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12 Quotes That Get to the Heart of Taoism

Taoism (or Daoism) is a philosophy and religion that developed in China around 500 BCE. Tao, roughly translated as “the way” or “the path,” centers on the idea of a natural order to the universe that can be understood by living in harmony with the nature of things. “Chi” is the energy, or life force, of all living things; it influences order in the universe and keeps the Tao balanced. Becoming one with the Tao means striving to live in harmony with the natural world in an ever-changing universe.

The philosopher Lao Tzu (also known as Laozi, meaning “Old Master”) is credited with founding Taoism and writing the Tao Te Ching, roughly translated as The Book of the Way and Its Virtue. Though scholars now question whether Lao Tzu was a singular historical figure or an amalgam of several Taoist philosophers, the insights found in the Tao Te Ching and other Taoist writings still offer inspiration and encouragement to those who seek its wisdom.

These quotes, from both ancient and contemporary texts, explore the principles at the heart of Taoism, and offer insight into its timeless philosophy.

Nothing on earth is so weak and yielding as water, but for breaking down the firm and strong it has no equal.
Lao Tzu (translated by Sepharial in 1904)

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My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness.
Chuang Tzu (Zhuang Zhou), Taoist philosopher

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When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong.
Benjamin Hoff, author

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Peace: to accept what must be, to know what endures. In that knowledge is wisdom. To know what endures is to be openhearted, magnanimous, regal, blessed, following the Tao, the way that endures forever.
Ursula K. Le Guin, author

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Seeing your own smallness is called insight / Honoring your own tenderness is called strength
Lao Tzu

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The Tao Te Ching teaches of three jewels, or characteristics, that man should cherish. They are Compassion, which leads to courage, Moderation, which leads to generosity, and Humility, which leads to leadership.
RZA, rapper

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To know others is wisdom; to know oneself is enlightenment. To conquer others is to prove one’s force; to conquer oneself is to prove one’s strength.
Yuan Zhiming, scholar

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Tao is the flow of the universe. Tao is the Mysterious. Tao is balance.
Deng Ming-Dao, author

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While the operating principle of the universe is to let everything be, Tao does not allow overgrowth or overdevelopment to go unchecked — whenever something becomes too strong, the opposite arises to maintain balance.
Hsiao-Lan Hu and William Cully Allen, authors

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Seeing the small is called clarity; keeping flexible is called strength.
Lao Tzu (translated by Takuan Soho)

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Be at peace with your place and cherish kindness.
Deng Ming-Dao, author

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To know practical goodness is called knowledge, to love practical goodness is called humaneness, to honor practical goodness is called justice, to respect practical goodness is called courtesy, and to enjoy practical goodness is called music.
Lao Tzu (translated by Thomas Cleary)

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Photo credit: PENpics Studio/ Shutterstock

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About the Author
Kristina Wright
Kristina is a coffee-fueled writer living happily ever after with her family in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia.
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