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Tao-Te-Ching: With summaries of the writings attributed to Huai-Nan-Tzu, Kuan-Yin-Tzu and Tung-Ku-Ching

Tao-Te-Ching: With summaries of the writings attributed to Huai-Nan-Tzu, Kuan-Yin-Tzu and Tung-Ku-Ching

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Tao-Te-Ching: With summaries of the writings attributed to Huai-Nan-Tzu, Kuan-Yin-Tzu and Tung-Ku-Ching

ratings:
4.5/5 (96 ratings)
Length:
403 pages
2 hours
Released:
Jan 1, 1999
ISBN:
9781609254414
Format:
Book

Description

Translated by Derek Bryce from Lao-Tzu on Wieger's 1913 French rendition of his Les Peres du Syteme Taoist. This volume also contains Bryce's summaries of writings attributed to Huai-Nan-Tzu, Kuan-Yin-Tzu, and Tung-Ku-Ching from Wieger's Histoire des Croyances et des Opinions Philosophiques en Chine. Bryce demonstrates a conscious commitment to both the original Chinese text and the profound insight of Wieger's work. A Taoist classic to read again and again. Illustrated.

Released:
Jan 1, 1999
ISBN:
9781609254414
Format:
Book

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Inside the book

Top quotes

  • A. Transcendent goodness is like water.B. Water likes to do good to all beings; it does not struggle for any definite form or position but puts itself in the low places that no one wants. By this, it is the reflection of Tao, the Principle.

  • A. The expansive transcendent power which resides in the median space, the virtue of the Principle, does not die. It is always the same and acts the same without loss or end.B. It is the mysterious mother of all beings.

  • That is the effect of the Principle, an effect produced by its Virtue, by its influence, not by an action, in the strict sense of that word, which came out of it.

  • B. Apply yourself such that the air you breathe in, converted into the aerial soul, animates this composite, and keeps it intact as in a new-born baby.

  • Never tak- ing sides, he should follow the stream of universal unfolding, of the incessant alternation of becomings and endings, of ups and downs, of prosperity and decadence.

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Tao-Te-Ching - Red Wheel Weiser

Index

INTRODUCTION

Lao-Tzu, the Old Master, was a contemporary of Confucius, older than he by some twenty years. His life must have been passed between 570 and 490 B.C. (the dates of Confucius being 552-479). Nothing of Lao Tzu is historically certain. He was an archivist at the court of the Chou, says the Taoist tradition; that is probable. He saw Confucius once, around the year 501, says the Taoist tradition again; that is possible. Weary of the disordered state of the Chinese empire, he left and never returned. At the moment of his crossing the Western Pass, he composed for his friend Yin-Hsi, the guardian of that pass, the famous writing known as the Tao-Te-Ching, the fundamental text of Taoism. This again is Taoist tradition, admitted by Lieh-Tzu but not by Chuang-Tzu.

The celebrated historian Ssu-Ma-Ch'ien, writing about 100 B.C., implied that the family name of the Old Master was Li, his ordinary first name Eull, his noble first name Pai-Yang, and that his posthumous name was Tan (whence the posthumous title Lao-Tan). But, added this famous historian who was more than half-Taoist, others say otherwise, and of the Old Master, one can only be sure of this, that having loved obscurity above everything else, this man deliberately effaced the trace of his life. Lao-Tzu was not the first Taoist; he had forerunners, the names of some of whom are known. According to the literary index of the Han dynasty, Lao-Tzu found Taoism in the ar chives of the Third Ministry. Whatever the truth of the foregoing, Lao-Tzu was the editor of the first Taoist work that has survived, and which no doubt served as the foundation for later writers, such as Lieh-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu. Although there are those who doubt the existence of Lao-Tzu as the author of the Tao-Te Ching, the Taoist tradition itself affirms that he wrote it, and a careful examination of the work seems to confirm this. It is clearly a tirade, all in one breath, the author returning to the beginning when he wanders; a series of points and maxims, rather than a coherent edition; a statement by a man who is precise, clear and profound; who takes up points again and touches them up with insistence. Originally the work was divided neither into books nor chapters. The division was made later, and fairly clumsily. It is not known at what date the work of Lao-Tzu was named Tao-Te-Ching. This name already figured in Huai-Nan-Tzu in the second century B.C.

