Taoism is a Chinese philosophy centered around the concept of Tao. It stresses the unification of contraries. Taoism also seeks harmony with nature.
The primary text of Taoism is Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, which works to express the essence of Tao. The book stresses the ineffability of the Tao, and is the second most translated book after Christianity's Holy Bible.
The Tao Te Ching is composed of 81 poems, each of which focuses on either an aspect of Tao or an aspect of being an effective leader.
"Doing the right thing" is like water.
It's good for all living things, and flows without thinking about where it's going
...just like Tao.
-- excerpted from Ron Hogan's translation
- Taoist ethics are concerned less with doing good acts than becoming a good person who lives in harmony with all things and people.
Because of this, devoted Taoists tend to be nice and accomodating people.
Nonetheless, it is important to distinguish between Taoism as a philosophy(as described above) and Taosim as a religion. Taoist philosophies are readily compatible with most world religious views, similar to philisophical Buddhism. Taoist religious practices include numerous occult rituals including 'internal alchemy'-the ingestion of minerals and herbs to supposedly restore balance to one's Yin and Yang energies-and the invocation of various pagan deities. The ideal of the Taoist 'Sage' is one who removes themselves completely from society and no longer serves to further the well-being of mankind. As such religious Taoism shares many of the dangerous traits of other primitive faiths and lacks the spiritual substance of the Abrahamic traditions.
Taoism originated in China. Accurate figures for the number of believers of Taoism are elusive, for two reasons. Firstly, Taoism is a loosely defined faith, so some people don't even realize they're practicing it. Secondly, the Communist Chinese government does not record most religions in its censuses, on account of the government's anti-religious stance. However, Taoism is one of the five religions officially recognized by the Chinese government, the others being Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, and Islam.