Taoism and Ecology

Issue 1905

30 April 2019

As the ancient Chinese philosophers Laozi and Zhuangzi advocated more than 2,500 years ago, humanity must work to live in harmony with nature to keep the planet green, clean and safe. The call to keep global development balanced while protecting the environment was made a long time ago. Laozi and Zhuangzi are considered the two most important figures in Taoism, and their teachings and writings have largely influenced environmental and ecological development in China as well as other regions.

In this paper, we shall explore how Taoism and ecological ethics can help to reconstruct a more harmonious world. 

Taoism in its origins

The Western understanding of Taoism is mainly rooted in the classical philosophical tradition of Laozi and Zhuangzi, found in their teachings and writings. There are two aspects of Taoism, namely, religious and philosophical. For the purpose of this paper, we consider Taoism from both aspects interchangeably.

According to tradition, Laozi founded Taoism in the 6th century B.C. The word Tao, also spelt Dao, can be translated in a number of ways, including “principle,” “guide” and “nature.” According to the modern Chinese philosopher Feng Yu-lan, Tao may be called “the all-embracing first principle of things.” It is the logos of the universe; it determines the cosmos and all things in it.

This article is restricted to paid subscribers