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The term Daoism refers to a movement that developed alongside Confucianism into both a philosophy and a religion, becoming one of the major belief systems in traditional China. The Daode Jing (Tao Te Ching), sometimes called the Laozi (Lao-tzu) after its legendary author, and the Zuangzi (Chuang-tzu) stand as the core texts of Daoism.
Daoist Philosophy The Daoist movement began during the Eastern Zhou (Chou) dynasty (c.770-256 �), when religious hermits challenged Confucius's socially responsible dao (tao, prescriptive doctrine, or way). Early Daoist iconoclasts advocated asceticism, hedonism, and egoism as the way. Mature Daoist theory, however, began with the slogan "abandon knowledge, discard self," as advocated by Shen Dao (Shen Tao; c.4th century �). He argued that there is only one actual dao and that to follow several prescriptive ways is a distraction from this natural, inevitable course of action.
Daoist Religion Religious Daoism was associated with legalism and the cult of the Yellow Emperor, and it became popular after the suppression and decline of classical thought during the 3d century �. Daoist experimenters in breathing practices and alchemy caught the fancy of superstitious monarchs seeking immortality. These rulers promoted the compilation of such books as the Lie Xi (Lieh Tzu; compiled during the Han dynasty, 202 �-� 220) and the Huai Nan Xi (Huai Nan Tzu; 100 �), which cited fragments of the classical Daoist texts in support of every known occult practice. Daoist sects based on the supposed dao of any one of thousands of local folk deities or archaic culture heroes (including Laozi and the Yellow Emperor) spread throughout China. Experimentation continued in meditation, sexual practices, hygiene, and travel in search of the secrets of long life. Still tinged with classical anarchist impulses, major sects�such as the Celestial Masters movement, headed by Zhang Daoling (Chang Tao-ling; 2d century �), and the Yellow Turban movement�often battled the imperial government. Daoist religion provided a foothold for the introduction of Buddhism and influenced the form of its elaboration in China. Daoists developed a collection of over 1,400 scriptures known as Daozang (Tao-tsang). Religious Daoism and Buddhism have blended in the minds of most ordinary Chinese believers, found now principally in Hong Kong and Taiwan.