What is the difference between Confucianism and Daoism?

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hi1954 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Confucianism and Taoism are both philosophies which began in China.  Neither were apparently originally intended to be religions per se, but they have been treated as such by many adherants and scholars. Taoism is primarily concerned with the living of life by the individual, while Conficianism is directed at the life of society itself.

Taoism is based on the book Tao te Ching (in Cantonese; Daodejing in Mandarin) loosely translated as "The Way", "The Way of Life" or "The Way and its Power."  Supposed to have been written in the 5th century BC by the sage Lao Tzu (Laozi), this philosophy stresses harmony and balance, and seeking balance in life through contemplation and non-action.  By this Lao Tzu did not mean to do nothing, but only that which is necessary.  To the onlooker, the Taoist may appear to do nothing, but actually has done only what is needed, and done it before others have noticed the need for action.  Deep thought on life and it's cycles leads to knowing what to do when, and that to do more or to act at the inappropriate time is counterproductive.  Personal freedom and responsibility is important in Taoism, and it's application to political action is a minimalist concept of government.  Lao Tzu's concepts were expanded and codified by Chuang Tsu (Zhuangzi) two centuries later.

While Taoism is a way of looking at life and living it, Confucianism is largely a system of ethics for family and societal living. It is based on the teachings of K'ung Fu Tzu (Confucius), a scholar born about 551 BC in the Kingdom of Lu, today's Shantung Province.  Often confused with "ancestor worship", Confucianism includes the concepts of respect and love for the family including ancestors; honesty; benevolence; trustworthyness; and righteousness.  Loyalty to one's state or nation is also stressed, as are rules of propriety, ritual, politeness and etiquette.  The central works of this philosophy are the "Five Classics", including the writings of earlier Chinese rulers, classic odes, a history of classic rites, and a history of the State of Lu.  The Classics also include the I Ching, a much earlier work which was a study of military strategy and human behavior disguised as a work of fortune-telling, to escape the book burnings following the fall of the Chou dynasty.  There is also another set of works called "the Four Books", including the writings of Meng Tzu (Mencius), a philosopher who lived some two centuries after Confucius.


jess1999 | Student

Although Confucianism and Daoism both came from China and seem a bit similar there are a few differences . For example , Confucianism focuses on having a structured society while Daoism focuses on being one with nature . They are also both founded by different people , Confucianism was found by Confucious , Daoism was found by Lao Tzu . There is also actually multiple deities believed in Daoism too . Also in Daoism they want to follow the dao which is also know as the path . 

The absolute main difference is that Daoism is a religion, while confusionism is merely a philosophy.