Taoism and Confucianism
Name and discuss the traits of the Tao (4,5,6,9).
(1) One and Simple
(2) an “uncarved block.” It its essence or as such, it is eternal, absolute, and
beyond all space and time; in its operation, it is spontaneous, everywhere,
constant, and unceasing, always in transformation, going through cycles, and
finally returning to its root.
(3) The Tao is modeled after Nature and is termed the ‘self-so” (tzu-jan), or
“that which is as it is.”
(4) It is like water, in that it always nourishes or benefits all around it without
claiming credit. (5) The Tao takes no unnatural action (wu-wei, “non-
(6) The Tao is nameless, because it is indescribable.
(7) It is nonbeing itself, not in the sense of nothingness but as not being any
(8) It is out of non-being that Being, or all that is, has come, or been made
(9) When the Tao is possessed by an individual thing, it becomes its “essential
character/power (te),” the Tao as differentiated to a particular person or
object, as opposed to the undifferentiated and nameless Tao.
(10) The ideal life of the individual, the ideal order of society, and the ideal
type of government are all modeled after it. In addition to simplicity, the Tao
conduces to a life of tranquility as opposed to excitation, weakness that
overcomes strength (like water over metal, the female principle over the
male, etc.), and above all, of non-interference, wu-wei, which also means
“letting nature take its own course.”
How does the ideal man of Taoism differ from the ideal man of
The “ideal man” or “true man” (chen-jen) of Taoism does not allow the
way of man to interfere with the way of Nature; in fact, he understands the
former on the basis of the latter. His intention is to become a “companion of
Nature,” and thus recognize and follow his own nature in a harmonious totality
with all natural objects and cognizant subjects. Lasting harmony is achieved
when Yin (the Female Principle) and Yang (the Male principle) are well-
balanced. Lao-Tzu said that “all things carry the Yin and embrace the Yang, and
through the blending of the material force (ch’I) they achieve harmony.”
For Confucius, the perfect individual is the “superior man,” the