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Throughout history, Taoism has been one of the most influential religions of Eastern culture. This is certainly one of the most unique of all religions. Many Taoists, in fact, do not even consider it a religion; and in many ways it is not. Taoists make no claim that the Tao exists. That is what essentially separates Taoism from the rest of

the world religions: there is no heated debate or battle over Taoist doctrine; there have been no crusades to spread the religion. The very essence of Taoism is quite the opposite. Taoism's uniqueness and open-endedness have allowed the religion to flourish almost undisturbed and unchanged for over two thousand years.

The founder of Taoism was a man named Lao Tzu, who lived around the year 604 B.C.E. According to Chinese legend, Lao Tzu was an archivist in the imperial library at Lo Yang. He was known for his knowledge, although he never taught. When Lao Tzu left his position at the library, he went to the Chinese province of Chou. At the border, however, he was stopped and forced to write down his teachings. During this time, he wrote the Tao Te Ching, the major scripture of Taoism.

After Lao Tzu's death, a man named Yang Chu (440-366 B.C.E.) took up his teachings. A naturalist and philosopher, Yang Chu believed highly in self-regard and survival as the core of human nature and direction. His ideals were personal integrity and self-protection, and said that he was unwilling to pluck one hair from his head even if all humanity were to benefit from it.

The next influential Taoist philosopher was Chang Tzu, who lived from 350-275 B.C.E. He defined existence using Lao Tzu's teachings. He wrote fifty-two books in response to the Tao Te Ching, thirty-three of which still survive...

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...ity. While the two religions are fundamentally different, they rely upon each other to create a balance of their differences. Because of this, many people believe in and practice both Confucianism and Taoism. Neither probably would have survived if the other had never existed.

Taoism is in itself a very difficult religion to define. Little is known of its founder or its origins, and it has no clear doctrine or method of worship. The whole concept of Tao is extremely abstract and therefore cannot be fully explained, only understood. The religion may hold a completely different meaning for each person--it may be a form of philosophy, religion, or magic. The religion has guided countless individuals through life and toward union with the Tao. As it has influenced the past through its writings, Taoism may influence the world for generations more with its wisdom.

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