Welcome to The Path of Water

This site is dedicated to exploring the Tao and Philosophical Taoism; and how it relates to everyday modern life in the 21st Century. It also includes posts relating to how I feel Taoism can provide insights for dealing with the problems of everyday living.

The process of writing out my thoughts helps me to explore what I believe and why, so these posts will probably develop over time. I hope that you'll find this site interesting and, for those of you new to the Tao and Taoism, I hope that it can provide you with a first step on the path to a rich spiritual life. If you want to post comments relating to a post or the site as a whole I'd be grateful as all feedback is helpful.

Enjoy your visit - In Tao - Woody

Who would follow the Way must go beyond words.
Who would know the world must go beyond names. *

No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. **

Monday, 28 January 2008

Taoism or Daoism???

You might be confused that sometimes you'll see the words "Tao" and "Taoism", and at other times it's written as "Dao" and "Daoism". So which one is correct?

The two spellings arise from two different systems which have been created to represent Chinese (Mandarin) words using a Romanized alphabet. The Wade-Giles system was developed in the mid-to-late 19th Century and was the main system used through most of the 20th Century. The Pinyin system was adopted by the People's Republic of China in 1979 and has since become the international standard system for modern Chinese. Despite the difference in spelling, both systems are attempting to represent the Chinese word which sounds like "dow" - rhyming with "cow", "now" and "how" - so that's how it should be pronounced regardless of spelling.

For myself however, I first saw the "Tao" version and not knowing any better imagined that the word began with a "t" sound, and hence that's how I began to say it. These days, despite knowing better, I still say the words "Tao", "Taoism" and "Taoist" with a "t" sound instead of a "d" sound. There are three good reasons why I do this....
  • One of the central principles of Taoism is that the word is not the thing. The opening lines of the Tao Te Ching are "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao" so getting hung-up on how the word is meant to be said is completely missing the point. Instead of calling it "The Tao", we could call it "The Universal Motivation", "The great Ooohjah", or even "Bob" and still mean the same thing. It's not important and I think it's important to remember this.
  • When I was in Shanghai, our guide told us that when the Chinese talk of Taoism using the English Language they say "Taoism" with a "t" when they mean Philosophical Taoism, and "Daoism" with a "d" when they mean Religious Taoism. Now I've not heard this anywhere else, but who am I to argue with him?
  • I prefer the sound of the word when it starts with the "t" sound. Of the two, that pronunciation makes me happier.

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