TAOISM

Taoism (or Daoism) may be regarded as the esoteric part of the Chinese tradition, and Confucianism as the exoteric. The exoteric is that which is open and available to everyone, whereas the esoteric is hidden and only for those who have the requisite spiritual aptitude. In general terms, these two ways may be described as the way of the ancestors (of the cycles of death, rebirth, and so on) and the way of the gods (with deliverance from the cycle of death and rebirth). The highest concept of exoterism is generally that of Being, God in Western monotheistic terms, the Sovereign on High of the Chinese; whereas the esoteric concept goes beyond Being to the Absolute, the Most High God of the monotheistic religions, Tao (or Dao, pronounced as a d, or dow) the Principle of the ancient Chinese.

Many of the Taoist texts give the impression of being opposed to Confucianism, but when Taoism and Confucianism are seen as having existed side-by-side during more than two thousand years of Chinese history, they can be considered as complementary, at least with respect to the original form of Taoism (rather than its later developments when it tended itself towards a theism). The reader will also note that in the text Tao is sometimes referred to as a being, which is inappropriate, since the absolute is beyond being. However, as Lao-Tzu says, words cannot describe it, and recourse is at times necessary to inappropriate terms, leaving the reader to make the necessary mental transposition.

Taoism in its original form is perhaps the closest one can come to the ancient Primordial Tradition, involving as it does a spiritual way without a complex ritual and without withdrawal from life. Whatever one's personal belief, religion, or tradition, one can learn a great deal from the Taoist writings, although a purely mental approach without spiritual aptitude and practice has its limitations.

The Tao-Te-Ching is concise and compact. Readers wishing to understand it in any profound way are referred to the writings of Lieh-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu, who explained many points of Taoism more leisurely by means of allegorical tales and anecdotes. The fact that these two sages wrote only two or three centuries after Lao-Tzu implies that even then people were having difficulty in coping with the concise style of the Tao-Te-Ching.

THE TRANSLATION

Dr. Léon Wieger was a distinguished Sinologist who spent most of his adult life in China; he died there in 1933. The exceptional clarity of his translations owes much to his long stay in China, his making use of the traditional Chinese commentaries, and his recognition that the Chinese characters should be translated according to their ancient, and not their modern meanings. Thus Tao-Te-Ching means A Treatise on the Principle and Its Action from the ancient meanings of Tao and te, and not A Treatise on the Way and Virtue, which is from modern usage of these terms. Tao translated as the Principle certainly makes more sense in many contexts of the translation; te, action, has been translated in one instance by Robert G. Henricks (Lao-Tzu, 1989) as power, and in any case the action or power of the Tao implies its virtue. Wieger also used clearly-defined terms in his translations; this is especially important in his choice of the word sage which is meaningful especially when compared with the gentleman of another translation which is otherwise useful. It is for the foregoing reasons that I consider an English rendering of Wieger's French text is justified and worthwhile. Léon Wieger was included by the orientalist Ananda Coomaraswamy among a very few Western Sinologists whom he considered to have penetrated the Chinese way of thought. Whilst making his translations, Wieger seems to have become, as it were, Chinese; but he was also a Western scholar and a missionary, and sometimes when he stood back to make personal comments he was no longer Chinese in thought! In making an edited translation I have removed a few personal comments, leaving Wieger's summaries of the Chinese commentaries and his

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What people think about Tao-Te-Ching

