, also known Lao-tzu, is considered the founder of Taoism. Daode Jing, or Tao Te Ching (Classic of the Way and Virtue), written by Laozi, has only 5,000 Chinese characters, but covers a wide range of subjects from the metaphysics of Dao (Tao, or the Way), the wisdom of life, cosmology, to ontology. People are supposed to learn the wisdom of life in general, Laozi theorizes, and he brings forward philosophical ideas on politics, sociology, and interpersonal relationships. Yet the focus is not on the creation of civilization, but rather on self-cultivation. Laozi"s thoughts are basically social philosophy and theories based on Dao, but he is not interested in creating a new and ideal society, because that is not the way of the Dao.
is the most important theoretical innovator since Laozi. Basically speaking, Taoism has two basic genres based on Laozi"s and Zhuangzi"s theories. What is most distinctively different about Zhuanzi"s philosophy from that of Laozi"s is that he elaborates on the relationships between man and nature and the creativity of human beings in terms of intelligence, cognitive ability, and human energy. Based on his understanding of Dao, Zhuangzi also presents his ideas on self-cultivation and how to living successfully in the world.
is a Taoist philosopher from the Warring States Period (475-221BC). The book Liezi was compiled by Zhang Zhan in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). It is generally believed that the book actually reflects the thoughts from the Warring States Period to the Jin Dynasty. Though basically based on original Taoism, Liezi alters the traditional inaction philosophy of Taoism, and emphasizes people"s active role between heaven and earth. According to Liezi, the best living conditions for man are when he is free from the control of all kinds of forces without worries or fear of nature.
Wang Bi is a philosopher during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280). At the time, the study of Confucian classics came to the end, and society experienced great unrest and chaos. Intellectuals gradually turned to metaphysics. With his deep understanding about Laozi"s philosophy, Wang annotated Daode Jing with emphasis on the notion of "nothing." He even annotated The Book of Changes, and approached the Confucian classic in a purely metaphysic way, contributing greatly to the research of The Book of Changes in China.
Guo Xiang, a philosopher in the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316), is known for his annotation to Zhuangzi. He thought that everything in the universe was born accidentally from chaos, and thus held the view that all kinds of life forms, no matter their size, should be respected equally.