- The history of Taoism stretches throughout Chinese history. Originating in prehistoric China, it has exerted a powerful influence over Chinese culture throughout the ages. Taoism evolved in response to changing times, with its doctrine and associated practices being revised and refined. The acceptance of Taoism by the ruling class has waxed and waned, alternately enjoying periods of favor and rejection. Most recently, Taoism has emerged from a period of suppression and is undergoing a revival in China. Laozi is traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoist religion and is closely associated in this context with "original", or "primordial", Taoism. Whether he actually existed is disputed, and the work attributed to him – the Daodejing – is dated between the 8th and 3rd century BC. However, Taoism clearly predates Laozi (Lao Tzu) as he refers to "The Tao masters of antiquity" in Chapter 15 of the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching). Moreover, the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi (2697–2597 BCE) is often associated with the origin of the Tao. Sinologist identifies four components in the emergence of Taoism: 1.
* Philosophical Taoism, i.e. the Daodejing and Zhuangzi 2.
* Techniques for achieving ecstasy 3.
* Practices for achieving longevity or immortality 4.
* Exorcism Some elements of Taoism may be traced to prehistoric folk religions in China that later coalesced into a Taoist tradition. In particular, many Taoist practices drew from the Warring-States-era phenomena of the Wu (shaman) (connected to the "shamanism" of Southern China) and the Fangshi (which probably derived from the "archivist-soothsayers of antiquity, one of whom supposedly was Laozi himself"), even though later Taoists insisted that this was not the case. Both terms were used to designate individuals dedicated to "... magic, medicine, divination,... methods of longevity and to ecstatic wanderings" as well as exorcism; in the case of the wu, "shamans" or "sorcerers" is often used as a translation. The fangshi were philosophically close to the School of Yin-Yang, and relied much on astrological and calendrical speculations in their divinatory activities. (en)