Buddhism and Taoism are two major religions in the orient, especially China. There are several similarities and differences between the two.

Comparison chart

Buddhism versus Taoism comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartBuddhismTaoism
Place of origin Nepal, India China
Place of worship Monasteries, nunneries, pagodas and temples. Temple, shrine.
Practices Practices of the Threefold Training: Morality, Concentration, and Wisdom. Visit to shrines, to pay homage to Taoist deities; Tai Chi, etc.
Use of statues and pictures Common Common
Belief of God Buddhism does not believe in a Creator God. Most follow numerous deities.
Belief The Buddha was the teacher to show us the four noble truths and the eightfold path (the path to nirvana or the way to enlightenment). Taoism is both a religion and a philosophy of China, and of Asia as a whole. It stresses humanity's relationship with nature.
Founder Gautama Buddha (born as Prince Siddhartha) Lao Tzu
Goal of religion To attain enlightenment and be released from the cycle of rebirth and death, thus attaining Nirvana. To be one with nature.
Life after death Until one has attained Nirvana, he or she will be reborn into any of the 31 planes of existence over and over again, due to his/her karma. Taoists believe that the soul survives after death and has the ability to travel through space.
Human Nature Ordinary human beings possess greed, anger, delusion, igorance, cravings, etc. and they were compared by the Buddha as 'the fools' and 'the blind'. (Ordinary human beings mean those who haven't walked or are not walking the Eightfold Path.) Humans should just follow the Tao(or 'the Way').
Literal Meaning Buddhists mean those who follow the teachings of the Buddha Those who follow the Way (Tao = Way)
View of the Buddha Founder of Buddhism or the Four Noble Truths Buddha is followed by many Taoists.
Clergy Monks and Nuns, who unitedly and exactly follow the teachings of the Buddha under the name 'Sangha'. Priests
Principle This life is suffering, and the only way to escape from this suffering is to dispel one's cravings and ignorance by practising the Eightfold Path. Taoists believe that life is good. Taoism lays emphasis on the body.
Concept of God A God or gods have always been rejected wholly by Theravada Buddhists. Their only refuges are the three jewels: The Buddha, The Dhamma, and The Sangha. Numerous deities.
Original Language(s) Original language is Magada, language used during the lifetime of the Buddha, which is the universal language (understood all over the universe) Old Chinese
Definition Teachings of the Buddha Teaching of the Way
Followers Buddhists Taoists (modern spelling also Daoists)
Scriptures Tripitaka - a vast volume of 3 main sections: the Discourses, the Discipline and the Absolute Doctrine - which appeared only after the death of the Buddha, thanks to the monks who collected all the teachings of the Buddha. Daozang, a collection of 1400 texts organized in 3 sections. Includes the Tao Te Ching, Zhuang Zi, I Ching, and other.
Views on other religion Buddhism does not condemn any of other religions . Sees no contradiction in following more than one religion.
Status of women No gender bias in Buddhism. In the Discourse related to householders, named 'Tein-gala-wada', certain duties and obligations were mentioned and applied to specific gender i.e. duties of a husband to a wife and vice versa, by the Buddha. generally equal, spoken of highly in the tao te ching (oldest taoist text) but varies among schools.
Goal of Philosophy Buddhism is not a philosophy. It is the practical teachings of the Buddha and its goal is 'nirvana'. To gain balance in life.
Geographical distribution and predominance Theradava Buddhist countries, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka are the places of predominance of Buddhism. The Noble Truths are presently best heard in Myanmar only. China, Korea, to lesser extent Vietnam and Japan.
Views on the afterlife Cycle of rebirth and death in 31 realms, as determined by karma. Good karma can lead one to be reborn into any of the 26 realms of happiness. Evil karma will lead one to be reborn into any of the four nether realms of suffering. The soul lives on.
Time of origin 2,500 years ago, circa 563 B.C.E. (Before Common Era) Approx. 550 B.C.E (before common Era)
Status of Vedas Gautama Buddha believed and preached that the Vedas were originally sacred texts that were corrupted by some Brahmins by introducing practices such as animal sacrifice. Foreign texts from the perspective of the Chinese.
Holy days/Official Holidays Kasone Full Moon Day, Waso Full Moon Day, etc. Chinese New Year, 3 Day Festival of the Dead, Ancestor Day.
Can atheists partake in this religion's practices? Yes. Yes
Offshoot religions Some branches of Buddhism like Mahayana, in which the teachings of the Buddha have been amended over and over again. Confucianism was based on early teachings of Taoism, and many folk religions derive from Taoism.
Concept of Deity Instead of deities, Devas or celestial beings are accepted as those suffering in the samsara. Most believe in numerous deities.
Taijitu, the symbol for yin and yang in Taoism.
Taijitu, the symbol for yin and yang in Taoism.


Buddhism finds its roots in Nepal at a time when religious and social turmoil was prevalent. A sect of people who shunned the traditions of the Brahminical religion followed the path led by Gautama Buddha. Indian Buddhism is categorized into five periods. Mauryan emperor Ashoka was a big supporter of this religion and put his efforts in spreading the Buddhist philosophies and ideologies. It spread to Central Asia and to Sri Lanka and eventually to China.

Some forms of Taoism find its roots in Chinese prehistoric folk religions. Laozi is regarded as the founder of this philosophy and Taoism gained official status in China. Many Chinese emperors have been instrumental in spreading and propagating the teachings of this religion.

For a comparison of Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist beliefs in China, watch the video below.

Underlying Concept

Buddhism as a religion believes in Karma and has unique spiritual, physical and metaphysical beliefs which are well grounded in logic, belief and meditation.

Taoism is a philosophy of harmony with nature by way of use of principles like acceptance, simplicity, compassion, relying on experience, wu wei, living in the moment beside others.

Buddha statue in Phnom Penh
Buddha statue in Phnom Penh

Important Beliefs

The tradition and practice of Buddhism emphasizes the Three Jewels that include the Buddha, The Dharma and The Sangha. Buddhist ideologies vests on the Four Noble Truths (Life ultimately leads to suffering, suffering is caused by craving, suffering ends when craving ends and the liberated state can be reached by following the path etched by Buddha) and the Noble Eightfold path which when adhered to is believed to put an end to the suffering.

Ethics of Taoism lays stress on the Three Jewels of the Tao that include moderation, humility and compassion. Reverence for immortals and ancestor spirits is important in Taoism. Chinese alchemy, Feng shui, many Chinese martial arts, Zen Buddhism, Chinese traditional medicine and breath training find their roots in Taoism.


There are two major branches of Buddhism:

The former is the oldest surviving branch and is widely popular in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. Mahayana is popular in East Asia. Vajrayana is a sub category of Mahayana which is also accepted as the third branch. Buddhism is recognized as the world’s fourth largest religion.

Livia Kohn categorized Taoism into three branches:


Buddhism defines ethics as Sila which is the overall principle of ethical behavior. There exist five precepts in this religion that are pre-determined training rules to lead a happy and better life. These precepts include:

The basic ethics or virtues of Taoism are the Three Jewels or the Three Treasures:

Texts or Scripture

Buddhist scriptures are written in Pali, Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese languages. A few others include Sanskrit and Buddhist hybrid Sanskrit. There is no single central text that is referred to by all traditions.

Tao Te Ching or Daodejing is the most influential Taoist text. The other Taoist texts include Zhuangzi, Daozang and a few other significant texts.

Further Reading

For further reading, there are several books available on Amazon.com on Buddhism and Taoism:


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