The Misconceptions in The Taoism Belief

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About this sample


Words: 1403 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021

Words: 1403|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021

This paper presents some of the misconception in the Taoism belief, from who founded it and who wrote it, how people can understand the Tao Te Ching more easily, it also presents why the non-action is easily misunderstood, and how the westerners interpreted it on their own. This paper also wants to present what really is Taoism and what is the importance of it for me, personally.

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Taoism is a Chinese philosophy, religious tradition that is believed to be lead by Lao tzu. But Lao Tzu is a term for Old Master not a name of a person, it is in the account of Sima Qian that has started it when he wrote that Li Er is Lao Tan, and that Lao Tan is the pen name of Li Er, a historical figure in the Chinese philosophy, he is the one that is known to exist because of his biography accounted by Suma Qian. Lao Tan, however, is known to be a legendary person but there is no definite proof that he actually existed. The misconception that Taoism is lead by Lao Tzu is widely known thru the world, but people are not even sure if he really existed. There is no “founder” of Taoism, but it has multiple figures that is known and followed.

The Taoism’s main concept is the Tao, and for us to understand Tao we must first understand the concept of Change for the Ancient Chinese. They view change as a cycle that is moving continuously just as the earth rotates that sun and how we experience the seasons. The different states of nature for them are not opposites but are all connected, that which possess a quality that when understood correctly, together, everything is whole. This change is connected with the ten thousand things:

“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

The named is the mother of ten thousand things.”

In which the thing is not exactly the thing but it is, in which it does but it does not. In which we can know Tao, but now know it, and that all things came from heaven and earth, but it also came from the ten thousand things. There is said to be a lot of paradoxical phrases from Tao Te Ching, as can be seen from it’s first phrase, that’s why it’s hard to understand and hard to interpret even for the people that studies Taoism.

A lot of people has misunderstood one of its concept. The Wu Wei which means “non-action” because it means doing nothing. To reach and follow the Tao, all we can do is wu wei. But it does not mean literally doing nothing. It means doing nothing that contradicts what we need to do. For example:

“Utilizing a sports-based example, wu wei is the same as being 'in the zone'. When a batter in baseball is on a hot streak, I've often heard them say it's like everything around them slows down and the ball looks as big as a beach ball. They hit it without consciously thinking about it.

Another example is the writer who, struck by inspiration, allows the words and imagery to pour out of them. Many will say it's like the book or poem wrote itself. Both of these examples exemplify wu wei.

“We've completed what we set out to do as if WE didn't really do anything at all.” (Two Typical Misconceptions)

This means that wu wei is letting that Tao to do it’s work thru your body for it to complete what needs to be done, letting nature do the work and not contradict it. Because when we’re not “in the zone” we are conscious of what we need to do, we are aware that we are doing something because we need to accomplish something. But when we are “in the zone” we are letting go of our consciousness and we are not thinking of what we need to do next, we are surprised when something is done because we are not conscious of the things we are doing. Quoting Suma Qian: “In accordance with the changes of the seasons, they respond to the development of natural things. Their achievements fit everywhere. Their ideas are simple and easily carried out. They perform but little, yet their achievements are numerous.” which means everything that is being followed is by nature, and that the work that is done is also by nature.

A lot of people who studies Taosim, misconceptualized wu wei something for laziness because they take it literally that they need to do nothing for things to be done. Some people (mostly from the western culture) believe that Taoism is a Lazy Philosophy/Religion.

People from the Western also misonceptualized Taoism that it has two forms, one that is “religious” and that one is “philosophical”. But an informed view of Taoism knows that it is an understanding of the western culture that has a colonialist and missionary agenda that gives it two forms. From the Warring states period, it is known that Taoism is a complex and diverse religious tradition, it is viewed as a whole and does not have any forms. Taoism has a lot of ideas, beliefs, philosophy, individual principle that can not be simply diverge into two. The complexity of it all can be seen from the history of itself as well as their way of attaining the Tao.

Another misconception is that Lao Tzu, wrote the Tao Te Ching. But the Tao Te Ching is a book that has many authors, and has many contributors, one of them is Chuang Tzu, another Taoist figure, and another Taoist book. Both books are compilation of works by the Taoist community. One of the misconception of these books, is that these two books are the only books that matter in the Taoism religious tradition. Because the Tao Te Ching is the most central and influential scripture in Taoist history. But the Taoist religion has based on different books in time, their most primary text is the Daozang which means Taoist Canon, this is the book that consist all of the text of the Taoist Religion. It has 1400 texts, that came from every major period and movement in the Daoist history.

It might not be on who founded Taoism and who wrote the text, but it is on the result on how people interpret the texts and how people apply it in their lives. The actual concern is how does Taoism affect people’s lives, and how people understand its believes. The problems cause might be because of the paradoxical phrases from the Tao Te Ching because it has no direct text that says what people must do, another thing is for people to understand the changes in Tao Te Ching and the ten thousand things, they must also know the natural order for the Yin Yang philosophy.

The greatest misconceptualization on wu wei is the biggest problem here, because a lot of people even the practitioner of Taoism is being mislead by the name “non-action”, it requires great effort to know what people really need to do that is based on the Tao Te Ching.

The misconceptualization on the two forms however is brought upon the westerners because they want to understand the idea with their own understanding, which is a problem, as always stated, we must not try to understand the beliefs and ideas of the eastern philosophy with the western because they differ in a lot of sense. We must let go of what we know for us to understand the Eastern texts. We must not forget, to always go back on the primary source of what we are reading, we must not be selective on what we want to read.

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Even if we say that it’s a confusing religious tradition, we can not say that it’s not effective and good. Because it gives the importance of the natural flow of life in the world and it also gives the importance of what people need to do in their lives, it shows how much of what we do affects the flow of life and the natural changes of it.


  • Komjathy, Louis. Common Misconceptions Concerning Daoism (Taoism). (accessed: October 15, 2019)
  • Yu-lan, Fung. History of Chinese Philosophy Vol. 1. (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1952)
  • Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 1, (accessed: October 15, 2019)
  • The rambling taoist. Two typical misconceptions. (December 6,2008) (accessed: October 12, 2019)
  • (accessed: October 15, 2019)
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The Misconceptions In The Taoism Belief. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 12, 2024, from
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