Taoism is the English name that covers a variety of Chinese religious and philosophical beliefs. This religion has a very long history, and has influenced the development of a variety of modalities used in health and healing, from macrobiotic diets to electroacupuncture.
Taoism is sometimes used to describe various Chinese folk religions. Many of the estimated 225 to 400 million individuals called Taoists would not identify themselves as followers of this religion. Though Taoists may have very different and conflicting belief systems, which vary by social group, there are spiritual and philosophical commonalities that they all share. This group of belief systems, collectively known as Chinese medicine, has influenced the development of meditative, exercise, and medical practices for over 2,000 years. The primary uniting factor among all Taoists is the belief that the human body is a microcosm of the universe, which means that the forces that influence the events of the outside world also work on a smaller scale within each person. Taoists believe that energy flows through the universe, and that a willingness to be flexible to the forces that drive the universe inside as well as outside of the body is the most important means of maintaining health and wellbeing.
Taoism is thought to have been founded by Lao-tzu, whose name is also written Lao Zi. He preached that life's ultimate principles could be found by observing nature. For instance, Lao-Tzu used the metaphor of flowing water. Although water is soft, yielding, and weak, it can carve stone and move earth over time. Following the natural direction of energetic forces is the emphasis of this metaphor.
The ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism provided the basis for the development of Chinese medical theory and has influenced the development of various healing practices and modalities including: Asian bodywork, acupressure, acupuncture, acustimulation, Asian body work, chi kung, cupping, electroacupuncture, energy-based bodywork, macrobiotics, moxibustion, feng shui, meditation, qi gong, tai chi, shiatsu, taiji, tuina, traditional Chinese medicine, and various martial arts.
Taoism is not considered a mode of healing, but a thought system of attuning one's self to exist in the rhythms of the life force or "qi."
Chinese medicine is a broad term encompassing many different modalities and traditions of healing, which share a common heritage of technique or theory rooted in ancient Chinese philosophy (Taoism) dating back over 5,000 years. Given the distribution of the world population, it is likely that more people have been treated by Chinese medicine in its various forms than any other therapy in history. There are many possible ways to categorize the modalities and traditions of Chinese medicine.
The term traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is actually a recent development with a specific meaning in the long history of Chinese medicine. In the 1940s and 1950s the Chinese government undertook an effort to combine many diverse forms of Chinese medicine into a unified system to be officially defined as traditional Chinese medicine. The term traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) applies to a specific standardized form of healing system that was sanctioned and codified by the Chinese government during the period of time called the Great Leap Forward. The history and oral traditions of other modalities were lost to some extent during the 1950s, due to government repression of other health practices influenced by Taoism. The intent was to integrate the country's large workforce of traditional practitioners into an organized health service delivery system, which would aid in providing care for a large population by using familiar and inexpensive methods. Today, Chinese medicine refers to all of the many healing traditions that were influenced by Taoism but that have not been included under the heading of TCM.
Taosim has become a religion of increasing interest in the West since the 1970s. Chinese medicine comprises many related but individual modalities, each with its own body of research, with varying degrees of scientific support. Natural Standard monographs are available for reviews of evidence for the following modalities employing principles of Chinese medicine: acupressure, acupuncture, acustimulation, Asian body work, chi kung, cupping, electroacupuncture, energy-based bodywork, macrobiotic diet, macrobiotics, moxibustion, Qi gong, shiatsu, tai chi, taiji, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and tuina.

Related Terms

Chi, Dao, Daoism, qi.