Thanks, Fred, that is helpful. I had read a number of sources that matter-of-factly framed Taoism originally as a philosophy that later became a religion; likewise, similar tracts stated that Buddhism was first a philosophy in the hands of Siddhartha, but acquired a lot of deities and cosmic beings, along with layers of ritual complexity, as it was interpreted by the disciples, and then by disciples of disciples, and then adopted by various cultures that included their earlier belief systems. Do you know whether this is accurate or not, as well? Any suggested reading?
This is a widely held, but incorrect view of Taoism. Both Taoism and Confucianism were and are religions, notwithstanding a century or so Western "scholarship" which was eager to present them as non-religious in character for a variety of reasons, most of them having to do with the close alignment between early East Asian scholarship and European diplomatic activities and objectives from the early 19th well into the 20th century, the focus of early scholar-diplomats on text-based "Great Books" studies which largely excluded much consideration of folk religious practice (although Aston's work on Shinto is a notable exception to that tendency), and finally what was then a conceptually limited notion of what constitutes "religion" in most Western scholarship.
The turn in the field of Asian religious studies is actually decades-old, but between the restrictions of copyright law, the large quantity of venerable popular works as well as newer popular works also based on older scholarship now in the public domain, and a number of other factors, the old misimpression has continued to linger longer than it ought.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled discussion.
Hope this helps.