Different Versions of the Daodejing:
A Comparison with Special Consideration of
In 1993, a major excavation was made near the Chinese village of Guodianclose to the city of Jingmen in the province of Hubei Here, not far from where the capital city of the state of Chu Jingmencheng, was located in the times of the “Warring States,” a tomb of a member of the political elite of Chu had been discovered. On the basis of the characteristics of the tomb and the objects it contained, the site could be dated back to the time between the middle of the fourth and the beginning of the third century BCE.2
Despite the tomb’s having been subjected to robberies two times before its archaeological investigation, Chinese scientists were able to bring a number of objects to light of day. Among the discovered texts were several bamboo strips with fragments of the LaoziThus there was now, after the excavations in Mawangdui in the early 1970s, a second ancient manuscript of the Laozi—and the bamboo texts from Guodian are, seemingly, at least a century older than the silk manuscripts from Mawangdui, which stem back to early Han times.3
1. A German version of this appendix was published in 1999: “Verschiedene Versionen des Laozi. Ein Vergleich mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des 19. Kapitels,” Monumenta Serica 47: 285–302. I translate the original version of this article without commenting on scholarship in English that has since been published, most notably Robert G. Henricks, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching: A Translation of the Startling New Documents Found at Guodian (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).
2. See the report on the excavation published by the Museum of the City of Jingmen in the province of Hubei“Jingmen Guodian yi hao Chu mu” (Chu tomb no. 1 in Guodian, Jingmen), Wenwu 7 (1997): 35–48.
3. On dating the Mawangdui silk manuscripts, see Michael Friedrich, “Zur Datierung zweier Handschriften des Daode jing,” Text-Kritische Beiträge 2 (1996): 105–17.