'All things end in the Tao just as the small streams and the largest rivers flow through the valleys to the sea.'
The Tao Te Ching came into existence some 2,500 years ago, since when it has become the most influential text of Eastern philosophy. Best translated as The Classic of the Way and its Power (or Virtue), its teachings are of simplicity, humility, and 'non-action', and its cadenced poetry is at once spare and profound.
This beautifully illustrated slipcase edition features exquisite Chinese images that bring out the timeless wisdom of the text and it subtle guidance on how to live well.
That Which can be Said is not The Real Tao
The full identity of the historical figure known as Lao-tzu (6th Century BCE) whose writings have been looked upon as the basis for Taoism is unknown. This text, rendered in the traditional Chinese form of meaning laden compressed aphorisms is delightful to read. The paradoxes force us to consider several different sides of any given issue. The poetic text is rife with ambiguity, inference and hidden meanings. Acknowledging paradox is the only way of pushing philosophical and scientific problems nearer solution. Acknowledging paradox is intellectual sincerity. We need to assimilate Eastern notions of identity, paradox, and mystery (if I can use a bad word) into our Western magisterium of science.The traditional interpretation of this text is that it was written as a guide for the enlightened and wise ruler and in this, it invites comparison to Machiavelli but such a comparison is beyond the scope of this review. In any case, Lao-tzu does not recommend a specific form of government or path to good government, but he does advocate a specific outcome which is concern for human well-being under any ruler or form of government. The government, however constituted, should be an expression of wisdom and enlightenment. Wisdom here is the exercise of judicious discretion on the part of the ruler so as not to disrupt the natural order of society. If there is any path to good government identified by Lao-tzu, it is that of good behavior. As in Verse 17, “When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists.” Or, as stated in verse 57 “If you want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the Tao. “Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts and the world will govern itself.” I have had to learn this firsthand in my experience with what I like to call the tyranny of goals and treachery of plans. Lao-tzu, in speaking about the Master in Verse 30, also says that “He understands that the universe is forever out of control…” and in Verse 3 he speaks of “… emptying people’s minds…” (eliminating the tyranny of goals?) and “…weakening their ambition…” (avoiding the treachery of plans?). This much at least must seem odd to a western perspective. I believe the Tao is defined in Verse 67 as “…simplicity, patience and compassion.” Which should seem odd to no civilized person.What Lao-tzu advocates as good for the individual, is also the basis of good government, the antithesis of accumulating wealth and power. Such things are just dead weight upon the ‘soul’. This means to me that ethics comes necessary before politics. Thus, Lao-tzu’s political philosophy minimizes the power of the ruler or the state, but he should not be mistaken for a classic liberal or a modern libertarian in the western sense. Instead, Lao-tzu speaks about the Master acting by not doing anything and teaching without speaking. His is a combined philosophy of ethics and governance stressing the oneness and the all-relatedness of all reality leading to spiritual peace and inner fulfillment. It is not my desire to westernize Lao-tzu, but It is difficult to resist comparisons to western models in reading Lao-tzu. I am reminded of the oneness of Neoplatonism or the pantheism of Spinoza. And, I also think Lao-tzu would agree with Epictetus in that “wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”Most powerfully for me is the remainder of Verse 57 where Lao-tzu advises that we let go of law, economics and religion to become more honest, prosperous and serene. In other words, our legal, economic and religious systems are just labels and that if we want a more honest, prosperous and serene society, we must be more honest, prosperous and serene people. The problems and the solutions are all to be found in the same place, with us and within us.Ironically Lao-tzu was writing prior to the time of the first ‘modern’ bureaucratic government in China, and in the world, the short-lived but highly authoritarian state of the Qin Dynasty.
Who translated this?
This version is titled “the Original Tao te Ching” which is suspicious since no one can declare what is original. There is no translator listed. There is no introduction or explanation. The translations tend to contradict one another and seem to lack nuance. I am deeply suspicious of this translation.
Infinite Wisdom, But
You will learn a lot about the world and about yourself when you read this book. It is set up in chapters, each consisting of several related verses. At first, I had a hard time reading the book because the author seems to have translated it from Chinese directly. He hasn't made the language simpler, so most sentences seem convoluted and gramatically perverse. I did, however, appreciate this style of translation more for two reasons:1- It captures the original message much more poingniantly2- It forces me to read the verse several times in order to understand it. That way, I comprehend it in a much deeper way because I have to analyze it for myself. The metaphors don't make sense after a first reading, so you may have to read them again and again, which ever translation you buy.So, why the "But" in the title? If you want a translation which isn't in broken "direct from Chinese" English, you're better off finding another version. I would, however, recommend giving this edition a shot because there is much edification to be found in the convuluted English of this text.