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  • (5/5)
    From the book description: Drawing on meticulous study of multiple sources, this fresh but authoritative reading of Lao Tsu's timeless classic combines the poetry of the Tao Te Ching with a wealth of additional material: an introduction to the enigmatic Lao Tsu and his times; a discussion of the many challenges facing the translator; 81 illustrative Chinese characters/phrases, selected to highlight key themes in each chapter; separate commentary and inspirational quotes, as well as room for you to record your own impressions, section by section.
  • (5/5)
    As D.C. Lau points out in his highly readable introduction to this Penguin Classics edition, it is highly unlikely that Lao Tzu was an acutal person, despite stories of Confucius once going to see him. Instead, the contents of the Tao Te Ching seem to be a distillation and compilation of early Daoist thought. Like the Analects of Confucius, there are passages that are corrupted and whose meaning is either unfathomable or in dispute. There are also certain ideas that are repeated in nearly identical phrases in different parts of this very short work. Compared to the Analects of Confucius, this is a shorter, easier read, but like that work, I’m sure it benefits from reading in multiple translations and from reading more about it—not just of it. Since the Teaching Company doesn’t have a course on this book as they do for the Analects, I’ll just have to rely more on my own first impressions. Daoist philosophy (or Taoist, if you want to use the old spelling—but Daoist is how you pronounce it) is intriguing because it seems to rely on not taking action rather than on actually doing anything. It is full of things such as, “He who speaks doesn’t know.” And “He who knows doesn’t speak.” You’ll be nodding your head at things like that, comparing them to your own life experience. Putting such ideas into practice, however, seems problematic. No wonder some famous Daoists were monks. I’m not sure how following the precepts in this book would work in most people’s lives, unlike, for example, applying a few Buddhist tenets. I’m sure they wouldn’t fly at my house when it’s time to wash the dishes. But I’m trivializing things here. Just trying to wrap your mind around these concepts and spending a while contemplating them is beneficial. We do, for instance, act far more often than we should. How many times can we think of when not doing something would have served us better? But we just felt compelled to act, since that seems to be part of our human nature. Not to mention being easier to explain to your friends if your act goes wrong. I’m still trivializing, I guess. I highly recommend reading this well-done translation and its commentary. There are, for instance, a lot of ebooks available that give you an old translation of this work—which may be a fine translation for all I know—but without some context, you will lose much of the pleasure of reading. People who write books with titles that include “before you die” in them should immediately die themselves before they can write more such books. But if you’re an intelligent person, and if you have a little time to spare and an interest in philosophy, give this a try and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
  • (4/5)
    This is one of those quick to read, but long to digest books. It was interesting and will take more than one reading to feel more comfortable with.
  • (5/5)
    Good visuals for contemplation
  • (4/5)
     I was totally surprised to find out that this is actually a political treatise but less surprised to learn that quiescence is strength.
  • (5/5)
    Laozi's set of 81 brief chapters sets forth the philosophy of Taoism. The author cautions the reader that words alone cannot faithfully describe his subject, the Tao or the way of the universe, which in our time has led some to dismiss this perspective due to its ambiguity. Enigmas and apparent contradictions appear frequently, which compelled me to pause to contemplate what Laozi was trying to convey. The necessity of pausing and reflecting makes reading this material fulfilling, especially when I felt I moved closer to understanding.I found the three jewels of Taoism appealing: Compassion, frugality (also translated as restraint and moderation), and humility (or not seeking to be first). Laozi is also persuasive in advocating selective gradual change rather than confrontation.This book is not for the been-there-done-that crowd, who see the ideal life as a experience of episodes of serial consumption. Instead the truths here are intended to be revealed though a combination of experience and contemplation. Some have wisely recommended memorizing some of the chapters, allowing the enigmas and puzzles to remain with us and perhaps to be solved later on with the help of experiential and contextual diversity. The edition I read was translated by Thomas H. Miles and his students. It served my purpose well, though at times I would have appreciated some additional commentary to supplement the helpful existing guidance. Miles' translation also has some useful introductory material in which key terms are defined, insofar as that is possible within Taoism. I intend to read other translations to get a better idea of the range of interpretations.
  • (5/5)
    A classic for life.
  • (3/5)
    "People certainly have been confused for a long time."The introduction and endnotes went a long way helping me read this. I can see why it takes a lifetime to decipher this.
  • (5/5)
    Just amazing.
  • (5/5)
    Guidance I needed.
  • (3/5)
    Some things were true and I didn't need an ancient master saying them for me to know that. Other things were not true but were couched in psuedo-wisdom and illogical platitudes. Some things were useful and reaffirmed what I know at my core and other things were purely fanciful. It is fascinating that the author starts he book with the notion that the true Dao cannot be described and then continues to try to describe it.

