Difference Between Confucianism and Taoism

Confucianism vs Taoism

The main difference between Confucianism and Taoism is in the focus of each philosophy as Confucianism focuses on the society while Taoism focuses on the nature. Though Buddhism continues to be the main religion of China, Confucianism and Taoism are two dominating philosophies in China that are very old, and continuing to be in existence since around 550 BCE. To a casual observer, these philosophies may look opposite to each other, but from another angle, they are also complementary to each other. They are considered as wise ways of approaching life and solving myriad problems and challenges life throws at the individual. There are many who remain confused between these two philosophies that have almost the status of religions. This article attempts to clear these doubts by highlighting the differences between Taoism and Confucianism.

It is seen that followers of either of the two philosophies practice principles of the other philosophy too. One thing is clear though that both remain philosophies rather than being full-fledged religions. The two philosophies arose in the same period known as Hundred Schools of Thought, which was a period characterized by internal strife and feudal tendencies. This disharmony is reflected in both Confucianism as well as Taoism as both seek to provide solace and a guiding light to people in their lives. One thing running as a common thread in both the philosophies is that, despite originating in China, both have a world view and are universal in nature.

What is Taoism?

Taoism is viewed in China as the other way of life. It is interesting to note that the word Taoism is derived from the word ‘Tao,’ which means ‘way’ or the life force that guides living beings in the universe. Hence, the ultimate aim of Taoism consists in the attainment of the way that reaches the very first cause of the universe.

Taoism is based on the nature and emphasizes on natural ways to deal with life. Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, was of the view that the only way a man could achieve inner peace and harmony was through his inner spirit. He thought that it was possible for men to observe and learn from nature about themselves and those who matter the most to them. This means that it is not the government or the laws that are important, but the nature that is the most important and guiding force for an individual. This was because of the view that the nature was constant while the government and the laws were not. Also, because natural ways to deal with problems were always considered better than imposed ways. The very fact that most of the early spiritual leaders that followed Taoism were butchers, woodworkers, and other craftsmen is a testimony to this thinking.

Difference Between Confucianism and Taoism

What is Confucianism?

Confucianism emphasizes on human conduct over the belief of a God. Confucianism also does not harp on any deity and, when people tried to exalt Confucius to the status of a God, he politely rebuked them. Confucianism lays stress on ethics.

Talking about the differences, Confucianism focuses on rituals while Taoism emphasizes the nature. In a sharp contrast, Confucianism proposes rituals as a way of life. Confucius believed that rituals brought order in life and that moral standards could be maintained only through observance of rituals. And, if followed continuously, they become the inner nature of a person though doing them merely for the sake of doing would not lead to desired results.

 Confucianism vs Taoism


What is the difference between Confucianism and Taoism?

Taoism and Confucianism are complementary in nature. In a sense, they can be considered as opposite sides of the same coin. This is because Confucianism has been influenced by Taoism. They were both believed to have been found around 550 BCE.

• Belief:

• Taoism is based on the nature and emphasizes on natural ways to deal with life.

• Confucianism emphasizes on human conduct over the belief of a God.

• Focus:

• Taoism focuses on the nature.

• Confucianism focuses on having a better society.

• Founder:

• Founder of Taoism was Lao Tzu.

• Founder of Confucianism was Kong Qiu (Confucius).

• Goal of the Philosophy:

• Goal of Taoism was to gain balance in life.

• Goal of Confucianism was to create social harmony.

• Status of Women:

• Generally, women were highly respected in Taoism, but the beliefs changed among different schools.

• In Confucianism, women were thought as inferior to men.

• Holidays:

• Chinese New Year, 3 Day Festival of the Dead, Ancestor Day are holidays of Taoism.

• Chinese New Year, Teacher Day, Ancestor Day are holidays of Confucianism.



Images Courtesy:

  1. Zhi Nan Gong Taoism Temple by (WT-shared) ResTpeTw (CC BY-SA 4.0)
  2. Confucius via Wikicommons (Public Domain)