Tao Te Ching
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 theI 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 , 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.
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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. Have doubts regarding this product?
Post your question. What differences there are, however, highlight the flexibility with which the text can be interpreted. Foremost among the components that alters the reading is the fact that ancient Chinese used no punctuation and the Daodejing did not show where sentence ends and another begins.
Here the silk manuscripts have been of tremendous importance, since they do include the grammatical particles that separate the sentences. Whereas the language of Mencius 4th century BC , for example, is both lucid and explicit, the Daodejing takes the terseness and ambiguity of which Chinese is capable to the extreme.
This in turn has given rise to an enormous body of commentaries and expositions.
From as early as the first century AD, Chinese have read the Daodejing accompanied by less or more extensive commentaries that aim to apply the mystical pronouncements on harmony with the unseen to everyday life in both the personal and political spheres. Some sought in the Daodejing a quest for immortality, making of Laozi a god-like religious figure around which sprang a cult of spiritual and physical alchemy.
Others approached the Daodejing as a cosmological interpretation of the nature of reality, where change and constancy are attributed to a single power that without striving brings all in harmony. Considered as one of the most precocious geniuses in the history of Chinese thought, Wang Bi - AD in his short life achieved a reputation as a superlative interpreter of the Dao and wrote commentaries on the I Ching and the Daodejing which remain unsurpassed. Although written in a sophisticated language, his commentaries have enjoyed the support, through two millennia, of the intellectual elite who sought in the Daodejing a guiding principle for their lives and an understanding of the nature of being: an ontological to use the philosophical label rather than a religious or cosmological approach.
Apart from punctuating the text, in itself a means of making the Daodejing clearer, Wang Bi brings out the more precise meaning of passages by rephrasing them and offering interpretative comments.
Richard John Lynn's translation of Wang Bi's Daodejing is not the first to appear in English, but it is probably the most scholarly and rigorous study dedicated to it. The use of a sophisticated and precise language reflects, in part, the learned style of Wang Bi. What is less felicitous, however, is the extent to which Professor Lynn has translated the text of the Daodejing based on the commentaries. As stated in the sub-title, this is a Laozi as interpreted by Wang Bi, but one would have hoped for a translation which took a middle-path, retaining some of the contrast of the Chinese original where there is a definite shift in style between the text and the commentaries which follow each passage.
Any attempt to grasp the un-graspable ultimately leads to a language where words totter on the brink of self-destruction; that they do not disintegrate totally is what make the Daodejing so appealing a text to Chinese and Western readers alike. Wang Bi's precise and lucid commentaries do not dispel the mystery, but encourage the reader to probe further by taking the Dao as model: the way that "leads but does not drag you there.
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