung

(b) Shah Kai Kaoos

(c) Ki Kuang

It was said that 2,000 years ago, the inhabitants of the kingdom of Ki Kuang, who had only one arm but three eyes, flew with winged chariots.

The Warring States (453-222 B.C.)

Laozi Daode jing (IV-III c. B.C.) is the first scripture on the concept of Dao, described as the ineffable dynamic unity source of multiplicity. Man should reverse the process and return to unity by means of non-action (wuwei), which is also a political ideal. On the contrary, Zhuangzi (IV c. B.C.) conceives the Taoist Saint as a mystic, a supernatural being who identifies himself with the Universe, free from any social restraint. This image is closer to that of shamans (wu) and so-called "masters of techniques" (fangshi), who anticipate the figure of the Taoist priest, a searcher of immortality and an exorcist in control of natural phenomena.

That of Laozi and Zhuangzi is often referred to as "philosophical Taoism", in contrast to a "religious Taoism" beginning with the Celestial Masters. These concepts hardly fit the actual reality.

Taoism encompasses both a Taoist philosophical tradition (Tao-chia) associated with the Tao-te Ching (Lao-tzu), Chuang-tzu, Lieh-tzu, and other texts, and a Taoist religious tradition (Tao-chiao) with organized doctrine, formalized cultic activity, and institutional leadership. These two forms of Taoist expression are clearly interrelated, though at many points in tension. Aspects of both philosophical and religious Taoism were appropriated in East Asian cultures influenced by China, especially Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

Traditionally, Taoism has been attributed to three sources, the oldest being the legendary 'Yellow Emperor', but the most famous is Lao Tse's Tao Teh Ching. According to tradition, Lao Tse was an older contemporary of Kung Fu Tse (Confucius). The third source is Chuang Tse's (untitled) work.

But the original source of Taoism is said to be the ancient I Ching, The Book Of Changes.

The Tao was written in a time of feudal warfare and constant conflict. Lao Tzu was reflecting on a way which would stop the warfare, a realistic path for humanity to follow which would end the conflict. And so he came up with a few pages of short verses, which became the Tao Te Ching. This is the original book of Tao.

It was shortly followed by a series of commentaries, and commentaries on the commentaries, and then hybridized with Confucianism, Buddhism, and a clutch of other Eastern religions. Books of Tao from around the time of Christ more closely resemble an unexpurgated 10 commandments than the poetic Tao Te Ching, carefully deliniating everything from the proper system of greetings to the proper way to clean one's house. Most modern Taoists consider this to be a radical departure from the true Tao, since Lao Tzu abhorred the caste systems of Confucianism that riddle the later Taoist books.

"Tao" means "behavior, understanding and the constant changing from and to". Taoism is a philosophy and a belief of simplicity and the very nature of universe. There is no absolute "stillness". Everything, including the universe, is changing all the time. The relative "stability" can be achieved when a harmony is reached between "Yin" and "Yang", which are said to be the opposite but related natural forces in the universe. There are five elements in everything. The following diagram described their interrelationship.

The Tao Te Ching         The Tao Te Ching List

Taoism Deport           Dao De Jing in Chinese

Taoism or The Way                Comments on the Tao Te Ching

The Tao Te Ching in English
        Introductions to Taoism or Daoism

Chinese Language and Culture           Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing

Chuang-tzu or Zhuang-zi         I Ching or Yi Jing

The Sun-tzu Art of War         Acupuncture, Alchemy, Feng Shui

Buddhism and Confucianism         Chinese Philosophy

Taoism and Martial Arts           Taoism and Modernity

Taoist Commercial Sites           Other Information Sources

  Tao Resources and Goods         Taoist Bibliography - (Large)

Tai Chi - Exercises           The Tai Chi Society

Taoist message board         A Brief History

The Taoist Canon           Bill Mason's Taoism Page

Maury Merkin, "Daoism in brief"           The Taoist Canon

The "Taoism Information Page"           The "Taoism Depot"

Western Reform Taoism         The Taoist Restoration Society (TRS)


Google's Directory of Tao Te Ching

The I Ching and the Tao


The I Ching is an ancient and beautiful Chinese oracle that has been helping people and answering their questions for some 3,000 years. Reading the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching together, it seems that Lao Tzu must have known and loved the tradition of the ancient oracle. The two books spring from the same world - the same traditions, and the same way of being.

