Terms Dealing With Taoism

When studying, researching or coming across literature on Taoism, you may encounter terminology that is unfamiliar. Below you will learn of some of the definitions associated with this religion that is quite dominant throughout China, including terms such as acupuncture, hsien, as well as Chung-li Ch’uan.


You may be familiar with the process of using needle to stimulate parts of the body, which is called acupuncture, but were you aware that it is a traditional Chinese medical treatment. It is meant to increase the flow of ch’i throughout the body. Ch’i is the term used to refer to the life energy that exists within the human body, as well as throughout the universe.


There are eight Immortals that are worshipped within the Tao religion. As described in the Chuang-tzu, they are referred to as hsien (individually) and Pa-hsien (when referring to all eight). These figures represent good fortune, as well as the various conditions of life that can be found displayed throughout the literature and art in China. The eight Immortals are called: Li T’ieh-juai, Lan Ts’ai-ho, Lu Tung-pen, Chang Kuo-lao, Chung-li Ch’uan, Ts’ao Kuo-chiu; Han Hsiang-tzu, as well as Ho Hsien-ku.


Associated with a historical figure during the T’ang dynasty, Chang Kuo-lao is one of the Immortals, who is represented by the fishdrum symbol. One of the Immortals, Han Hsiang-tzu, is considered the patron of music, who is described as a peaceful being that lives in the mountains. The symbols associated with this Immortal are flowers, a peach and a flute. There is only one female immortal and her name is Ho Hsien-ku.


Many terms begin with the word ”˜Tao,’ but first one should understand what Tao on its own represents. The term by itself refers to “a way,” which is also considered the principle behind the universe that cannot be altered. The Tao-te Ching is the term used to refer to the “Book of the Way and its Power,” which is the text that represents the foundation of the religion. Although it has been credited to Lao-tzu, many believe that it was created during the 4th century. The Tao-tsang refers to a group of authoritative writings, while Tao-te t’ien-tsun refers to the ruler of the Taoist heaven. Tao-shih is the term given to those who teach the works of the religion. Tao-yin is the exercise that is followed when one wishes to guide breath to a variety of body parts at one time. Additional terminology can be found below:


ch’ang: Refers to what it permanent and eternal


chiao: Religion


chia: Philosophy


ching: Refers to a vital essence


hsin: Mind or heart


Ling-pao P’ai: Refers to the School of the Magic Jewel


ming : Refers to a name. Within the religion, it is believed that when a name is given to something, it receives a place within the various levels of the universe. The Tao is considered nameless.


P’an-ku: Considered to be the first human, as well as the creator of the world.


P’u: Refers to the state of true nature and simplicity, as seen when one is a baby.


shen: A consciousness regarding spirituality


T’ai chi: Yin and yang.


t’ai chi chu’uan: A form of martial arts that focusing on controlling the strength of chi.


tzu-jan: Spontaneity


wu: refers to a Not-Being


wu-wei: “non-action”


yu: Being