Tao or Dao is a Chinese concept signifying 'way', 'path', 'route', or sometimes more loosely, 'doctrine' or 'principle', or as a verb, speak. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, Tao is a metaphysical concept originating with Laozi that gave rise to a religion and philosophy referred to in English with the single term Taoism. The concept of Tao was shared with Confucianism, Chán and Zen Buddhism and more broadly throughout East Asian philosophy and religion in general. Within these contexts Tao signifies the primordial essence or fundamental nature of the universe. In the foundational text of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, Laozi explains that Tao is not a 'name' for a 'thing' but the underlying natural order of the universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe. Tao is thus "eternally nameless” and to be distinguished from the countless 'named' things which are considered to be its manifestations.
In Taoism, Chinese Buddhism and Confucianism, the object of spiritual practice is to 'become one with the tao' or to harmonise one's will with Nature in order to achieve 'effortless action'. This involves meditative and moral practices. Important in this respect is the Taoist concept of De.