History & System of Taoism


Yongle Palace, a Taoist Palace, Yuncheng, Shanxi
Yongle Palace, a Taoist Palace, 
Yuncheng, Shanxi
Taoism is a traditional Chinese native religion with a long history. Laozi (also called: Lao Dan, Li Er, Laotzu, and Laotse) is the founder of this religion. The Doctrine of Morality is regarded as their holy Bible.

Taoism was formally established in the late Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589) saw it become the legitimacy religion like Buddhism in China, because it was supported by some emperors for political reasons. This religion welcomed its silver age from Tang Dynasty (618-907) to Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Many sects were formed during this period. Taoist temples were scattered all over the country and Taoist masters came forth in great number. After Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), it has divided into two major sects: Quanzhen Sect and Zhengyi Sect.

With the support of royal rulers, Taoism gradually developed. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), due to the national conflicts, the court had little energy and financial support to encourage the development of this religion.
Dai Temple near Mt.Taishan, Shandong
Dai Temple near Mt.Taishan, Shandong
The interior unity of this religion was shaken and conflicts arose. In Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the Manchu royal family honored Tibetan Buddhism and showed no interest in this religion. So it eventually lost the support from the upper rulers. Generally, it became a secret religious organization. During the Opium War, this religion further declined through the oppression of imperialism and western culture. Many Taoists lost their focus on religious study. At the founding of People's Republic of China, the land reform movement prompted Taoist organizations to develop the crusade of religious democracy. Chinese Taoist Association was formed in 1957, which symbolized the dawn of a new era of this religion.

At present, many people in Hongkong, Macao and Taiwan believe in Taoism. Overseas, Chinese communities have built many Taoist temples all over the world.

System of Taoism Deities

In this religion, the system of deities is very complicated and becomes larger and larger. So it is important to find appropriate ranks for this big growing group.

Ranking standards are in accordance with the degree of Taoism study and contribution. The more profound one's Taoist knowledge is the higher rank he will attain. The most important gods are the San Qing (Three Pure Gods). They are Yu Qing (Jade Pure), Shang Qing (Upper Pure) and Tai Qing (Great Pure). Below the Three Pure Gods, there exist the four holy emperors among whom Yu Huang (Jade Emperor) comes first. 'Houtu Mother', is a female God who dominates child bearing affairs is also included. Some Taoist temples have been specially set up as Houtu temples to worship her. A number of deities come next to them and are in charge of different affairs. Among them, ordinary people may be familiar with God of Wind, God of Rain, God of Fire, God of Town and God of Earth, all closely related to their daily life.

Statues of Jade Emperor, Heavenly King Li and Lord Lao Zi
Statues of Jade Emperor, 
Heavenly King Li and Lord Lao Zi
God of Town
Stature of the 
God of Town
The eight immortals are adored by the Chinese people. Their trumps or cimelia are called the 'Eight Treasures'. You can find a lot of pictures describing how they use these treasures to cross the sea. The San Guan (the Three Officials), are the Official of Heaven who blesses people, Official of Earth who gives absolution, and Official of Water who wards off disasters.

Like this religion itself, the system of Taoism deities is close to people. Once you know the rank rules, it is not too difficult to understand.
- Last updated on May. 24, 2023 -
Questions & Answers on History & System of Taoism
Asked by Mike from UNITED STATES | May. 23, 2023 17:10Reply
Can religious Taoism be practiced at home without a shrine?
I want to practice religious Taoism but there is no taoist shrine or priest where I live . Can I practice at home and still get the benefits from it ?
Can I consecrate the statues I choose myself?
Thank you for your time 🙏
Answers (1)
Answered by Molly | May. 24, 2023 00:12

Yes, of course you can practice it at home. The most important part of Taoism is the cultivation of the mind and character.You can stay at home to learn Taoist classic works and concentrate your favorite statues.
Asked by Luke from LUKEVILLE | Jan. 18, 2017 12:03Reply
Is Taoism an animistic religion?
Answers (1)
Answered by Fiona from FRANCE | Jan. 19, 2017 21:13

Yes, Taoism is an animistic religion. It believes that animals have spirits, too.
Asked by Someone from SOMEWHERE | Mar. 21, 2015 18:37Reply
Which dynasties were most affected by Taoism?
Answers (2)
Answered by Frank from DENMARK | Mar. 21, 2015 20:32

The Sui and Tang Dynasties.
Answered by Someone from SOMEWHERE | Mar. 22, 2015 22:04

Thank you Frank.
Asked by Cheryl from UNITED STATES | Sep. 18, 2012 11:55Reply
What were the religious beliefs during the Shang dynasty?
Answers (1)
Answered by Jimmy | Sep. 18, 2012 22:14

In terms of beliefs, Shang people believed that God dominates the world. They also worshipped their ancestors, the sun, the moon, the river, and the earth and sacrifice ceremonies were typically grand events.
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