Lao zi, the founder of Taoism, advanced his ideas on health building during the Spring and Autumn Period. His ideas laid the groundwork for subsequent doctrines on health building. Lao zi’s birth place, and the date of his birth and death were nerve specified by historians, but he is believed to have lived during the latter part of the Spring and Autumn Period (722 – 476 B.C.).
One legend says Lao Zi was Lao Dan, a historian in charge of a library. His family name was Li, his given name was Er, and he was born in the state of Chu (today’s Luyi County, Henan Province).
As to why Li Er was called Lao Zi, another legend says he was born with white hair after his mother carried him in her womb for 72 years. He could speak when he was born and said, pointing to a plum tree, “This is my family name.” (The Chinese character “li” means plum).
Throughout the dynasties there has been a continuing debate as to whether he authored the book Lao Zi, also titled The Book of Ethics. Lao Zi, which contains 5,000 Chinese characters, was written in the literary form of poems and odes. It shows a refined style and penetrating thought, but is generally believed to have been written by his followers in the middle of the Warring States Period (c. 381 B.C.)
Lao Zi believed that to stay healthy, people should revert to the primary state by giving up all complex emotions and desires like a newborn baby. He argued for indifference to fame and gain. He believed in nihilism, selflessness, and few desires, and advocated serenity, temperance, and peace. For physical exercise he was devoted to breathing exercises. He held that people should not pursue delicious food; simple food was enough.
Prior to Lao Zi, people had thought the Taoists paid minimal attention to health building through food but, in fact, the Taoists believed in simple food, vegetables, and coarse grains. Such a diet actually does help prevent cardiac and cerebral diseases that result from excessive protein and fat.