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Dao De Jing

Dao De Jing

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Dao De Jing

4.5/5 (60 ratings)
320 pages
4 hours
May 7, 2019

May 7, 2019

About the author

Moss Roberts is Professor of Chinese at New York University. He has translated the classic novel Three Kingdoms, published by University of California Press in both unabridged (California, 1991, 2000, copublished with Foreign Languages Press) and abridged (California, 1999) editions. He is also the editor and translator of Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies (1979).

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Inside the book

Top quotes

  • For Laozi, zi is the self as an individuated, objective other: to be viewed but not altered (stanzas 1 and 14). For the Confucians, shen is the self as a social instrument for molding the other in order to suit itself.

  • To Daoists ming is the power of the natural mind, while zhi refers to educated and hence artificial judgment (stanza 33). Confucians, however, value zhi over ming.

  • In its ethical application Daoism teaches selfsubordination and frugality and warns of the selfdefeating consequences of assertiveness and aggrandizement, whether political, military, or personal.

  • Water is adaptable but unchanging, always itself, unitary; it does not become its opposite, though it may alter all it touches.

  • COMMENTThe valley (gu) is a complex symbol. It suggests death and night as well as female; hence regeneration.

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Dao De Jing - Laozi

Dao De Jing



The Philip E. Lilienthal imprint

honors special books

in commemoration of a man whose work

at University of California Press from 1954 to 1979

was marked by dedication to young authors

and to high standards in the field of Asian Studies.

Friends, family, authors, and foundations have together

endowed the Lilienthal Fund, which enables UC Press

to publish under this imprint selected books

in a way that reflects the taste and judgment

of a great and beloved editor.

Dao De Jing

The Book of the Way


Translation and Commentary by Moss Roberts


University of California Press, one of the most distinguished university presses in the United States, enriches lives around the world by advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Its activities are supported by the UC Press Foundation and by philanthropic contributions from individuals and institutions. For more information, visit www.ucpress.edu.

University of California Press

Oakland, California

© 2001, 2019 by The Regents of the University of California

ISBN 978-0-520-30557-1 (pbk : alkaline paper)

ISBN 978-0-520-97359-6 (ebook)

The Library of Congress has cataloged an earlier edition of this book as follows:

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Roberts, Moss, 1937–

Dao de jing : the book of the way / translation and commentary by Moss Roberts.


ISBN 978-0-24221-0 (pbk : alkaline paper)

1. Laozi. Dao de jing.I. Laozi. Dao de jing. English.II. Title.

BL1900.L35 R6282001


Manufactured in the United States of America

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IT WAS THE LATE PROFESSOR C.N. TAY who suggested that I try my hand at a translation of the Dao De Jing. Professor Tay was a friend, a colleague, and a mentor, and I was enthusiastic at the prospect of working with him on this project. Suddenly, on Easter Sunday 1994, Professor Tay passed away. Work on the project had hardly begun; my hopes for a sustained collaboration vanished. I resolved to continue with the translation, in part as a mark of my respect for his memory.

Other unexpected and keenly felt personal losses soon followed. Professor Eric Holtzman died that same month, and then in January of the following year Professor Bernard Fields, a friend since high school, passed away. Another close friend, Leo Cawley, a Vietnam veteran, had died of bone cancer at the age of forty-seven in 1991.

Three variants of the Dao De Jing have been found buried in tombs: the Guodian text in a Warring States tomb dated to about 300 B.C., and in a Han tomb at Mawangdui, two texts that date to about 200 B.C. The version published by Fu Yi, a scholar of the Tang period, is also based on a Han tomb text. It is likely that more Dao De Jing manuscripts will be excavated. At whose behest was the Dao De Jing buried, and with what thought in mind? Was it intended as a comfort to the dead? A spiritual companion among the more practical and ornamental grave goods usually found? Was it seen as a work devoted to the fecund earth mother, which creates all living things and receives them again? Or was the text entombed as a consolation for the living, its meditations on mortality and time and on the passage from shadow to light to shadow (and to the light again?) serving as a bridge to the other realm?