    It was interesting when the author wrote that if his logic doesn't make sense, the reader doesn't understand the Dao (even if they are very intelligent). That's a nice built-in defense mechanism. If you criticize the content, you just don't understand it.
  • (4/5)
    A beautiful translation with a wonderfully illustrated explanations. Everyone ought read The Tao once.
  • (5/5)
    Not being a translator, and not being fluent in Chinese, I have no idea whether this translation is more or less accurate than any other. But having read numerous translations of this work over the years, I can say that it is by far the most readable and enjoyable translations of the dao that I have encountered. The full impact of the poetry comes out. And what I believe would properly be the simplicity of thought inherent in Tao te Ching is also communicated. Especially in poetry, the 'best' translations are not the ones that are most accurate on a word-for-word, phrase-by-phrase measurement. They are the ones that seems to best communicate the heart and soul of what the author is saying. Particularly if you have read other translations and found them less than satisfying, this one will be well worth your time.John H
  • (5/5)
    A beautifully illustrated and poetically translated version of the Tao Te Ching from Stephen Mitchell.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent encouragement for those trying to lead peaceful, harmonious lives.
  • (5/5)
    I'm not grandiose enough to review the content, but this is the most readable translation I've come across, and print quality is great.
  • (5/5)
    The Tao Te Ching is an amazing book; how does one "review" a text that is thousands of years old, that is so deep and profound, that contains so many spiritual mysteries, and that has effected the lives of so many over the centuries? I won't even try. I will only give my own recommendation and express my own personal hope that everyone will read this book. It can be read in a single sitting, in about an hour, maybe even less; don't do that! Sit and read it slowly -- let Lao Tzu reach through the centuries and speak to you where you are. Every sentence -- every word -- is filled with meaning; sit and contemplate the Tao. I highly recommend this translation; the introduction by Needleman is excellent and extremely insightful and the commentary near the back of the book is similarly insightful and helpful. I also recommend that as soon as you finish reading the Tao Te Ching itself you take up and read Hieromonk Damascene's "Christ the Eternal Tao" --the two should always be read together.
  • (4/5)
    Not an "easy" read but very insightful. "Tao Te Ching" is a collection of a poems that are centered around Taoist philosophy.
  • (5/5)
    I've read the Tao Te Ching many times and still come away uncertain as to its meaning, but each time I get little glimmers that I didn't see before. It's probably because I'm trying to understand it that I don't.
  • (3/5)
    Not a patch on Machiavelli, yet written from the same point of view: as advice for a would-be leader. The Tao Te Ching speaks from a point of view which I find very hostile, that of providing wisdom for an aspiring leader of a hegemonistic and ambiguous state. The advice includes tips on keeping your peasants stupid and happy, and much mystical mumbo-jumbo which doesn't stand up to ten seconds' solid thinking. Mysteriously popular.
  • (5/5)
    Written by Laozi shortly before the Analects of Confucius this classic Chinese text has been more frequently translated than any book except the Bible. It is one of the foundations of East Asian thought that is still read today. The Tao Te Ching provides a combination of spirituality, common sense advice and a little nonsense to remind us that we live in world that cannot be known. Much of the text is open to a wide variety of interpretations. The beginning is a famous quote that provides a good example:The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.The name that can be named is not the eternal name.There is an important thought conveyed in those two lines that loses its' meaning if you try to reduce it to an objective fact.On the other hand the following lines are simple good advice about how to live your life.In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.In speech, be true.In ruling, be just.In business, be competent.In action, watch the timing.One of the author's favorite devices is the use of contradictions to express an idea.When the Tao is present in the universe,The horses haul manure.When the Tao is absent from the universe,War horses are bred outside the city.The Tao Te Ching is eighty-one verses and each time I read it I discover something new. For me that is the hallmark of a truly great book. The edition I have is filled with full page pictures and has the original Chinese on the opposite page from the translation.
  • (3/5)
    It didn't really explain WHAT Tao is. Maybe it was just my translation, but when the whole explanation of Tao is that ~those who know about don't talk about it, and those that talk about it, don't know about it~ isn't particularly helpful.
  • (3/5)
    The basic text of Taoism that was very influential in subsequent ancient Chinese philosophical and religious beliefs. Worth reading for a very different perspective on existence.
  • (3/5)
    Overall Ames and Hall translate the Dao well and provide some useful commentary. I skipped most of the commentary because it was a bit simple and didn't always provide insightful information. However, as a beginning translation, Ames and Hall provide an easy to read and well written introductory text on the Eastern philosophy of the Dao.
  • (4/5)
