In what ways can Daoism be seen as a response to the political turmoil of the period in which it emerged?
Daoism, sometimes also spelled Taoism, is a Chinese religious philosophy that many scholars believe originated in the Warring States Period of 475-221 BCE. (Though others believe it really formed into a religion later. ) During this period, China was divided into eight states that were often at war with each other. Other religious traditions, including Legalism and Confucianism, also existed in China at the time.
Daoism is thought to have started with the philosopher Laozi (who some scholars think may not have existed), and its name comes from a word meaning "the way." His work, the Daodejing, emphasizes the role of the leader as someone who follows "the way." The leader lives a life of almost non-existence, referred to as wu-wei, and, in this manner, encourages his subjects to be peaceful and righteous. The work also advises leaders only to use war as a last resort. Wu-wei, the principle of inaction, is hard to define, but it can be compared to the work of a maker of fine jewelry who, in carving, seems to do nothing but leaves the gem perfect. In other words, wu-wei involves non-acting but living in accordance with the cosmic way of the universe.
Daoism was a response to the turmoil of the War States Period because it encouraged leaders and their people to live in accordance with nature and to strive to achieve non-action rather than pressuring people to follow their rules. It was a philosophy that contradicted the philosophies of the leaders who had caused China to live in a state of constant warfare.