Working on the translation became for me a way of keeping close to lost friends whose companionship I had shared over the better part of a lifetime. In 1999, another noted scholar, John S. Service, passed away. I was privileged to have had a warm relationship with him in the last decade of his life, and I benefited from his thoughtful observations on China and on America. It is to these five friends and scholars that this translation is dedicated.

In 1993, about the time I began thinking about how to approach this project, the Warring States Working Group was getting organized under the leadership of the research team of Professor E. Bruce Brooks and Taeko Brooks. These two scholars had been studying and analyzing the entire Warring States corpus for several decades. With the collaboration of Professor Alvin Cohen at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the Brookses summoned into being a new and exciting regional symposium on a wealth of topics relevant to the history of Warring States texts. The group provided a much-needed focus for research work and free-wheeling discussion and has now become an important national and international forum. I was fortunate to have been present at the creation of the group and to have participated in many of its meetings and other activities, and my association with it was quite helpful to my research. I would also like to express appreciation for the indirect but significant contribution of my colleagues at New York University. The senior and junior scholars in our East Asian program have created an intellectual environment that I have found stimulating. Their generous collegiality and energizing spirit of free inquiry have often lifted my own spirits; but beyond that, they have served as a trustworthy point of reference against which to correct one’s angle of vision on a wide range of questions. Many a time they have made me think again.

Another person I would like to thank is Professor Fang Ping. In the fall of 1995 I spent a semester at Shanghai Teachers University teaching English. During that time I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Professor Fang, who is the main living translator of Shakespeare into Chinese. I would like to thank him for reading over a number of my stanzas and for his valuable suggestions on interpretation and style.

My thanks go to my two editors at University of California Press. Doug Abrams encouraged me to pursue this project and spent countless hours trying to put my drafts into presentable shape and discussing with me strategies for the introduction and the translation. His faith in the outcome has been in constant conflict with my own skepticism. Reed Malcolm has skillfully guided the manuscript through its later stages. Carolyn Bond’s careful copyediting caught many minor errors, and I thank her for that. But more importantly, she acted as a conscientious and constructive colleague: her persistent and pointed queries often prompted me to rethink and rewrite parts of the translation and the critical apparatus.

My final word of appreciation is to my family: my wife, Florence, whose untiring service as an attorney for the poorer citizens of New York City sustains my faith in human decency, and our children, Sean and Jenny, who have followed her example and in so doing set an example of their own.






Selected Bibliography


Moss Roberts

THE POEMS AND SAYINGS of the mysterious book of wisdom called Dao De Jing have powerfully affected many aspects of Chinese philosophy, culture, and society. In the realm of aesthetics the idea of Dao, or the Way, a transcendent natural principle working through all things, has inspired artists and poets who have sought to represent nature in its raw wholeness or have depicted vast landscapes within which human structures and pathways, overwhelmed by mists, mountain faces, and water vistas, hold a tiny and precarious place. With regard to personal spiritual cultivation Daoism offers techniques of concentration and self-control, while in the realm of physiology the Daoist theory of natural cycles points toward systems of internal circulation and techniques of rejuvenation.¹ In its ethical application Daoism teaches self-subordination and frugality and warns of the self-defeating consequences of assertiveness and aggrandizement, whether political, military, or personal.

In the realm of governance political theorists influenced by Laozi have advocated humility in leadership and a restrained and concessive approach to statecraft, either for ethical and pacifist reasons or for tactical ends. The well-known line that opens stanza 60, Rule a great state as you cook a small fish, has been used in China and in the West as an argument for a light touch in governing: the Way creates sufficient order. In a different political context, one mediated by legalist theories of government, a transcendent Way has served to legitimate state builders in constructing impersonal institutions and formulating all-powerful laws. Indeed the marriage of the Way with law (fa) is one of the earliest transformations and adaptations of Laozi’s thought.² On the popular level, by contrast, various anti-authoritarian movements have embraced the Dao De Jing’s teachings on the power of the weak.

Thus the Dao De Jing, in the world of philosophy a small kingdom in its own right, has spawned diverse schools of thought, and these have elaborated upon and spread widely the original teachings—often in ways that might have surprised or distressed their creator.

