Tao Te Ching (Tao Teh King, Dao de Jing)

Tao Te Ching (Tao Teh King, Dao de Jing)

by Lao Tzu

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Overview

Tao Te Ching, which can be translated from the traditional chinese to The Book of the Way and its Virtue, is an important classic Chinese text. Written around 600 bce by Taoist Lao Tzu (or Lao Tsu, Lauzi), who was a sage and keeper of records at the court of the Zhou Dynasty. The Tao Te Ching is an important compilation of maxims from a significant period in the history of Taoist Chinese philosophy, and has strongly influenced Chinese Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism. Tao Te Ching has often been ysed by Chinese poets, painters, and calligraphers as a major source of inspiration.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781599869353
Publisher: Filiquarian Publishing
Publication date: 12/28/2006
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 88
Sales rank: 64,544
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Tao Te Ching (pronounced, more or less, Dow Deh Jing) can be translated as The Book of the Immanence of the Way or The Book of the Way and of How It Manifests Itself in the World or, simply, The Book of the Way. Since it is already well known by its Chinese title, I have let that stand.

About Lao-tzu, its author, there is practically nothing to be said. He may have been an older contemporary of Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) and may have held the position of archive-keeper in one of the petty kingdoms of the time. But all the information that has come down to us is highly suspect. Even the meaning of his name is uncertain (the most likely interpretations: "the Old Master" or, more picturesquely, "the Old Boy"). Like an Iroquois woodsman, he left no traces. All he left us is his book: the classic manual on the art of living, written in style of gemlike lucidity, radiant with humor and grace and largeheartedness and deep wisdom: one of the wonders of the world.

People usually think of Lao-tzu as a hermit, a dropout from society, dwelling serenely in some mountain hut, unvisited except perhaps by the occasional traveler arriving from a '60s joke to ask, "What is the meaning of life?" But it's clear from his teachings that he deeply cared about society, if society means the welfare of one's fellow human beings; his book is, among other things, a treatise on the art of government, whether of a country or of a child. The misperception may arise from his insistence on wei wu wei, literally "doing not-doing," which has been seen as passivity. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A good athlete can enter a state of body-awareness inwhich the right stroke or the right movement happens by itself, effortlessly, without any interference of the conscious will. This is a paradigm for non-action: the purest and most effective form of action. The game plays the game; the poem writes the poem; we can't tell the dancer from the dance.

Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

Nothing is done because the doer has wholeheartedly vanished into the deed; the fuel has been completely transformed into flame. This "nothing" is, in fact, everything. It happens when we trust the intelligence of the universe in the same way that an athlete or a dancer trusts the superior intelligence of the body. Hence Lao-tzu's emphasis on softness. Softness means the opposite of rigidity, and is synonymous with suppleness, adaptability, endurance. Anyone who has seen a t'ai chi or aikido master doing not-doing will know how powerful this softness is.

Lao-tzu's central figure is a man or woman whose life is in perfect harmony with the way things are. This is not an idea; it is a reality; I have seen it. The Master has mastered Nature; not in the sense of conquering it, but of becoming it. In surrendering to the Tao, in giving up all concepts, judgments, and desires, her mind has grown naturally compassionate. She finds deep in her own experience the central truths of the art of living, which are paradoxical only on the surface: that the more truly solitary we are, the more compassionate we can be; the more we let go of what we love, the more present our love becomes; the clearer our insight into what is beyond good and evil, the more we can embody the good. Until finally she is able to say, in all humility, "I am the Tao, the Truth, the Life."

The teaching of the Tao Te Ching is moral in the deepest sense. Unencumbered by any concept of sin, the Master doesn't see evil as a force to resist, but simply as an opaqueness, a state of self-absorption which is in disharmony with the universal process, so that, as with a dirty window, the light can't shine through. This freedom from moral categories allows him his great compassion for the wicked and the selfish.

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn't reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn't waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

What is a good man but a bad man's teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man's job?
If you don't understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.