    First time I've read the Tao Te Ching. Simple but profound advice for living. Simple to understand translation and the annotations and explanations are clear and helpful.
  • (4/5)
    The Tao Te Ching or Daodejing is a classic Chinese text that traditionally is said to go back to the 6th Century BCE, and written by Lao Tzu, a figure whose historicity is in dispute. According to the Wikipedia, texts of it have been excavated that go back to the 4th Century BCE. Some introductions to editions claim Lao Tzu was a teacher of Confucius, but other authorities I've checked think Taoism was a reaction to Confucianism, and that the text dates later than Confucius, to the time of the "five warring states." If you have a fat book on your hands, it must be filled with commentary, notes or illustrations, because the entire work is extremely short, consisting of 81 brief verses. In the edition I own translated by D.C. Lau, the Introduction is half as long than the text. This is the entirely of Chapter 6, in the Derek Lin translation, which can be found online: The valley spirit, undying Is called the Mystic Female The gate of the Mystic Female Is called the root of Heaven and Earth It flows continuously, barely perceptible Utilize it; it is never exhaustedAs that demonstrates, the meaning isn't always clear, at least to this Westerner, even if you have some familiarity with Taoism from other sources. There's a lot of paradox, opposites juxtaposed, and as the introduction to my owned edition states, the text is often "succinct to the point of obscurity." And as a philosophy, well, these aren't connected arguments. They're more the collected wisdom sayings of a common philosophical movement and not meant to be breezed through cover to cover. Yet even from my first read I found this enjoyable to read, and filled with pithy little words of wisdom: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." (Chapter 64) And especially on a repeat read I can see why some in the libertarian movement embrace it. Note Chapter 57 (Derek Lin) Govern a country with upright integrity Deploy the military with surprise tactics Take the world with non-interference How do I know this is so? With the following: When there are many restrictions in the world The people become more impoverished When people have many sharp weapons The country becomes more chaotic When people have many clever tricks More strange things occur The more laws are posted The more robbers and thieves there are Therefore the sage says: I take unattached action, and the people transform themselves I prefer quiet, and the people right themselves I do not interfere, and the people enrich themselves I have no desires, and the people simplify themselvesThis is reflected in several other verses and I've seen this described as the "Wu=Wei" principle, which has influenced both libertarians such as Murray Rothbard and the Cato Institute's David Boaz and Left-anarchists such as Ursula LeGuin, who wrote a translation I recently saw in the neighborhood bookstore. There's a whole shelf full of different translations of this book, a marker of the worldwide and deep historical influence of the book--which has links to both Confucianism and Buddhism--that makes this worth reading and trying to understand. I'd compare different translations to find one that's congenial, since different translators render very different readings. Wayist Org and TaoTeChingMe.com have pages online comparing various translations.
  • (5/5)
    I read this more than 10 years ago for a comparative religion class and keep coming back to it. I can't really comment on the translation since I don't know Chinese but certainly in this form it contains many pithy truths.
  • (3/5)
    I'm rereading this on my PDA on my walk across Japan (the book itself is a beautiful object, well laid out and full of nicely reproduced classic Chinese paintings, but too heavy to be carrying). I've been surprised how much I'm getting out of it, even though I've read it dozens of times. The lessons it speaks of are being hammered into my bones every day on the road.A lot of people seem to dislike Mitchell's translation because it isn't written in faux "Confucius say" speak, or because it isn't a literal translation that is painful to read and incomprehensible without a thousand footnotes about ancient Chinese culture. Instead, it is written in plain modern English, simple and smooth like a river stone. It might not be the best translation -- though, when it comes to the Tao Te Ching, multiple translations and footnotes should be read to get a real feel for and understanding of the text -- but this one is definitely my favourite. Compare these translations of the beginning of Chapter 8:The highest goodness, water-like,Does good to everything and goesUnmurmuring to places men despise;But so, is close in nature to the Way.The highest excellence is like (that of) water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving (to the contrary), the low place which all men dislike. Hence (its way) is near to (that of) the Tao.The supreme good is like water,which nourishes all things without trying to.It is content with the low places that people disdain.Thus it is like the Tao.Which of these is the best translation? I don't know, but I know I prefer to read the one that flows clearly like water.
  • (5/5)
    I own and have read many translations of the Tao Te Ching, but this one is by far my favorite. Written in plain, common sense English, it renders the difficult philosophy accessible and easier to understand.
  • (4/5)
    To say that this classic is obtuse is an understatement, but it remains one of the most influential works in forming my personal philosophy.