Age*, or Respect for Age
The Confucist idea that a person should respect their elders. The older one is, the more respect one deserves. This is because, it is thought, as a person grows older they embody the quality of Chun Tzu more fully. This is an important part of the Five Constant Relationships.

The collection of Confucius' sayings.

Ancestor Worship*
In ancient China, the idea that after death, a person became deified. This enabled them to watch over their living descendants and to intercede for them with more powerful divine beings. The living worshiped them, usually at a household shrine, to show their respect for them.

Another term for divination.



The idea of the vital energy of the Tao which a person can not only use but also enhance and increase. This can be done in several ways, including the eating of particular substances, dance and other types of movement, and meditation (see Taoist Hygiene and Yoga).

Chun Tzu*
The Confucian ideal of a perfected human being. This is a person who is mature, magnanimous, respectful and helpful towards others. He or she is poised, always in control of him or herself.

Chuang Tzu
Next to Lao Tzu, the most significant Taoist sage. He lived from 369-286 BCE. His writings extends and develop the Tao Te Ching, provide important ideas that were later developed into Religious Taoism, and attacked Confucianism, in particular the ideas of jen and i.

A Chinese teacher and scholar, most aptly thought of as a wise man or sage. He was born about 551 B.C.E. and died around 479. He taught a system of behavior (ethics) and belief which drew upon and transformed Chinese social tradition. Teaching by proverbs, stories and aphorisms, he provided the basis for Chinese social morality for over two millenia, essentially from the time of his death until the twentieth century. His teachings spanned the breadth of possible social interaction from that of individuals and family to local communities to nations and governments.

A religion based on the teachings of Confucius which seeks to delineate the nature of a life-worth-living. It emphasizes the importance of human relationships, those within the family, between friends, and those between governments and their citizens. Confucius' ideas set out the desired ethical character of human beings and how that person relates to others. Confucianism had very powerful, widespread and long-lived influence in China, forming the basis for government service and public relationships for over two millenia, weakening only in the twentieth century.


In general, the reading of "signs" in order to predict the future. These signs can be unusual occurrences which "just happen." Other times, "signs" can be sought out and created in a systematic procedure, such as through casting wooden blocks and then linking the result to a place in a collection of divinatory sayings, such as the I-Ching.

Doctrine of the Mean*
The Confucian ideal of avoiding the extremes, of finding a way between two conflicting, radical solutions. In life situations, this often means a tendency to negotiation and compromise instead of confrontation and conflict.



This Confucian idea brings together several related notions. Two of them are: First, the duty of children to their parents, filial piety. Second, Family is important in the Five Constant Relationships since three of them involve family relationships: parent and child, husband and wife, elder sibling and junior sibling.

Filial Piety*
The Confucian emphasis on respect and love for one's parents and elder relatives. This is an important part of the Five Constant Relationships.

Five Constant Relationships*
The Five Constant Relationships are: parent and child, husband and wife, elder sibling and junior sibling, elder friend and junior friend, ruler and subject. These are the central relationships, according to Confucianism, of which one must always be aware. One's place in each provides a specific role for a person to fulfil with respect to the other person. This is one of the notions in which Confucianism makes it clear that although one is an individual, one is always acting in relation to other people.




In Chinese, the "Book of Changes," a book used in divination.


Jen is the most important Confucian virtue. While it essentially means "humanness," it is perhaps better understood as the respect for and love of humanity. Another way to understand it as a person's dignity, which is a combination of self-respect and repect and sympathy towards others.


Kung Fu-Tzu*
The Chinese name of Confucius.


Lao Tzu*
The supposed founder of Taoism, possibly born about 604 BCE. His name can be translated "the Old Boy," or the "Grand Old Master." Little is known about him and he may even be mythical. He is credited with writing the Tao Te Ching as the price for crossing through the Chinese border into Tibet. He does not seem to have taken steps to popularize or spread his teachings, choosing instead to retreat into solitude.

The Confucian notion of proper behavior. It refers to both propriety--the right thing to do--and the notion of the proper rites or rituals. It includes the notions of the Five Constant Relationships, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Rectification of Names.


Next to Confucius himself, he was perhaps Confucianism's most important teacher. Living from 372-289 BCE, he systematized Confucius's teachings.
The teachings of Mo Tzu whose ideas were centered on the notion that universal love would provide the solution to the social problems of Confucius' time.




