Difference between Taoism and Confucianism

Key difference: Confucianism and Taoism are both ancient Chinese styles of living. The difference between these two philosophies is based on their teachings, wherein Taoism is all about the relationship between a man and nature, and Confucianism is more about the relationship between man and the society.

Confucianism and Taoism are two of the most influential and religious beliefs of ancient China. Often, they are considered as polar opposites of each other. Though, they stem from similar goals and beliefs, Confucianism and Taoism have different views on religion and politics. Confucianism is mainly focused on the social virtue, ethics and its impact on the relationship between a man and his society, whereas Taoism focuses on the individual life in relationship with the ‘Tao’ or ‘the way of nature’. They both are regarded as a path of life.

Confucianism is an ethical and philosophical system that was developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. The core of this religion is humanity, morality and ethics. The main focus, here, is on the basic relationship between man and his society. It encourages social harmony and mutual respect between the people. It mainly concerns with the good value that is obtained by establishing social values.


Taoism, on the other hand, has a direct focus on the person and his place in nature. It has a more liberal and direct perspective on life. It does not have set of moral codes or society structures; this philosophy is more about finding the way of life through nature and universe around him. It concentrates on a person’s relationship with himself to achieve inner harmony. It encourages an individual to understand the natural values of the world, and thus, in turn becomes more in tune with their inner-selves.

Another area of distinction is in their values, wherein Confucius strongly believed in attaining harmony between governments. He believed that both, knowledge and education were vital, in order for the people to understand the moral and ethics that are required for a proper society. And, all this could only be possible when the values are passed down to the future generations through institutions such as schools, family, and religious organizations.

While, in Taoism, the main focus is what the ‘Tao’ or ‘the way’ refers to, as it represents the laws of nature and how they work and respond. It focuses on the human experience, the feeling of oneness with the universe. Tao is defined as the driving force that ‘does’ without ‘doing’. The objective of Taoism is for a person to align harmoniously with the ‘Tao’ i.e. to achieve immortality by taking the right path in life. 

Both these philosophies had an amazing impact on the growth, religion, traditions and beliefs of the people of ancient China. It was during the 6th century BCE that the contemporaries, Confucius and Lao-tzu, are believed to have lived and taught. Also, both their ideas were focused on self improvement: Confucianism in the form of relations with others, and Daoism in the form of relations with oneself and nature. Clearly, as these two philosophies co-existed, they had strong contrasts with similar underlines.

Comparison between Taoism and Confucianism:





Lao Tzu

Kong Qiu (Confucius)

Place of origin




It is defined as the follower of ‘Tao’ or ‘The Way’.

It is defined as the follower of ‘Confucius’.

Literal meaning

Tao means ‘The way’

Follower of Confucius.


It is polytheistic in nature.

It is monotheistic in nature.

Three jewels  

The three teachings are:

  • Compassion
  • Moderation
  • Humility

The three teachings are:

  • Education
  • Morals and
  • Humanism


Here, the core is one-ness with the universe and self-reflection.

Here, the core is based on morals, ethics and humanity.


To gain balance in life.

To gain social harmony.

Stress on

It stresses on human relationship with nature.

It stresses on human conduct over the belief of God.


The types of Taoism are:

  • Philosophical
  • Religious and
  • Folk

The types of Confucianism are:

  • Neo- Confucianism
  • Han Confucianism
  • Contemporary Confucianism

Goal of religion

To be one with nature.

To have a structured society.


It explains the relationship between human and the universe.

It explains the relationship between human and his society.


The main principles of Taoism are:

  • Tao – the way, channel or doctrine.
  • De – it is an active expression of Tao.
  • Wu Wei – it is the act of doing nothing.
  • Pu – it is the symbolic state of ‘doing nothing’.

The main principles of Confucianism are:

  • Ritual – they are the everyday work or chores.
  • Relationships – they are the individual duties that are related to man.
  • Filial Piety – it is the respect that is to be given to the elders, ancestors and the dead.
  • Loyalty – it means performing duties towards your friends, family and society.
  • Humanity – it is that all en are equal.
  • The Gentleman - it is the perfect man with morals.
  • Rectification of Names – it is the Correct perception of reality to avoid social disorder.


The teachings are passed using direct writings.

The teachings are passed using dialogues.

View on marriage

Between a man and woman.

Social order

View on after-life

The soul lives on.

To be worshipped by one's descendants and their families.

Image Courtesy: 4vector.com, en.wikipedia.org

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The difference between Confucianism and Taoism is that Taoism Means the way and Confucianism is when a son follows he's Father the father and son will have a high ranking in the world Taoism was also a tradition but Confucianism was what a personed believed.

that is not true

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