Daoism The other major indigenous religious tradition in China is Daoism, which originated during the same period of axial diver- sification. The relation between Confucianism and Daoism is a contrast be- tween orthodoxy and heterodoxy—a distinction made famous by Weber in his study of Chinese religion. Although Confucianism pertains overwhelm- ingly to the social aspects of human life, Daoism pertains more to nature and the individual. Confucianism gives primacy to assert- ing and striving for social values, but Daoism gives primacy to tactically avoiding these allegedly superficial pursuits. Daoism rose as a contrasting parameter to assert the values that Confucianism neglected. It was permis- sible and common for people to take on both Confucian and Daoist out- looks, letting each fill the void left by the other. The two together broadly demarcate the field of diversification in the axial age.
Standing at the heart of Daoism is the concept of dao, which can vari- ously be understood as “the principle,” “the way,” and “the word”. Thus, dao can be regarded as a mode of behavioral tactics, specifying the principles that are most closely compati- ble with the dynamics of human and natural affairs. Or dao is perceived in more philosophical rubrics as the way, postulat- ing the presence of a universal pattern or law that underlies the conduct of social and natural phenomena. And if dao is seen as the word, it denotes the need for doctrines and codes to be formulated and espoused in words or utter- ances for the articulation of the dao.