Daoism is an ancient Chinese philosophy that encourages the individual to live in harmony with the Tao (the Way). The Tao is both the source of life and the driving principle of the universe, but is ultimately unknowable. The first chapter of the Tao Te Ching states, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.”
Daoism is attributed to the mythical figure Lao Tzu, who is said to have written the Tao Te Ching. Traditionally, Daoism is divided into both philosophical and religious schools, however Daoism has been more of a collection of ideas and trends as opposed to any organized religion.
In terms of its philosophy, Daoism stresses a detachment from desire and letting the universe exist without interference from the individual. This non-action is called wu-wei in Chinese. The idea stems from the believe that the universe exists in its own state of harmony and that attempting to intervene disrupts harmony. Individuals are taught to be like water, flowing endlessly yet yielding.
Tao is the way of the universe. Human beings can see its manifestations and observe its essence in the workings of nature. In stressing harmony with the universe, adherents of Daoism often practice T’ai Chi Ch’aun. When an individual cultivates the Tao, they build up their Te, the life force that represents their ability to exist in the Tao.