The Dao De Jing has so wide a compass that it is difficult to think of a comparable work in the Western canon. Passages on nature’s patterns of motion and their indifference to man’s purposes may evoke for a Western reader themes and language found in Lucretius and his model, Epicurus. If some stanzas concerning statecraft and tactical maneuver suggest Machiavelli, others suggest Gandhi, who personified in his leadership principled humility, minimal struggle, and simplicity of lifestyle. For some readers Laozi’s aphorisms and resigned reflections on human life may evoke lines in Ecclesiastes or Proverbs. Comparisons have also been made with Thoreau’s warnings about economic overdevelopment and government.

With so many English versions of the Dao De Jing, why another? There is much of value in most of the English translations, but each is only partially successful. The synergy of the work’s themes as well as the concision of its phrasing make many of its stanzas so ambiguous and suggestive that definitive interpretation, much less translation, has often proved unattainable. Rendering in another language a work that says so much in so few words, and about whose meanings scholars differ greatly, can only be problematic. Even in Chinese, many Dao De Jing passages seem like paintings of striking detail that compel the gaze but always remain partly out of focus. Each translator tries to refine the images or to find fresh language to capture the power of Laozi’s gnomic lines. In the end, however, the only justification I can offer for a new attempt is that it is meant not only to improve but also to be improved upon. The cumulative effect of multiple translations contributes to the understanding of the Laozi, just as the ongoing performance tradition of musical works yields new possibilities of expression and appreciation.

What this version seeks is, first, to bring out the Dao De Jing’s political and polemical purposes by situating it in the context of the philosophical debates that raged from the time of Confucius down to the unification of the empire in 221 B.C. Second, it attempts to reproduce the condensed aphoristic force of Laozi’s style, the appeal of his intriguing and often indeterminate syntax, and the prevalence of rhymed verse in his original. Unlike most translators, I have avoided relying on prose. Third, in the comments and notes to the stanzas I have included material from recently discovered texts—the two Mawangdui versions, which were published in 1973, and the Guodian version, published in 1998. In this way the reader can learn something about the differences between versions of the text and weigh for himself or herself the significance of the variations in wording and, perhaps more importantly, the differences in the actual number and sequence of the stanzas.³

For example, according to the research of one of the leading contemporary Laozi scholars, Yin Zhenhuan, it is likely that the true number of individual stanzas is not eighty-one but as many as 112, some of which, like passages in the Analects, are only four or eight words long.⁴ For convenience of reference and for the sake of continuity, however, the traditional order of eighty-one is followed in this translation. Ornaments indicate probable stanza divisions within a conventional stanza.


The title Dao De Jing may be translated "Canonical text (jing) on the Way (Dao) and virtue (de)." But this now-universal title did not become widely used until the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618–905), when Laozi was officially regarded as a divine guardian of the dynasty. Laozi is the older title, going back almost to the creation of the text. Although scholars now generally use the two titles interchangeably, Dao De Jing suggests an established classic in the Chinese philosophical tradition, while Laozi is more modest—the words of Master Lao, perhaps. Like the Mozi, the Guanzi, the Mencius, and other titles for writings and records collected under the name of a central figure, Laozi suggests a historical document and its original context rather than a canonical work. To reflect the difference between the two titles, in the present work Dao De Jing is more frequently, albeit not exclusively, used in the introduction, and Laozi in the comments. It is an open question how pleased the self-effacing Laozi would have been to see his little book classified as a jing—or for that matter himself as a divinity.

The Dao De Jing has come down to us in eighty-one stanzas, a form set slightly before the Christian era began; stanzas 1–37 constitute the first half, stanzas 38–81 the second. Although there are several versions, they are not dramatically different from one another. Two of the versions are named after their scholarly annotators, the Heshang gong Laozi and the Wang Bi Laozi. A third, the Fu Yi Laozi, is named for the Tang-dynasty Daoist scholar who published a text unearthed in A.D. 574 from a Han tomb dating from about 200 B.C.⁵ Present-day scholars usually call the current common text the received text to distinguish it from recently discovered manuscripts.

