The Taoism best known in the West is often called “philosophical” Taoism
after the great mystic writers Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and Lieh Tzu of the 5th to
3rd centuries BCE. However, most Taoism as actually practiced comes
from what is called “religious” Taoism founded by Chang Tao Ling in the 2nd
century CE. Many different schools emerged over the next thousand years
though only a few survive in any significant form today. Much of the popular
Chinese indigenous religion is Taoist-influenced, with a strong overtone of
Chinese popular Buddhism.
Taoism itself has a low profile in the United States, but its influences are
seen in new religious movements as certain meditational or other elements
incorporated into other belief systems and practices. The numerous
translations of the Taoist classic, Tao Te Ching¸ have enabled it to be used
as a basis for a whole range of religious thought and belief, often different
from its traditional use in China
Source: Joanne O’Brien and Martin Palmer, The State of Religion Atlas, 1993.
United States: 40,000 Taoists (post-2000 census). Table
Source: The ARIS 2001 study.
Teaching About Religion
in support of civic pluralism