The reputed author of the 'Tao Te Ching,' and thus the “founder” of Taoism, Laozi was a native of the district of Hu in the state of Chu born during the 5th Century BC (at least according to 'Records of the Historian' written around 100 BC). Laozi was venerated by Confucius, and so alive before that philosopher, and was later worshipped as an imperial ancestor during the Tang dynasty. The rest concerning Laozi is legend … which is always more fun.
According to that, Laozi was appointed the “historian” – a scholar specializing in reading entrails and divination – at the royal court of the Zhou dynasty. Recognizing the “moral decay” among the Zhou, he soon departed and eventually came to the Xiangu Pass to the west. There Yinxi, the legendary guardian of the pass, begged Laozi to write a book. Thus Laozi set down his beliefs concerning the 'Tao' (the “Way”) and the 'Te' (the “Virtue”) in two sections of 5000 characters. So impressed was Yinxi that he asked to be accepted as a disciple. Thus began Taoism
With that, Laozi departed … and “nobody knows what became of him.” There are stories of him wandering about the state of Qin, writing and teaching about the Tao. Since the ancient Chinese held that the superior man could live a very long time, there are rumors that he lived 129 years, taking the name “Tan” to conceal his real identity so he could meditate during his old age on the Yin-Yang dichotomy without being bothered by would-be students. Other tales have him wandering even further west, becoming the "true Buddha." Whatever the facts of his last years, his mysticism echoes still – occasionally as a fad among affluent Westerners.