Taoism: Growth of Religion

The origins of Taoism go back to at least the 4th century BC. Early Taoism derived its cosmological notions from the Yinyang School and was profoundly inspired by one of the oldest texts in Chinese culture, the I Ching, which describes a philosophic structure of how to keep human actions in line with the alternating cycles of existence. The "Legalist" Shen Buhai may also have been a significant factor, revealing the realpolitik of wu wei. Tao Te Ching, a compact book containing teachings attributed to Lao Tzu, is generally regarded to be the keystone of the Taoist tradition, along with the later writings of Zhuangzi. Taoism has had a significant influence on Chinese society over the centuries, and the Taoists, a title generally applied only to the clergy and not to their lay adherents, typically take care to remember the difference between their ritual custom and the practice of Chinese folk religion; And non-Taoist vernacular ceremonial orders, which are sometimes wrongly described as Taoist. Chinese alchemy, Chinese astrology, Chan Buddhism, a variety of martial arts, classical Chinese medicine, feng shui and several qigong styles have been intertwined with Taoism throughout history. The Taoist tradition is currently one of the five religious doctrines formally recognised by the People's Republic of China. It is also a major religion in Taiwan and is claimed to have followers in a variety of other communities, especially in Hong Kong, Macau and South East Asia.