Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Perennial Classics)

Tao Te Ching: A New English Version - Laozi, Stephen Mitchell 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 exhausted As 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 themselves This 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.