The character Tao 道 (or Dao, depending on the romanisation scheme) means "path" or "way", but in Chinese religion and philosophy it has taken on more abstract meanings. Tao is rarely an object of worship, being treated more like the Central Asian concepts of atman and dharma. The word "Taoism" is used to translate different Chinese terms. Daojiao/Taochiao (道教 "teachings/religion of the Dao") refers to Daoism as a religion. Daojia/Taochia (道家 "school of the Dao") refers to the studies of scholars, or "philosophical" Daoism. However, most scholars have abandoned the dichotomy of "religious" and "philosophical" Daoism.
Most traditional Chinese Taoists are polytheistic. Nature and ancestor spirits are also common in popular Taoism. Organized Taoism distinguishes its ritual activity from that of the folk religion, which some professional Taoists (Daoshi) view as debased. This sort of shamanism is eschewed for an emphasis on internal alchemy among the "elite" Taoists.
Chinese alchemy, astrology, cuisine, several Chinese martial arts, Chinese traditional medicine, fengshui, and many styles of qigong breath training disciplines are intertwined with Taoism throughout history.