Taoism, which takes the “Tao” (道) of Lao Tzu (老子) as its highest principle, is the indigenous traditional Chinese religion. Taoism preserved the ancient religious beliefs in China including the worship of heaven and ancestors, as well as Taoist theories and beliefs of achieving immortality.
Taoism encompasses both Philosophical Taoism and Religious Taoism. Philosophical Taoism is based on the teachings and ideas of Lao Zi (老子), Zhuang Zi (庄子), and other Taoist philosophers. Religious Taoism, which includes worship and rituals, originated since Celestial Master Zhang Dao Ling (张道陵天师) established the Five Pecks of Rice Tradition (五斗米道) some 1,900 years ago during the reign of Emperor Shun-di of the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 126-144).
The first year of the Taoist calendar dates back to the first year of the regime of the Yellow Emperor (黄帝) in 2697 BCE. Year 2008 is the 4705th year of the Taoist Calendar. The “Three Patriarch” (三祖) of Taoism includes the Yellow Emperor (始祖－黄帝), Lao Zi (道祖－老子), and Celestial Master Zhang Dao Ling (教祖－张道陵天师).
There are two main schools of Taoism. One is the Zheng-yi tradition (Orthodox Oneness) (正一派), also known as the Celestial Masters tradition (天师派), founded by Celestial Master Zhang Dao Ling; and the other is Quan-zhen tradition (全真派) founded by Wang Chong Yang. Taoists today generally belong to either of these schools of Taoism.
In the 67th chapter of the Dao De Jing (道德经), the main scripture of Taoism, Lao Zi mentioned that the three treasures of Taoism is Compassion (慈), Frugality (俭), and Humility (让). These are the values all Taoists should have. Taoists should be compassionate to all, including our environment, plants and animals. Taoist must also uphold frugality and simplicity, and avoid extravagance and waste.
Temples are places of worship for the Taoists where they learn the scriptures and pay respect to the deities. Taoists pray by cupping their left hands over their right fist, and bring both hands up to chest-level. They will also perform the three bows and nine prostrations, which is the utmost respect to the deities.
Taoists strive to construct a harmonious world through the Dao. "Harmony" gives expression to goodwill, fosters friendship and engenders a common spirit of cooperation that the entire human race should embrace. A world of vast differences in creed, race, religion, economics, social development, and political structures can be safeguarded only by the spirit of such harmony.
The “Dao” is the highest principle in the Dao De Jing, the main scripture of Taoism. It is ever-present in time and space. "Harmony" is an important concept in the Dao De Jing. It is the nature of the Dao and the normal state of everything. The “Dao” is a “Dao” of harmony. If one cultivates one's moral character with Taoism, one's soul will enjoy harmony
Taoists celebrate the birthday of Lao Tzu (Tai Shang Lao Zun) on the 15th day of the second lunar month.