The first of these new discoveries was made in 1973 at Mawangdui in the tomb of an official’s son; that tomb has been dated to 168 B.C. The Mawangdui Laozi was published in 1976. Inscribed on silk, it consists of two texts, A and B, the former dating from about 205–190 B.C., the latter slightly later. These two texts differ from the received version in significant details, but the only major structural difference is that they begin with chapter 38 and end with chapter 37. In other words, the second half of the text comes before the first. Found together with Laozi A and B was a rich trove of political and cosmological documents that have been called the Huangdi sijing, or the Four Classics of the Yellow Emperor.

The Guodian Laozi, inscribed on bamboo slips, was found in 1993 and published in 1998.⁷ The text was unearthed from a royal tutor’s tomb at Guodian, near the city of Ying, the capital of the southern kingdom of Chu. This area contains many graves, and fresh discoveries can be expected. Like the Mawangdui Laozi, the Guodian Laozi was found as part of a trove of related works of politics and cosmology. All of them are works of established importance and so were probably written well before the time of their burial, approximately 300 B.C. (No complete translation of the accompanying documents has appeared so far.)

The Guodian Laozi consists of only about two thousand characters, or 40 percent of the received version, covering in their entirety or in part only thirty-one of the received text’s stanzas. The order of the stanzas is utterly different from any later versions. Moreover, it is yet to be determined whether the Guodian Laozi represents a sample taken from a larger Laozi or is the nucleus of a later five-thousand-character Laozi. A current working hypothesis is that the Guodian Laozi should be attributed to Laozi, also called Lao Dan, a contemporary of Confucius who may have outlived him, and that the remainder, the non-Guodian text, was the work of an archivist and dates from around 375 B.C.

Let us leave the recent manuscript discoveries and turn to information on the Dao De Jing in texts long available. Most traditional Chinese scholars (and a number of modern ones as well) have held that the Laozi reflects substantially the time of Confucius, that is, the late sixth or early fifth century B.C., acknowledging occasional interpolations to account for anachronistic language suggesting a somewhat later period. Before the Guodian finds, many modern Chinese and Western scholars argued for a date ranging from the early fourth to the late third century B.C. because sightings of a Laozi in Chinese works of the third century B.C. are so fragmentary. One finds lines or partial stanzas, the authorship of which either is not indicated or is attributed to someone named Lao or Lao Dan; but this attribution is not systematic. The Zhuangzi, for example, is a Daoist text of the late fourth to early third century B.C. collected under the name of the philosophical recluse Zhuangzi. This work contains several Dao De Jing lines or partial stanzas. Sometimes these are attributed to Lao Dan, yet sometimes these quotations from Lao Dan say things that are not in the Laozi, though they are compatible with its ideas.

In the Zhuangzi and other contemporary texts we find references to the Shi, the Odes (later the Shijing), and the Shu, the Documents (later the Shujing), suggesting that these are titles for bodies of shorter works. But it is only in the Han Feizi, a compilation of writings on law and statecraft attributed to diplomat and strategist Han Feizi of the late third century B.C., that references to Laozi’s work suggest a substantial text; that is, the Han Feizi includes some Dao De Jing stanzas that are more or less complete. Han Feizi was influenced by Laozi, and he analyzes a number of stanzas in two of his chapters, Jie Lao and Yu Lao. Han Feizi’s discussion of stanza 38, for example, opens the Jie Lao. It was the absence of references to a recognizable oeuvre, Dao De Jing, prior to the Han Feizi that led many modern scholars, Chinese and Western, to conclude that the work took shape closer to the time of Han Feizi than to the time of Confucius. The Guodian finds of course suggest the opposite.