I'm not sure hopw to rate this
I'm giving this three stars because I don't know what to make of this translation. There's nothing in it that even resembles the versions most people are familiar with. If this is the "original" then it would have been nice for the book to have included some explanation as to how and when it evolved into the familiar versions (if it even did).
The way of the virtuous
Ancient knowledge well written. Almost as a koan and yet straight forward. A kind of book that you'll want and need to read several times in life so not only you can grasp a bit more every time but also because is the kind book whose words mutate into the personal interpretation that you need to hear in that moment of your life... Kind of paradoxical by default and at the same time obvious in many ways, the way of the virtuous, being with not being, influencing without acting, leading without claiming, cultivate Tao and Te and become a warrior of wisdom. Great read.
Is it "Dao" or "Tao"?
"What is the Dao? Describe it's essence to me," said the acolyte. "Consult Lao Tzu," replied the Master. "Return only after you are enlightened." The Tao Te Ching as been interpreted in many ways, the name spelled in many forms, by many authors. All spring from the same wellhead. And all are worthy of being read. This book appears to be closer to the lost original text. It's form is ancient Chinese, translated. This treatise adds new insights to understanding the Dao by not embellishing the words.
effective clear and warm
Clear, concise and understanding of the subject...wishes the characters in the word for word were larger--but other than that--what a timely, respectful and thorough study! I'd say the book to begin any Tao Te-ching study with!
Great book - read one chapter per day and THINK about what it is saying
Just get the one like this and read it for yourself. Don't get a commentary type edition where someone is explaining what it means - let it speak to YOU and listen to your own thoughts.
Best translation but kindle readers be warned...
I love the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao Te Ching (have the paper book) so decided to get it also for my kindle. Clicked the kindle box and purchased it only to find that the kindle version of this book is not actually this book -- it is NOT Stephen Mitchell's translation. Fortunately it was only £1, but even so I am disappointed. So only buy the paper version of this book if you want the Stephen Mitchell translation (which in my view is better than any other translation).
Possibly the best book ever written.
Great translation (arguably the best), excellent quality printing and beautiful illustrations. Absolutely beautiful little version. Take it everywhere and read it whenever you feel introspective. The teachings of this book have had a profound effect on my life (reducing PTSD, stress, anxiety etc.). If you’re unfamiliar with the Tao Te Ching, t’s only 80 or so pages and there is only a few paragraphs on each, so it’s a really light read (from a technical sense), however you will find it so unbelievably insightful that after any paragraph it’s easy to lose yourself in an age of reflection.Best enjoyed on a day with no plans accompanied by a cup of tea. Simply open up any page that takes your fancy and start to change your whole perception of life. By far the best and most influential book I’ve ever read and also the book I’ve read the most.I recommend getting multiple translations to get the full benefit of it’s wisdom, however if you only get one, I would recommend this one.
I feel so lucky to have come across this book - it's been life changing already, in that I keep returning to it and getting something different every time I read it - inspiration, comfort, new ideas about death. And I suspect there is more to come. I always want a copy of it at my side whenever I need some food for thought, or reassurance, or something positive to focus on. It complements my shiatsu study (as shiatsu is based on taoism) but I would have appreciated this as a must-read regardless. I haven't read other interpretations so cannot compare, but certainly the language in this book is fine for me and the pictures are beautiful. It's nice having some visual distractions. Bought another as a present for a friend and suspect I'll be giving more copies...
A true gem of wisdom - beautifully simple, profoundly deep.
Stephen Mitchell's translation is the best bar none! Keeps the poetic beauty of the original text and flows freely. Other translations have group this book into sections on 'success', 'wealth' etc. which is wrong! The beauty of this book is that its teachings can be applied to many areas in life. This book is beautifully presented in a love cover with art - probably my most gifted book to friends and family.
pretty book, not designed for reading in my opinion
I was surprised how small and thin this was (i know i could of checked before buying) but also the binding/holding for the book is like a soft shell that will be stretched and ruined through the process of reading the book, my feedback to the punlisher is make a softcover or a proper hardback book, this is a terrible inbetween as my copy immediatly looks crap as the front cover holds agape devaluing the prettiness of this book, i regret buying it and if your looking for a book with the primary purpose reading and have bothered to read this ramble then i suggest you dont buy it and find a good translation without the illustration maybe, i bought this specifally because eckhart tolle recommended this translation.