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Laozi and the Origins of Taoism





Taoism traces its origins to Laozi, whose name literally means "elder master." Early historical sources indicate that Laozi was a scholar in the royal archives in the sixth century B.C.; however, these sources are probably based on legends. It is possible that Laozi may not have existed as a historical figure. The philosophical text attributed to him, the Classic of the Way and Its Power, was compiled around the third century B.C., although some of its ideas may have been more than a century old by that time.

Later, in the second century A.D., Laozi was deified as the Celestial Worthy of the Way and Its Power, one of the highest gods of the Taoist pantheon. He was seen as a direct embodiment of the Way itself. It is significant that religious Taoism has no supreme being; each god in the pantheon merely gives a face to the endlessly changing Way.




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