Philosophical Taoism*
This is a reflective form of Taoism in which the practioners seek to understand the Tao in order to make more efficient use of its te. It is organized into school with teachers and students. The students learn an attitude towards life which enables them to live within the flow of Tao.



Rectification of Names*
In Confucianism, the idea that language should always bear the same meaning, or, that the meaning of words ("Names") should be the same for everyone. Words should not mean one thing, for example, to older people and another thing to younger people. To take another example, the intention of politicians' statements should be the same as the meaning heard by those listening.

Religious Taoism*
The popular form of Taoism that seeks to extend followers' lives, even to reach physical immortality. The idea is that if a person can achieve a perfect fit with the Tao, then such feats can be accomplished. Religious Taoism uses feats of magic, meditation, and rituals to enhance the believers' lives. It was developed in the second century CE.


Shang Ti*
Literally, the "Lord of Heaven"; sometimes also called Tien. It is the oldest Chinese designation of the supreme god. In some stories, he is considered to be the divine ancestor of the Shang dynasty (roughly 1700-1000 BCE). Usually, he is treated as the god of rulers and those who wield power.

She Chi*
The gods of Grain and Earth.


In Chinese, Tao means "way" or "path" and forms the basis for Taoism There are three ways to understand Tao. (1) As the "way" of the cosmos or Ultimate Reality, it is beyond ability for human language and rationality to understand. (2) It can also be seen as the "way" of the known universe or nature. In certain ways, it is similar to the modern scientific idea of ecology in that is the natural way of things and their interaction. (3) Tao can also refer to the "way" of humanity and its life.

Tao Chiao
The Chinese term for Religious Taoism.

Tao Te Ching*
The foundational book of Taoism, supposedly written by Lao Tzu. It is a short collection detailing the basic tenents of Taoism. According to a common story, Lao Tzu wrote it before leaving China for Tibet. A border guard who realized the importance of Lao Tzu begged him not to leave without passing on his wisdom.

The system of beliefs based on the Tao Te Ching. The main goal of the religion is to enhance the Tao within oneself. This can be done in different ways. Although these ways are interconnected and interwoven, three main approaches stand out: Philosophical Taoism in which Taoists try to understand the Tao to use it efficiently, Taoist Hygiene and Yoga which attempts to increase the amount of Tao, usually referred to as chi, within oneself, and Religious Taoism which uses magic and other means to bring the Tao's benefits to the masses.

Taoist Hygiene and Yoga*
This is an assorted collection of Taoist practices all designed to enhance a person's Tao, which is referred to as chi (or, vital energy). There are three main approaches to accomplish this: (1) By eating substances which are thought to enhance chi. (2) By types of movement, such as dance, exercise and martial arts. (3) By a form of meditation somewhat similar to raja yoga, through which the practitioner brings the Tao into themselves and then directs it to others.

The Chinese term for power as well as for virtue. In Confucianism, the two emphases are closely linked, so that it is best thought of as the exercise of power through virtue. In Taoism, this refers to the power which Taoism seeks to enhance within human beings (see also chi).

Confucius drew heavily upon Chinese traditions about family and social behavior. He remolded these where necessary to fit into the situation of his time. The connections between Confucius' teachings and tradition probably helped his ideas gain their widespread acceptance.

The Chinese term for ancestor. See ancestor worship.

Literally, "heaven." Also used to designate the supreme god in ancient Chinese religious beliefs instead of Shang Ti.




In Confucianism, it is the "arts of peace." This means essentially the notion of Culture and its arts: music, painting, poetry, literature, and so on.

Although this Taoist term is literally translated as "inaction," the concept actually emphasizes the notion of accomplishing things by "going with the flow" rather than working against it. The idea is to align the self with the Tao and in that position to act spontaneously, or, more aptly, to act with the Tao. In this kind of action, the Tao can be likened to water. Just as water naturally moves downward, seeking the lowest place, so the Tao moves along the easiest, the most natural path. Wu-wei is when a person allows the Tao to carry themself along its path.



The Taoist concept of opposition. Life's oppositions, such as male and female, light and dark, are always in tension. But even within that tension, each term has some of its counterpart within it. Thus, for example, the dark of night has the light of stars within it. This holds true even for the opposition of good and bad, especially as applied to the evaluation of events. The yin-yang symbol represents the interlocking of opposites because every place where a diameter line can be drawn across the circle it intersects both white and black.