Difference Between Confucianism and Taoism

Confucianism vs Taoism

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 2nd century BC. To a casual observer, these philosophies may look opposite to each other, but from another angle, they are also complimentary to each other. They are considered as wise ways of approaching life and solving myriad problems and challenges life throws at 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.

Taoism is viewed in China as the other way of life, since it was conceived and developed as an alternative to Confucianism. Despite this, it is seen that followers of either of the two philosophies practice principles of the other philosophy also. One thing is clear though that both remain philosophies rather than being full-fledged religions. Taoism is based on the nature and emphasize on natural ways to deal with life. 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 while Tao focuses on behavior. 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. Confucianism was founded by Kung Fu Tse, while Taoism was founded by his mentor in the same period.

Talking about differences, Confucianism focuses on rituals while Taoism emphasizes nature. 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 nature was constant, while a 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 are a testimony to this thinking.

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. 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.

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.

• Taoism focuses on the nature while Confucianism emphasizes rituals.

• Taoism is represented through Yin while yang represents Confucianism.