Tao Te Ching
Tao Te Ching
The Lao tzu has had an influence on Chinese thought through the ages out of all proportion to its length. It is often referred to as 'the book of five thousand characters', though, in fact, in most versions it is slightly longer than that. It is a short work even allowing for the fact that ancient Chinese was a very concise language and that the particular style in which it was written is more often than not succinct to the point of obscurity. If the Lao tzu is widely read in China as the classic in the thought of Taoism, it is no less well known to the West through a long line of translators. In English alone there are well over thirty translations. The Lao tzu is, without a doubt, by far the most frequently translated work in Chinese, but unfortunately it cannot be said that it has been best served by its numerous translators, as the nature of the work attracted many whose enthusiasm for Eastern mysticism far outstripped their acquaintance with Chinese thought or even with the Chinese language.
The text of the Lao tzu is divided into two books. This was done probably simply to conform to the statement in the biography of Lao Tzu that he wrote a work in two books at the request of the Keeper of the Pass. At any rate, the division into two books goes at least as far back as the first century A.D. We have reason to believe that the present division into eighty- one chapters -- thirty-seven in Book I and forty-four in Book II -- also goes back to that time. By the end of the second century A.D., the work was also known by the alternative title of the Tao te ching. More specifically, Book I was known as the Tao ching, and Book II the Te ching. This practice seems to have . . .