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Taoism (Daoism)

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

Taoism, also known as Daoism, is a diverse tradition indigenous to China, characterized as both a philosophy and a religion. It emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao, generally understood as the impersonal, enigmatic process of transformation ultimately underlying reality.

The 2022 film Everything Everywhere All at Once has been described as Taoist.

Taoist philosophy focuses on finding harmony and balance in the universe. The characters in the film are foils for each other, forming inverses that complement each other. The story flows between various universes, which are governed by the yin yang flow of qi.

The Tao is represented in Chinese by the character 道, which has several related meanings; possible English translations for it include ‘way’, ‘road’, and 'technique’. Symbols such as the bagua and taijitu are often employed to illustrate various aspects of the Tao, which can never be sufficiently described with words and metaphors alone.

Taoist thought has informed the development of various practices and rituals within the Taoist tradition and beyond, including forms of meditation, astrology, qigong, feng shui, and internal alchemy. A common goal of Taoist practice is self-cultivation resulting in a deeper appreciation of the Tao, and thus a more harmonious existence.

Different schools present different formulations of Taoist ethics, but there is generally an emphasis on virtues such as effortless action, naturalness or spontaneity, simplicity, and the three treasures of compassion, frugality, and humility.

Taoism has been connected to the philosopher Lao Tzu, who around 500 B.C.E. wrote the main book of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching. Taoism holds that humans and animals should live in balance with the Tao, or the universe. Taoists believe in spiritual immortality, where the spirit of the body joins the universe after death.

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