The reader will notice that in the many passages where Lao-tzu describes the Master, I have used the pronoun "she" at least as often as "he." The Chinese language doesn't make this kind of distinction; in English we have to choose. But since we are all, potentially, the Master (since the Master is, essentially, us), I felt it would be untrue to present a male archetype, as other versions have, ironically, done. Ironically, because of all the great world religions the teaching of Lao-tzu is by far the most female. Of course, you should feel free, throughout the book, to substitute "he" for "she" or vice versa.

As to method: I worked from Paul Carus's literal version, which provides English equivalents (often very quaint ones) alongside each of the Chinese ideograms. I also consulted dozens of translations into English, German, and French. But the most essential preparation for my work was a fourteen-year-long course of Zen training, which brought me face to face with Lao-tzu and his true disciples and heirs, the early Chinese Zen Masters.

With great poetry, the freest translation is sometimes the most faithful. "We must try its effect as an English poem," Dr. Johnson said; "that is the way to judge of the merit of a translation." I have often been fairly literal -- or as literal as one can be with such a subtle, kaleidoscopic book as the Tao Te Ching. But I have also paraphrased, expanded, contracted, interpreted, worked with the text, played with it, until it became embodied in a language that felt genuine to me. If I haven't always translated Lao-tzu's words, my intention has always been to translate his mind.

Table of Contents

Introductionvii
I.Tao Ching1
II.Te Ching43
Notes93
Key Terms: An Outline of Lao Tzu's Thought95

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Tao Te Ching 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 123 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a veru interesting book, but a reread (or three) may be needed to fully understand it.
AlbertWang More than 1 year ago
I am a Chinese. I like Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching or Tao Te Sutra very much. I searched and read many English translations, but I was always not very satisfied with their translations comparing the original Chinese meanings. After I read this book, I think it is the most faithful and satisfying English version. The translator understood Lao Tzu completely and never gave excess transcendental meanings. I am wondering who is translator of this book, why there is no introduction and the biography of the translator'? I really appreciate if who can tell me the translator with his biography.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although the introduction to this edition of the Tao Te Ching is not accurate, I highly recommend this ancient text to all seeking a higher understanding and approach to experiencing life itself. Known as an integral part of understanding Tao (or, 'the way') its purpose is well served through a series of odd paradoxes and other thought exercises. These are designed to impart a sense of higher wisdom and humaneness.
everyoneandeveryone More than 1 year ago
This book is mostly cultural. not so modern to think of. but its content are amazing. for example: "...he who knows himself is wise..." this is in fact a relevant sentence. the book contains many more principles of life, and tend to give encouragement to these who feel weak because of the way people's moral are in today's world. very educational. its just like a book of proverbs. Fiknd your way in life, but don't forget to think of others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read this a few times over now. And it's helped me find a kind of clarity every time I read it. It may not make sense to you at first, but after reading it, I started noticing a correlation between the writings and the world around me. I return to this text every time I encounter trials in my life. After, I find a realization of what is and isn't. Read it and the other Taoist classics, and hopefully you to will find clarity in your life as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a standard late 19th century translation by James Legge. The text is easy to read but the Artwork sets it apart. The reproductions are of good quality with the frequent guttering of images being the only complaint; this is the one thing that always flaws an otherwise excellent book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think a lot more people should read this book because it helps people see clearer. Young people should really read this not as a required book but as a book that can help them into their journey into adulthood.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very good translation. Although there are several minor mistakes, all the basic concepts of Taoism philosophy are correctly translated. If you are interested in Taoism, this book is recommended. The problem of this book is, for general public it is a little too academic.
beau.p.laurence on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this version. very poetic translation yet retains the simplicity and meaning
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the classics. This translation by Jane English is one of my favorites. Plus, the pictures are wonderful. Great memories of winter camping are conjured up, for some reason.
adeptmagic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
beautiful writing for anyone, not just those interested in oriental philosophy
heidialice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Classic, beautifully translated (and beautiful accompanying photographs). This is comforting in its timelessness, and shakes me out of being stuck in my head. A text I return to over and over.
Pattern-chaser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Daoist classic of oriental wisdom. Not easy to appreciate without help....
jolyon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Still the best, overall. Have had this for 30 years and it never palls.
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