Tao Te Ching (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Tao Te Ching (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

 

Epigrammatic, enigmatic, intensely poetic, the Tao Te Ching is the mystical, spiritual soul of Taoism, one of the three great religions (along with Confucianism and Buddhism) of ancient China. The Tao is usually translated as “the way” or “the path,” but it is better understood as a universal life force that flows around and through all things. The Tao Te Ching teaches us that happiness is found in becoming one with the Tao, which enables us to live in harmony, balance, and peace and to develop the virtues of humility, moderation, and compassion.

Taoism emphasizes “non-dualistic” thinking and the interconnectedness of all life. The “dualistic thinker” looks at the world and sees differences, comparisons, and contrasts. The Taoist sage knows that all such judgments depend on the person making them, not on the reality of what is being judged. Unlike theistic (God-centered) religions, Taoism does not involve prayer to a deity. Instead, Taoists meditate on the wisdom in the Tao Te Ching, seeking to unravel the paradoxes and understand the complexities that lie within its simple language.

Yi-Ping Ong graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Columbia University and a second B.A. in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford University. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Philosophy at Harvard.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781411433243
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2009
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 104,200
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

Yi-Ping Ong graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Columbia University and a second B.A. in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford University. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Philosophy at Harvard.

Read an Excerpt

From Yi-Ping Ong’s Introduction to Tao Te Ching

The Tao Te Ching is one of the most widely translated classics of all time and is without doubt the most widely translated work in Chinese. From East to West, generations of readers have marveled at its mystical yet simple profundity. It is considered to be the single most important text of Taoism. However, the question of how exactly it should be classified does not admit of a clear answer. Is the Tao Te Ching a book of ethics? Is it a religious text? Is it philosophical, especially given its focus on the deepest and truest way of seeing reality? Or is it, in fact, a work of literary genius—playful, poetic, paradoxical? No doubt the text has aspects of each and can be enjoyed for its poetry no less than for its reflections on human affairs, life, the universe, and the nature of the good. Nevertheless, one might wonder if there is an essential message to the Tao Te Ching and whether, as a consequence, there is a genre to which this message belongs.

Many have called it a book of wisdom, part of the so-called “wisdom tradition” that predates any single religion and that finds expression in texts as disparate as the Bhagavad Gita, the Socratic dialogues, and the biblical book of Proverbs. These works typically extol the study of both virtue and the obstacles to virtue; they attempt to reveal the path to right relations between humans, and to right relations between humans and the universe. Like the Tao Te Ching, these texts often focus on two primary methods by which one can acquire a deeper knowledge of virtue: gaining self-knowledge and rejecting worldly aims and standards. However, if the Tao Te Ching is to be thought of as a book of wisdom, what sense can be made of its attacks on wisdom and virtue? “Get rid of ‘holiness’ and abandon ‘wisdom’ and the people will benefit a hundredfold,” it proclaims (chapter 19). And in another passage, on the incommensurability of the Tao and virtue, we are told: “True virtue is not virtuous / Therefore it has virtue. / Superficial virtue never fails to be virtuous / Therefore it has no virtue” (chapter 38).

Upon encountering passages such as these, even the most dedicated reader may feel a temptation to reinterpret or simplify away the ensuing confusion. However, before dismissing these paradoxes as senseless, or relegating them to the level of mere word play, we must go back to the beginning—the beginning of the text, that is. There we are told, “The Tao that can be followed is not the eternal Tao. / The name that can be named is not the eternal name” (chapter 1). The internal resistance of the text itself to categorization, especially as a work that attempts to teach the nature of virtue in a way that can be “named” or “followed,” is no accident.

As with most texts that are as ancient as the Tao Te Ching, there remains some controversy over both the historical dating of the work and the biographical details of its author, Lao Tzu. The traditional view dates the text back to the sixth century B.C., largely on the basis of accounts describing a meeting between Confucius and Lao Tzu. These accounts describe Lao Tzu as an older man who is a contemporary of the younger Confucius (551–479 B.C.). However, reports of the supposed meeting were not accepted as tradition until the middle of the third century B.C., thus rendering their authority somewhat doubtful. Most modern scholars agree that the Tao Te Ching emerged in the late fourth century or early third century, about 2,500 years ago. In fact, stone tablets dated to around 300 B.C. have been found engraved with recognizable fragments of the text. Such a date would place the writing of the text at the height of one of the most intellectually productive times in Chinese history, known as the “Hundred Schools of Thought.” During this time a multitude of philosophies were developed and a rich culture of intellectual debate flourished. Besides Taoism, other schools such as Confucianism, Legalism, and Mohism gave rise to the central classical texts that were to exert a great influence on Chinese thought over the next two millennia.

