Tao Te Ching 


Tai Chi Diagram

The Tai-Chi Diagram - Symbol of Oneness in Tao Philosophy

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Tao Philosophy as Oneness

A Basic Theory was presented at 2006 International Conference on Taoism (道文化國際學術研討會), May 6-7, 2006, Taipei, Taiwan. It identifies The Principle of Oneness as the fundamental principle of Tao philosophy. The full paper is available for download here: download the whole paper in the pdf format.

Reality may be expressed in two levels: the conventional level and the actual levels. The conventional level with objects referring to our concrete experiences; the actual level refers to the realistic modes of the reality. Our model is to relate the conventional objects to the actual modes according to the Principle of Oneness.

Levels and Modes in Tao Philosophy

The reality of Tao is manifested in two opposite modes, wu (無) and yu (有). At the conventional level, , wu and yu are separately the unlimited mode and the limited mode of Tao. Both wu and yu are conventional concepts; they are not real. At the actual level, we denote the two realistic modes as Wu and Yu, which are not separable and are simultaneous manifestations of Tao. Wu and Yu are manifestations of Tao as Oneness and are not independent. Lao-tzu manages to express this critical feature of Yu and Wu as co-arising within bounds of Oneness.

Reality, such as Tao, cannot be divided; but, in conventional discussion, we have to invoke conventional objects. In Tao, these conventional objects are the distinct <yu> and <wu>, as separated objects. These conventional states cannot represent the eternal Tao.

The conventional objects, wu and yu, appear to our senses as concrete experiences. Tao philosophy can guide us to bring these two conventional objects together properly to represent the true Wu and Yu states.  In other words, the conventional objects interact with each other, so they are inter-mixed to represent the modes of reality.

The mathematical representation of Oneness may be shown as the familiar Tai-Chi Diagram.  This picture shows the objectification of a reality from actual modes to the conventional objects. The Tai-Chi diagram preserves Oneness of reality and overcomes the limitations of language to express the Oneness in Tao philosophy. 

Key Words and References

Key Words

Tao (道)

Tao is the unperturbed order of nature. Tao is a reality so it has oneness. It is with Non-Polarity, but can manifest in all.

Wu (無)

The unlimited, boundless, and whole manifestation mode of Tao

Yu (有)

The limited, bound, and particular manifestation mode of Tao.


Oneness is the only bound of any reality. All reality must be unchanging, infinite, and indivisible. Tao, Wu and Yu are realities that must be Oneness.

The Conventional Level

The level where language is used to describe our experiences, where words are the conventional objects used to describe our thought. The conventional objects are our abstraction of reality.

The Actual Level

The modes at the actual level represent our holistic comprehension of a reality. These modes are our conceptualization of the possible modes of a reality. Each mode perceived represents an aspect of the whole, but itself is a whole.