Essay by tony325University, Bachelor'sA, March 2004

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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.1 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 was known for his knowledge, although

he never taught.2

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.3

After Lao Tzu's death, a man named Yang Chu (440-366 B.C.E.) took up

his teachings.4 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.5

The next influential Taoist philosopher was Chang Tzu, who lived from

350-275 B.C.E. He defined existence using Lao Tzu's teachings.6 He

wrote fifty-two books in response to the Tao Te Ching, thirty-three of

which still...