The name “Lao Tzu” was not the personal name of the author, but one bestowed upon him out of respect: “Lao” means “old” or “venerable,” and “Tzu” is an honorific term attached to the names of scholars that can be roughly translated as “master.” Very little was recorded about the actual life of Lao Tzu, and consequently there is much disagreement regarding his historical existence. Although he is mentioned on scrolls dating as far back as 400 B.C., many have attributed this appearance in the historical record to mere legend. Indeed, the legends surrounding the life of Lao Tzu are truly fantastic. The historian Ssu-ma Ch’ien, author of the Shih chi (Records of the Historian), reports claims that Lao Tzu lived to more than two hundred years of age! Other legends maintain that he was born with white hair. According to Taoist tradition, he was an archivist who worked in the imperial library of the Zhou Dynasty court. It was there that he supposedly met Confucius, who had come to inquire about propriety and rites. Lao Tzu proceeded to dazzle him with his deep insight into the meaninglessness of these basic tenets of Confucian morality. According to this same story, Lao Tzu later resigned from his post in the Zhou court, then traveled west on a water buffalo to reach the great desert. He was stopped by a guard at the westernmost gate. This guard demanded that Lao Tzu—who had never, until this point, written down a word of his teachings—leave a record of his wisdom before he departed forever into the desert. The result of this request was the Tao Te Ching.

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Tao Te Ching 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 126 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a veru interesting book, but a reread (or three) may be needed to fully understand it.
AlbertWang More than 1 year ago
I am a Chinese. I like Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching or Tao Te Sutra very much. I searched and read many English translations, but I was always not very satisfied with their translations comparing the original Chinese meanings. After I read this book, I think it is the most faithful and satisfying English version. The translator understood Lao Tzu completely and never gave excess transcendental meanings. I am wondering who is translator of this book, why there is no introduction and the biography of the translator'? I really appreciate if who can tell me the translator with his biography.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although the introduction to this edition of the Tao Te Ching is not accurate, I highly recommend this ancient text to all seeking a higher understanding and approach to experiencing life itself. Known as an integral part of understanding Tao (or, 'the way') its purpose is well served through a series of odd paradoxes and other thought exercises. These are designed to impart a sense of higher wisdom and humaneness.
everyoneandeveryone More than 1 year ago
This book is mostly cultural. not so modern to think of. but its content are amazing. for example: "...he who knows himself is wise..." this is in fact a relevant sentence. the book contains many more principles of life, and tend to give encouragement to these who feel weak because of the way people's moral are in today's world. very educational. its just like a book of proverbs. Fiknd your way in life, but don't forget to think of others.
Anonymous 21 days ago
The translation says "the sage" is a "she", I would at least have liked to see a note defending this strange decision.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read this a few times over now. And it's helped me find a kind of clarity every time I read it. It may not make sense to you at first, but after reading it, I started noticing a correlation between the writings and the world around me. I return to this text every time I encounter trials in my life. After, I find a realization of what is and isn't. Read it and the other Taoist classics, and hopefully you to will find clarity in your life as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a standard late 19th century translation by James Legge. The text is easy to read but the Artwork sets it apart. The reproductions are of good quality with the frequent guttering of images being the only complaint; this is the one thing that always flaws an otherwise excellent book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think a lot more people should read this book because it helps people see clearer. Young people should really read this not as a required book but as a book that can help them into their journey into adulthood.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a fun and happy presentation of the Tao Te Ching with good translations. I would definately recommend it as both a piece of literature and art. It's the kind of book that sparks conversation on a coffee table. Peace.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very good translation. Although there are several minor mistakes, all the basic concepts of Taoism philosophy are correctly translated. If you are interested in Taoism, this book is recommended. The problem of this book is, for general public it is a little too academic.
beau.p.laurence on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this version. very poetic translation yet retains the simplicity and meaning
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
adeptmagic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
beautiful writing for anyone, not just those interested in oriental philosophy
heidialice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Pattern-chaser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Daoist classic of oriental wisdom. Not easy to appreciate without help....
jolyon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Still the best, overall. Have had this for 30 years and it never palls.
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