The boundaries between religion and philosophy are not clearly defined in Chinese religious practice. There is no character in Chinese that correlates to the word "religion" as it is conventionally used in the West, and if the term "religion" is used in conjunction with Taoism confusion may arise since religion in China was not distinguished from social conduct in general.
The Taoist tradition can be recognised as being historically divided into a philosophical and a religious dimension and there has both been interdependence and dissension between the two branches. It should be remembered that there are many forms and a network of doctrines contained in the term "Taoism". These different forms of Taoism both waxed and waned and may have both had an influence on and been influenced by other strands of Chinese religious tradition in their turn.
The term "Taoism" (Tao Chia) only appeared in Chinese texts around 100 BCE, and at first this term was used to describe the philosophical school of Lao Tzu and his followers. The term also included references to earlier beliefs and practices which went back to the origins of Chinese civilisation. These practices included esoteric methods to achieve long life and immortality, meditation techniques to enable the practitioner to return to the source of existence and to be at one with the Tao, and alchemical research that attempted to produce the elixir of immortality.
The intertwined strands of the tradition include the mystical philosophy of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu the revelations of the first Heavenly Master, Chang Tao-Ling and Yu Chi (2nd Century CE).
Themes from the Taoist religious dimension blended with themes both from Taoist philosophical thought and with ideas from Confucianism and Buddhism.
Two streams of Taoism may be distinguished. These are philosophical Taoism (Tao Chia) reflected mainly in the writings of Lao Tzu, Chang Tzu, Lieh Tzu and the Neo-Taoists, and religious Taoism (Tao Chiao). Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu tried to give an account of the human condition, and to re-orientate human consciousness to identify with the Tao. Religious Taoism is reflected in the many sects who sought immortality and the distinction between philosophical Taoism (Tao Chia), and Religious Taoism (Tao Chiao) should be considered as one of emphasis only rather than showing any clear lines of separation. Taoism fundamentally expressed in its time, not only religious and philosophical ideas, but ethical and political convictions. Unlike Confucianism which was mostly confined to the educated and upper classes of Chinese society, Taoism permeated the whole structure of Chinese life, but never had, in its religious and liturgical modes, any consistent governing body, agreed doctrines or fixed dogma.
Passivity is a key element of Taoist thought, and is a repeated concept in the primary Taoist text, the Tao Te Ching. The concept of passivity stresses that the wise person will not attempt to cause change in his world, but will rather be receptive to and allow natural changes to happen, as is the way of nature. Other Taoist