Term used in ancient Chinese religious philosophy, signifying
‘‘the Way’’ or pathway of life. The Tao is understood as a
unity underlying the opposites and diversity of the phenomenal
world. Ching Shen Li (cosmic energy) is manifest in the duality
of yin and yang (negative and positive), female and male
principles in nature. Yin and yang are also energies in the individual
human body and the balancing of these energies is one
of the tasks of life. The correct harmony between yin and yang
may be achieved through diet, meditation, and a life of truth,
simplicity, and tranquillity, identifying with the Tao of nature.
Taoism teaches union with the law of the universe through
wisdom and detached action. Special techniques of Taoist yoga
normalize and enhance the flow of vital energy in the human
body. This yoga is variously named K’ai Men (open door), Ho
Ping (unity), and Ho Hsieh (harmony). K’ai Men implies opening
the path to the channels of mind, spirit, and body so that they
reflect the balance of yin and yang and a harmony with the energy
of the cosmos.
Taoist yoga is very similar to the kundalini yoga systems of
India, and it is not clear whether such a parallel system originated
by direct influence of traveling mystics or by spontaneous
rediscovery of basic truths. Both Indian and Chinese yogas are
concerned with the control of vital energy, seen as the force behind
sexual activity, but which may be diverted into different
channels in the body for blissful expansion of consciousness.
For centuries the techniques of Chinese yoga were little known
in the West; teaching manuals were closely guarded and not
translated into Western languages. Teachings were usually
transmitted orally from teacher to pupil.
During the twentieth century, and especially since the Chinese
Revolution, teachers of Taoism and Chinese yoga have established
schools in the United States and published translations
of basic Chinese yoga texts. Modern teachers of Chinese
yoga include Charles Luk (Lu K’uan Yü) of Hong Kong, who
has translated various Chinese Buddhist and yoga texts, and
Mantak Chia from Thailand, who studied with Taoist and Buddhist
masters and has created a synthesis of their spiritual techniques,
in conjunction with classical techniques of T’ai Chi
Ch’uan. Together with his wife Maneewan Chia, Mantak Chia
has been instrumental in establishing Healing Tao Centers in
the United States and Europe that offer a basic selfdevelopment
course of what is termed Taoist Esoteric Yoga.
In distinction to the philosophical esoteric concept of the
Tao, but growing out of it, Taoism as a religious system complete
with temples and popular worship, became one of the
three major religious systems of China, together with Confucianism
and Buddhism.
Chang, Chung-Yuan. Tao; A New Way of Thinking. New York
Harper & Row, 1975.
Chia, Mantak. Awaken Healing Energy through the Tao. New
York Aurora Press, 1983.
Chia, Mantak, and Michael Winn. Taoist Secrets of Love Cultivating
Male Sexual Energy. New York Aurora Press, 1984.
Ch’u Ta-Kao, trans. Tao Te Ching. London Allen & Unwin;
New York Samuel Weiser, 1937.
Lu K’uan Yü. Taoist Yoga Alchemy and Immortality. London
Rider & Co., 1970.
Soo, Chee. The Chinese Art of K’ai Men. London Gordon &
Cremonesi, 1977.
Suzuki, D. T., and Paul Carus, trans. The Canon of Reason and
Virtue. La Salle, Ill. Open Court, 1913.