Chinese symbols & English words

You say Taoism I say Daoism:

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by Jeff Rasmussen, PhD


"Hey, what's the deal with taoism/daoism," several of you have asked, "are they the same thing? if so why two different spellings, and how do you pronounce them?"

Taoism and daoism refer to the same thing. The more common spelling is taoism (likewise tao, tao te ching, taoist as opposed to dao, dao de jiang and daoist) by about a 10 to 1 preference. Both are pronounced "dow-ism" (likewise "dow", "dow deh jiang" and "dow-ist").

If you are old enough, you remember the capital of china was Peking. Now it is Beijing. The capital hasn't moved; again it's just alternative spellings, with the latter being the preferred. The heart of the matter is that for many Chinese sounds there is not a good English equivalent--and this problem is compounded by the different regional dialects. One of the earlier pronunciation schemes was by Wade in 1860's (and continued by Giles), and a latter more accurate representation is Pin-yin (literally, "sound spelling"), which is the most widely used today.

Some examples of Wade-Giles vs Pin-yin are:

Mao Tse-tung
Mao Zedong



...and here are some Chinese symbols
and English words for them,
from the first line of the tao te ching.

Find out more about the
tao te ching
at our homepage

chinese word symbols english words meanings