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Tao Te Ching

Product no.: 0-14-044131-X
Arguably, D.C. Lau's fluid translation from the '60s remains the best of the bunch.

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Publisher's Synopsis

Contemplating the remarkable natural world, Lao Tzu (6th century BC) felt that it was man and his activities which constituted a blight on the otherwise perfect order of things. Thus he counseled people to turn away from the folly of human pursuits and to return to one's natural wellspring.

The central vehicle of achieving tranquility was the Tao, a term which has been translated as the way or the path. Te in this context refers to virtue and Ching refers to laws. Thus the Tao Te Ching could be translated as The Law (or Canon) of Virtue and it's Way.

The Taoists rejected the Confucian attempts to regulate life and society and counseled instead to turn away from it to a solitary contemplation of nature. They believed that by doing so one could ultimately harness the powers of the universe. By doing nothing one could accomplish everything. The formulation follows these lines:

The Taoist sage has no ambitions, therefore he can never fail. He who never fails always succeeds. And he who always succeeds is all-powerful.

"The power of the ­Lao-­tzu’s imagery and, ultimately, the simplicity of its message seem to be able to overcome the problems of language and of distance in time and place, so that at the end of the twentieth century, this has become one of the most influential of texts, cherished by people in all walks of life throughout the world."       ~Sarah Allan, Burlington Northern Foundation Professor of Asian Studies

"A man of the highest virtue does not keep to virtue and that is why he has virtue.
A man of the lowest virtue never strays from virtue and that is why he is without virtue.
The former never acts yet leaves nothing undone.
The latter acts but there are things left undone.

A man of the highest benevolence acts, but from no ulterior motive.
A man of the highest rectitude acts, but from ulterior motive.
A man most conversant in the rites acts, but when no one responds rolls up his sleeves and resorts to persuasion by force.

Hence when the way was lost there was virtue;
When virtue was lost there was benevolence;
When benevolence was lost there was rectitude;
When rectitude was lost there were the rites.

The rites are the wearing thin of loyalty and good faith
And the beginning of disorder;
Foreknowledge is the flowery embellishment of the way
And the beginning of folly.

Hence the man of large mind abides in the thick not in the thin, in the fruit not in the flower.

Therefore he discards the one and takes the other."

~Verse 38


D.C. Lau taught Chinese philosophy at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London Univeristy from 1950. In 1965 he was appointed to a readership in Chinese Philosophy, and in 1970 as Chair Professor of Chinese at London University. In 1978 he returned to Hong Kong to take up the chair of Chinese Language and Literature at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he is now Emeritus Professor.

His translations of Tao te Ching, Mencius, and The Analects of Confucius were published as Penguin Classics between the 1960s and the 1970s.

Author Tzu, Lao
Translator Lau, D.C.
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 192 pp.
Publisher Penguin Classics 1963
Gold Medal

Gold Medal


  Gold Medal Essential Reading

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