The Tao is the way. To move with it is to be in harmony with the nature of the time, fitting with it as smoothly as flowing water. This was not an abstract, metaphysical idea for the early Chinese: both in the regular cycles of farming and in the changing dynamics of contemporary politics, it was a present necessity. The ideal is simple: to follow what is right for the time. Time is not marked quantatively - as if divided by the hands of a wrist-watch - but qualitatively, as a particular, sacred moment to be observed.

The I-Ching (which means 'change'), a book as well as a method of predicting the future, is a mix of Taoist and Confucian philosophies. Many elements of Taoism appear in the I Ching, which was compiled by King Wen around 1150 b.c. from fragments of even older materials or teachings. Taoism is the perfect representation of this macrocosmic-microcosmic idea, since Tao, meaning way or path, refers not only to the ways of the cosmos but the optimal course for a man to travel through it. This idea, that a man's "tao" was the only reasonable and optimal path through the larger "Tao" of the universe, was incorporated as the rationale of the I Ching., but was heavily influenced by the followers of Lao Tzu.

Lao Tzu founded Taoism (also called Daoism and pronounced 'dow-ism') about 600 BC with. Nothing for certain is known about Tzu; he is a mosaic of legends and tales. We do know, however, that he wrote a short book of his beliefs called Tao Te Ching (meaning The Way and Its Power), which became the basic text of Taoist thought.

It is believed that the I Ching was created by a legendary individual named Fu Xi, who is credited with creating the yin/yang system and the eight trigrams (or Gua) which form the basis of the I Ching. The lines which make up the trigrams were taken from tortoise shells, which were used for divination.

Chinese philosophy advocates the belief that mankind is part of the Universe and that what happens in the near future can be predicted by what is currently in one's mind. Using the Text of the I Ching these outcomes can be interpreted to predict the outcomes of various actions.

There are two basic methods of casting the I Ching. The use of yarrow stalks predates the use of coins. The coin method was devised to make it easier for people to use the I Ching whenever they wanted. It was much easier for a nobleman or soldier on the road to use three coins than to carry fifty yarrow stalks.

Yin Yang and the I Ching

The I Ching on the Net

Original I Ching - Self Awareness

I-Ching - Explained

Understanding I-Ching

A Comparison of the I-Ching to the Ten Sepherif in Kabbalah

Table of 64 I-Ching Hexagrams


Exactly when kung-fu first surfaced is not known, though the subject continues to be disputed. Some traditional historians date it as far back as the Shang dynasty (16th century B.C.) Others place it in the period of the Contending States (475-221 B.C.) and the Yellow Emperor, Huang Ti. Perhaps its origins are bound up in the unique way China learned to absorb aspects of her conquerors' cultures. Contemporary kung-fu certainly exhibits distinct traces of Mongolian, Tibetan, Indian, and other cultural ideologies

Verse 104: "When the way prevails, fleet-footed horses are relegated to ploughing the fields; when the way does not prevail in the empire, war-horses breed on the border." The Tao can be expected to produce peace, but not always. War can be waged by Taoist means, as recommended in Sun Tzu's Art of War

Sun Tzu's the art of war is considered to be the best text on strategy. This is how it is viewed by western society but it is also a philosophical and spiritual text. To fully comprehend this text we must understand the symbolism, philosophies and the Chinese society of that time. Many people read The Art of War without taking these factors into consideration missing the ethical, social, political lessons this text can bring to western business. Studying the history that led up to the Text can give us a greater appreciation of Chinese thought while aiding our own culture.

Sun Tzu's The Art of War is considered to be the best text on strategy. This work was not the product of a University or a western corporation but an ancient Chinese general around the third to fourth century BC (Hanzhang: 1993). This text contains only 5600 words/ideograms yet when the context and symbolism are understood this text becomes a very complex work of strategy and philosophy.

Powerful men are well advised not to use violence,
For violence has a habit of returning;
Thorns and weeds grow wherever an army goes,
And lean years follow a great war.

A general is well advised
To achieve nothing more than his orders,
No matter how strong his army;
To carry out his orders
But not glory, boast or be proud;
To do what is dictated by necessity,
But not by bloodlust;
For even the fiercest force will weaken with time,
And then its violence will return, and kill it.

The Art of War - written in 500 B.C.E.

The Art of War

Kung Fu- The Art of Combat

Kung Fu History - by

Chinese War - history - by