In the Han period (206 B.C.–A.D. 220) the writings attributed to Laozi were referred to as the Daode, the Laozi, or the Laozi jing. Dao

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What people think about Dao De Jing

60 ratings / 60 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    Good visuals for contemplation
  • (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)
    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)
    Just amazing.
  • (5/5)
    A classic for life.
  • (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.
  • (4/5)
    Review of Tao Te Ching: Annotated and Explained: I thought that this translation was quite readable, and I appreciated the facing-page commentary. I understand that the translator wanted to point out what distinguishes his translation from all the rest, but sometimes this came across as sniping at other translators. Still, this wouldn't be a bad first Tao Te Ching to read.
  • (5/5)
    Guidance I needed.
  • (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.
  • (5/5)
    This book version: First, it is beautiful with inspiring/matching Chinese artwork including a texture look. Secondly, love that this version has English text with the Chinese text for each chapter every two pages, with the Chinese in the correct vertical from right to left with extra bonus points that the Chinese is done in calligraphy style. Thirdly, a very long introduction proved to be very educational and fitting. Now, the ding – the translation is too casual, using modern language that I personally don’t like, at one point using words like “me, me, me” in reference to selfishness. Hmm, I can read a little bit of Chinese, and I can promise you that’s not what the original text reads! The quotes below should give more flavors of this.Tao Te Ching (TTC), when read with my modern metropolis city girl mind, instructs “The Way”, “The Virtue”, and the “The Coda” as a reminder to the simplicity of life, easily forgotten as we plow forward with our day-to-day to-do list. Contrary to Chapter 41 where “Those who think that the Way is easy will find it extremely hard”, I think the Way is hard and still find it extremely hard! TTC also depressed me a bit (true statement). If life is supposed to be following the way of ‘nothing’, then I sure have been working my ass off for no good reason. If wisdom and knowledge is to be condemned and vilified, then part of my identity is evil. The unspoken expectation, then and now, was simply always be ‘more’, quite not the ‘Tao’. Of course, I’m not taking TTC literally. The complexities of living do not readily allow for it. (Try and explain TTC to the IRS.) Instead, I take from it a few nuggets that are meaningful. Here’s an abbreviated list:Introduction: 1) “Wu-Wei doesn’t mean just sitting about doing nothing. It means ‘being’, it means being receptive, and it means going beyond our egos in what we do and how we do what we do.” 2) “I see the essence of the Tao as poetic, with all that implies, and all we still have to learn – to really be here, and to let go.”Ch1 (Start of Tao): “Following the nothingness of the Tao, and you can be like it, not needing anything, seeing the wonder and the root of everything.” --- Meaning that nothing is something.Ch 2: 1) “Neither future nor past can exist alone.” --- Acceptance and remembrance of who you were and who you have become. 2) “Life is made – and no one owns it.”Ch 20: Seek and want nothing. “What do the people want? Money and things. And yet I find I have nothing, and I don’t care. I am as unambitious as any fool.”Ch 28: Learn to yield, learn to bend, learn to think anew. “Understand the thrust of the yang – but be more like the yin in your being… Be like a stream… Be newborn – be free of yourself…” Ch 38 (Start of Te): Reminded me of leadership, a truly good leader. “A Man of Te rules by Wu-Wei, doing nothing for himself or of himself… A man who rules with compassion, acts through it – and no one even realizes.”Ch 44: “If you’re not always wanting, you can be at peace. And if you’re not always trying to be someone, you can be who you really are.”Ch 67: “I have three priceless treasures: Compassion, Thrift, Humility… These days people scorn compassion. They try to be tough. They spend all they have, and yet want to be generous. They despise humility, and want to be the best.”
  • (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.
  • (5/5)
    A very thorough and yet comprehensive translation and interpretation of Daodejing. Complete with a chapter discussing the text and its implications.
  • (5/5)
    beautiful writing for anyone, not just those interested in oriental philosophy
  • (5/5)
