Who: Taoism was founded by Li Erh (better known as Lao Tzu), a contemporary of Confucius in the sixth century BCE (which stands for Before the Common Era, formerly BC, or Before Christ). Lao Tzu was the keeper of the imperial library and the author of the book Tao te Ching, or the Book of Tao and Virtue. The foundations of Tao are thought to have been laid by Fu Hsi, who lived around 2900 BCE. Fu Hsi developed Pa Qau (eight trigrams), and the arts of divination, which reveal the principles of Tao. Pa Qua is the foundation of the I Ching, or Book of Change, which, in turn, forms part of the basis for Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching.

What: Tao is the cosmic, mysterious, ultimate principle that underlies all forms, substances, beings and change; Tao encompasses all there is. The goal of Taoism is to remove the barriers between human beings and Tao (reunification with Tao), to transform what is known as the Lo Shu, or Later Heaven (disharmonious existence) into the Ho To, or Earlier Heaven (the ideal state of existence and harmony).

When: Lao Tzu lived in the sixth century BCE, but the foundations of Tao are thought to be eternal. Tao has appeared as the sages and teachers of humanity, including Fu Hsi, thought to be the developer of Pa Qua, the foundation of the I Ching, or Book of Changes. The I Ching helped to shape Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching.

Where: Taoism was founded in China, and is still practiced mainly in China, although it has a growing number of adherents around the globe.