The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-Te Ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi

The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-Te Ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi

The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-Te Ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi

The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-Te Ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi

Synopsis

The essential Taoist book and one of a triad that make up the most influential religious and philosophical writings of Chinese tradition, the Tao-te Ching is the subject of hundreds of new interpretive studies each year. As Taoism emerges as one of the East Asian philosophies most interesting to Westerners, an accessible new edition of this great work -- written for English-language readers, yet rendered with an eye toward Chinese understanding -- has been much needed by scholars and general readers.

Richard John Lynn, whose recent translation of the I Ching was hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as "the best I Ching that has so far appeared," presents here another fine translation. Like his I Ching, this volume includes the interpretive commentary of the third-century scholar Wang Bi (226-249), who wrote the first and most sophisticated commentary on the Tao-te Ching.

Lynn's introduction explores the centrality of Wang's commentaries in Chinese thought, the position of the Tao-te Ching in East Asian tradition, Wang's short but brilliant life, and the era in which he lived. The text consists of eighty-one short, aphoristic sections presenting a complete view of how the sage rules in accordance with the spontaneous ways of the natural world. Although the Tao-te Ching was originally designed to provide advice to the ruler, the Chinese regard its teachings as living and self-cultivation tools applicable to anyone. Wang Bi's commentaries, following each statement, flesh out the text so that it speaks to the modern Western reader as it has to Asians for more than seventeen centuries.

Excerpt

The Sayings of the Old Master (Laozi), or Classic of the Way and Virtue (Daode jing), consists of eighty-one short aphoristic sections, that, though self-contained, often refer to each other and as a whole present a consistent and integrated view of how the sage rules the world in accordance with the spontaneous way of the Natural (ziran zhi dao). Although the text is traditionally attributed to Li Er, a keeper of the archives of the state of Chu in southeast China, whose style name or family/personal name (zi) was Dan and who was supposedly a contemporary of Confucius (551–479 B.C.E.), it is likely that it dates from sometime during the fourth century B.C.E. and should be regarded as of anonymous, probably composite authorship. The Daode jing might reflect a tradition of thought founded by someone called the “Old Master,” who might have lived as early as the time of Confucius, and this “Old Master” might be identified with Li Er or Li Dan. But there is no proving any of this.

The Laozi, or Daode jing, is one of the two foundation texts of Daoist philosophy in China, the other being the Zhuangzi (Sayings of Master Zhuang), which preserves the tradition of thought associated with Zhuang Zhou (369–286 B.C.E). The two texts have a very different emphasis, however: whereas the Laozi is primarily addressed to the ruler who would be a sage-king and is mainly concerned with achieving the good society through harmony with nature, the Zhuangzi is contemptuous of rulership— in theory or practice—and indifferent to social life in general and instead focuses almost exclusively on personal self-realization . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.