Taoism or Daoism is the indigenous religion of ancient China. The beginning of Taoism can be traced back to the era of the Yellow Emperor some 4700 years ago, and promoted by Laozi during the Spring and Autumn Period. Taoism was formally established as a religion some 1800 years ago by Zhang Daoling during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Taoism was named after the ‘Dao’ which refers to the way or the path. It is regarded as the underlying force in the universe which governs the movements and changes in the Universe. The key purpose of religion is to learn the ‘Dao’. Yin and Yang, complementary opposites, comprise the Taoist Taiji symbol and this is an allegory to the positive and negative happenings that often occur in tandem in our lives.

The Temple

Most Taoist temples in Singapore belong to the Taoist folk custom and are known as the traditional Chinese temples. These temples usually worship a myriad of deities that may include images of Buddha and Confucius. Nevertheless, they are still Taoist temples. All devotees are strongly encouraged to wear proper attire when they enter the temple. Devotees are required to wear proper footwear and avoid the wearing of slippers when entering the prayer hall of the Taoist temple.


Taoists are polytheistic and worship many deities. They draw their philosophy from the teachings of the sacred text, namely, Tao Te Ching. Worship may be conducted in homes or the temples, where the sacred altar of the many deities some of which officiate the Heaven, Earth and Water, are enshrined.

The symbol of Taoism is called Tai Ji signifying the Supreme Ultimate. It represents the opposing energy forces, Yin (negative) and Yang (positive), darkness and light respectively, that complement and counterbalance each other to attain the true harmony and final unity, the TAO. Taoists pay homage to their deities by cupping their left hand over their right in front of the chest. In worship, they prostrate three times in front of the deities. Taoist devotees normally offer flowers, incense, candles or an oil lamp, water, fruits, tea, wine, cakes and other non-living food items to accord respect to the deities.


The Chinese Lunar New Year is not strictly a religious festival but most Chinese, regardless of their faith celebrate this event. However, during the first and last day of the Lunar New Year, devout Taoists may visit the temples to thank the deities for the past year and to pray for blessings and prosperity for the New Year. It is also a time where the family members gather for the reunion dinner. Chinese traditionally wish one another Gong Xi Fa Cai or Happy and Prosperous New Year during this period.

The Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is celebrated for 15 days on the 1st month of the Lunar Calendar. The 9th day is the feast day of the Jade Emperor while the 15th day is known as Chap Goh Mei or Yuan Xiao, is the feast day of the Official of Heaven. The Taoist Day is held annually to celebrate the Birthday of Lao Tzu on the 15th day of 2nd lunar month.

Qing Ming festival falls on the 105th day after Winter Solstice during the 1st week of April. Members visit their family graves and columbaria to tidy and repair them and to pray and make offerings in their remembrance on this day.

Zhong Yuan Jie is the Festival of the Middle Season that falls on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. It is the birthday of the Earth Official when it is believed that the Gates of Hell open and the spirits of the dead seek “Nourishment and Salvation” rites in the mortal realm.

Mid-Autumn or Moon Cake Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. It is the feast day of the deity of the Moon. It also commemorates the spread of hidden messages in moon cakes in the secret campaign that resulted in the overthrow of the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty by the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century.

The Dongzi or Winter Solstice refers to the day with the shortest daylight in the Northern hemisphere. It is a time where people mark the end of the year with the eating of Tang Yuan which are round glutinous rice balls in a sugary soup.


Taoists are encouraged to observe a vegetarian diet on festive occasions and feast days. Some priests are strict vegetarians and avoid even salt, vinegar, leeks, shallots, garlic and onions during special prayers to celebrate the occasion.