Alternative meanings: Tao (chess), Dao (sword), Tao (Shining Force), dao, an administrative division in ancient China

Tao (Chinese 道, pinyin "dāo") refers to a Chinese character that was of pivotal meaning in ancient Chinese philosophy and religion. Most debates between proponents of one of the Hundred Schools of Thought could be summarised in the simple question: who is closer to the Tao, or, in other words, whose "Tao" is the most powerful? As used in modern spoken and written Chinese, the character 道 (do) is 首 (shǒu) 'head' and 辶 (辵 chu) 'go' (Source: Wenlin), and has a wide scope of meaning. Tao may be rendered as morality, knowledge, rationality, path, or taste: its semantics vary widely depending on the context.

The philosophic and religious use of the character can be analysed in two main segments: one meaning is "doctrine", and every school owns and defends a specific Tao, or doctrine. In the other meaning, there is only one Tao, that is the full processes of the universe and its constituent parts; the energy feeding its constant change, and emptiness. This meaning is the very one used by a specific school of thought, said Taoism (the "School of Tao" in Chinese). However, the Tao as understood in Taoism is a mystical concept that can't be defined with other words, especially in non-Chinese language. The present article focuses on this Tao of Taoism.

An understanding of the Tao may be approached Template:Ref as a certain resonance residing in the negative space created by glamorous objects. At the same time it flows through the glamourous objects to form the immediacy that they create. It is thus said (in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu c.604 - c.521 BCE ) to nurture all things: to create a pattern in the chaos. The signature characteristic of this pattern is "unfulfillable longing," to borrow a phrase from Amadeus. Taoist philosophers therefore ascribed to it the quality of change, and artwork attempting to reproduce it is characterized by flaws.

In describing Tao, the following analogy has been used: Imagine a person walking on a road. A bamboo pole is carried, resting on the person's shoulder. On the end of the pole two buckets are suspended. The buckets are likened to yin and yang. The pole is Taiji, the entity integrating the two. The road is Tao.

Tao is spoken of in many ways in the Tao Te Ching. The following interpolation of the first stanza is based on five of the best known translations:

The Tao that can be known is not Tao.
The substance of the World is only a name for Tao.
Tao is all that exists and may exist;
the World is only a map of what exists and may exist.
One experiences without Self to sense the World,
and experiences with Self to understand the World.
The two experiences are the same within Tao;
they are distinct only within the World.
Neither experience conveys Tao
which is infinitely greater and more subtle than the World.
Tao Te Ching (1) Based on an interpolation by Peter Merel of translations by Lin Yutang, Ch'u Ta-Kao, Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, Richard Wilhelm and Aleister Crowley.[1] (http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/taote-ex.html)


  1. Template:Note The Tao, by its very nature cannot be understood; if it could be understood, it would not be Tao (as described in the excerpt from the Tao Te Ching, above).

Tao is the native name of the Taiwanese Austronesian indigenes formerly known as the Yami. It means "people".

See also

eo:Tao et:Tao fr:Tao it:Tao ja:道 (哲学) nl:Tao pl:Tao pt:Tao ru:Дао sv:Tao zh-cn:道 (法则)


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