    Translating great works of spiritual literature has never been an easy task, or one without its controversy. Whether it is the Bible, which, in its preeminent King James Version is still riddled with inaccuracies, or the Koran, a text which is too holy to even have any such thing as an authoritative translation, one thing is certain: Religious texts are always a point of conflict among scholars, priests, and laymen.That said, Stephen Mitchell does an excellent job of providing a version of the Tao Te Ching for the layman.I say 'version' instead of 'translation' because Mitchell actually knows no Chinese. He does have the experience of a poet, being a translator of Rilke's work as well as other spiritual texts such as the Hinduist Baghavad Gita. And despite his lack of being a true translator, he is a practitioner of the Tao, and is familiar with Zen in a way that translators usually aren't. What makes this version of the Tao Te Ching different from others may be its poetic language. Mitchell's interpretation is a calm one, marked by simple, concise words that do not obscure the meaning of the text in any way. In the hands of a bad translator, the Tao would seem like the musings of an Eastern sophist, but in the hands of Mitchell, the Tao is easier to understand (to the extent it can be understood in words).Mitchell writes:Do you have the patience to waittill your mud settles and the water is clear?Can you remain unmovingtill the right action arises by itself?The prose reflects a stillness that is most appropriate to the Tao; it — in Mitchell's words — “makes the hidden present.”The Tao Te Ching can be read in many ways. To some, it is about the basic principles of the universe, the exploration of a idea neither secular nor religious. To others, it is a guide for rulers. Although primarily considered a spiritual reference, the Tao Te Ching can be used by statesman or other leaders. There are many passages in which an attractive governmental philosophy is espoused, one that is consistent with the Tao, which is neither tyrannically oppressive nor liberally excessive; it “hold[s] on to the center,” true to Taoist thought.The wisdom of Lao-tzu, his short masterpiece the Tao Te Ching, is covered by Mitchell in a modern, accessible way. It could be recommended to everyone but scholars looking for word-to-word translations. Mitchell puts a contemporary spin on the work without being irreverent, taking it into the twenty-first century gracefully. This old classic contains advice sorely needed in our time, and this new version shatters the myth that it can't be understood by the West. It can, and now more than ever.
  • (3/5)
    Pretty good, but the few poems I had encountered before reading this in its entirety proved to be the best of the bunch. Some are inspiring and beautifully written, while others are plainer - but that's to be expected of a work composed by a multitude of hands over many years. Really great ideas and values to reflect upon and try to keep in mind though, which is where this book earns most of its praise.
  • (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 something to be read cover to cover but as something to pick up occassionally and open randomly - then contemplate (or meditate) on what you've read. Some of the language has obviously been updated.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this version a lot. I am likely paraphrasing other reviewers when I say it is accessible, sensible, stylistic, and modern. Modern meaning it's been sanitized a bit more than most, for example "The Master doesn't seek fulfillment; Not seeking, not expecting; she is present, and can welcome all things. So use of the female and male 'tense'. Also missing some of the more abstract or even abstruse general metaphysical terms found in some translations. A good starter Tao for the first timer.
  • (4/5)
    The tao te ching is pound for pound the greatest spiritual work ever written. 81 short pages written thousands of years ago still pack a serious punch, and are scarily relevant. This translation is not my favorite, so I rated it 4 stars instead of 5.
  • (1/5)
    Philosophic fluff. Most of the good lines quoted something - from Shakespeare to Star Wars (not quotes exactly - evoke, more like). The glosses were interesting (why did Mitchell say it that way?) and amusing ("One gives birth to Two: Oy!"
  • (5/5)
    I've tried reading other translations of the Tao Te Ching, and gave up, baffled and unmoved. But Stephen Mitchell's translation is both beautiful and accessible, and I've found it resonates in a way no other version has. I'm grateful.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    "There was something undefined and complete, coming into extistence before Heaven and Earth. ... I do not know its name, and I give it the designation of the Tao (the way or course)." Thus wrote this ancient seer. And much more. A succinct guide to guide to the inner workings of 'life, the universe and all that,' - a hitchikers guide to the essential nature of creation. It's not what you think - instead, just get your striving ego out of the way, and let the Way flow into your life.
  • (5/5)
    By far my favourite translation of the Tao Te Ching; it's accesible, yet still retains extraordinary beauty.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    You will not find a better, more accessible translation of the Tao te Ching than this one. Mitchell's translation is a must read.
  • (5/5)
    The basic text of Taoism, filled with wisdom of the awareness of the Universe of the ancient Chinese.
  • (4/5)
    Daoist classic of oriental wisdom. Not easy to appreciate without help....