Celebrant Views

Views on Death – Taoism


In this new blog series I offer a brief overview of different belief systems and their rituals and philosophies surrounding death and dying.  Todays Views on Death focus on Taoism

Episode 1 : Views On Death – Taoism

I am starting with Taoism as I was the Death Doula and End of Life Planner for a lovely gentleman who followed the Taoist philosophies.
I knew very little of Taoism, other than owning the book, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff I didn’t really know what Taoists believed only that it originated in China and that I thought it similar to Buddhism, (about which I hold equally little knowledge and will look at in a later episode).

What is Taoism?

Taoism, (also known as Daoism). It is an ancient Chinese philosophy and a religion focusing on harmony with the Tao, or “the Way.” Its origins are linked to Lao Tzu’s foundational text, the Tao Te Ching

The central concept in Taoism is the Tao (道), which can be translated as “way,”(of the universe).  People following its philosophy believe that there is a natural cosmic order and their aim is to live harmoniously with in it.    It is a continual journey of self cultivation to reach an effortless, naturalness and simple harmony with the universe and “go with the flow”.

There are no divisions by country, border, language, we are one species on one shared planet in a shared universe.

“The masters of life know the way, for they listen to the voice within them,

the voice of wisdom and simplicity, the voice that reasons beyond cleverness

and knows beyond knowledge.” ― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Taoists believe that life is an illusion and death is an awakening.  We are “spirit”, Our human body in this world is simply a vessel.  The vessel will decay back to earth but the spirit, will return to a different body or even a different world or plain.  So in essence Death is a transition into a new life.  The belief is we will keep reincarnating until we’ve learned everything we need to know.

Taoist embrace the impermanent existence of nature and celebrate the present

“Birth is not a beginning; death is not an end.

There is existence without limitation and continuity without a starting point.” 


Life is lived in the knowledge of death and walks alongside it as a patient companion, reminding us to live each day with intention.

Funeral Practices in Taoism

On death the body is returned to the earth (burial)

Ceremonial Forms of the Taoist AltarAt a Taoist funeral there will be an altar on the alter there will be:

  • A picture of the deceased.
  • A sacred lamp symbolizes the light of wisdom, the Elixir of Immortality.
  • Two tall candles symbolize the light of the sun, moon, and both eyes of the human body.
  • Tea, rice and water are in cups. The tea symbolizes yin, water is the energy of the yang, and rice represents the union of yin and yang (Balance)
  • Five plates of fruit to symbolize the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These representations go in a cycle that when balanced ensure that the body is healthy.
  • An incense burner is placed in the middle of the five elements. The burning of the incense represents refinement and purification of the soul.

The ceremony usually takes place in a person’s house and is held over an odd number of days, usually three, five or seven days. The candle is lit up for the body all that time before burial. During the vigil and the funeral the relatives wear white.


Through the lens of Taoism, death is neither to be mourned nor feared. It’s an invitation to delve deeper into life, cherishing each moment with renewed vigour. By intertwining life and death in a harmonious dance, Taoism offers a blueprint for living fully, loving deeply, and departing gracefully.

“Life and Death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides” – Lao Tzu

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