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Laozi in the Tao Te Ching explains that the Tao is not a 'name' for a 'thing' but the underlying natural order of the Universe whose ultimate essence is difficult to circumscribe due to it being non conceptual yet evident' in one's being of aliveness. [ citation needed ] The Tao is "eternally nameless" (Tao Te Ching-32. Laozi ) and to be distinguished from the countless 'named' things which are considered to be its manifestations, the reality of life before its descriptions of it.
The Tao lends its name to the religious tradition ( Wade–Giles , Tao Chiao ; Pinyin , Daojiao ) and philosophical tradition (Wade–Giles, Tao chia ; Pinyin, Daojia ) that are both referred to in English with the single term Taoism.
The Tao is usually described in terms of elements of nature, and in particular as similar to water. Like water it is undifferentiated, endlessly self-replenishing, soft and quiet but immensely powerful, and impassively generous.  Much of Taoist philosophy centers on the cyclical continuity of the natural world, and its contrast to the linear, goal-oriented actions of human beings.