In Shaketown, Sam Wo visits a Taoist temple in San Francisco's Little China. Taoism (pronounced and also spelled Daoism) refers to a philosophy and a religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao, the source and essence of everything that exists. The Chinese word Tao is usually translated as "way", "path" or "principle"; the word Tao can also mean "reality" or "nature". The proper path in life, says Taoism, is one that works in harmony with reality, the essence of the natural universe.
Religious Taoism has been institutionalized for centuries and has been influenced by a variety of cultures and traditions. Today the philosophy exercises a profound influence on modern thought worldwide.
The primary work of literature expounding Taoist philosophy is the Tao Te Ching, containing teachings attributed to Laozi, "the Old Teacher". A number of widespread beliefs and practices that pre-dated the writing of the Tao Te Ching were also incorporated into religious Taoism. After Laozi, the inherited beliefs and practices of Taoism continued to evolve. The philosophy, its literature, and the religious rituals profoundly influenced the culture of China and surrounding societies in Asia. The book most often translated into English after the Bible is the Tao Te Ching.