Tao Te Ching

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"Tao Te Ching"
Traditional Chinese: 道德經
Simplified Chinese: 道德经
Pinyin romanization: Dào Dé Jīng
Wade–Giles romanization: Tao Te Ching
Zhuyin transcription: ㄉㄠˋ ㄉㄜˊ ㄐㄧㄥ

Tao Te Ching (Chinese: 道德經 [audio speaker iconListen ]) is the Chinese name of a book by a man named Laozi (or Lao Tzu, which literally means "old master"). Laozi was a sage (a wise man) and he was a record-keeper. The title can mean "The Book of the Way and its Virtue." People believe the book was written around 600 BC.

It is an important text to Chinese culture. It is very important in Chinese philosophy (way of thinking) and religion. It is the main book for Taoism, which is both a philosophy and part of Chinese folk religion. It also influenced other philosophies in and around China.

The title[change | change source]

There are many ways to translate the book's title, because each Chinese word has a few meanings:

  • Dào/Tao 道 means "way", "road", "path", or "route," but was given the extra meaning "path ahead", "way forward", "method", "principle", or simply "the Way". This word was also used in different ways by other Chinese philosophers (including Confucius, Mencius, Mozi, and Hanfeizi). It has special meaning in Taoism, where it means the basic way of the universe (that can not really be explained).
  • Dé/Te 德 means "virtue" as in "personal character" or "inner strength". People who followed the teachings of Confucius used it to mean "morality". A long time ago in English, "virtue" could mean "power" (as in the phrase "healing virtue of a drug"). The same thing was true in Chinese: the word meant "power" a long time ago but now means "virtue".
  • Jīng/Ching 經 originally meant "norm", "rule", or "plan", was given the extra meaning "scripture", "great book", or "classic".

The three words together gives the meaning "Virtue Way Rules".

The book is constructed of a series of poems, each containing a rule, way or belief to becoming successful.

Structure of the book[change | change source]

The Tao Te Ching is a short book of about 5,000 Chinese characters. It has 81 short chapters. It has two parts: Part One is the Tao Ching (道經) "Way Rules", which is chapters 1–37; Part Two is the Te Ching (德經) "Virtue Rules", which is chapters 38–81.

Translations[change | change source]

The Tao Te Ching is one of the most translated books in history, alongside the Bible and the Quran. Why are there thousands of translations? The text is short, the meaning is difficult. There are many interpretations, or ways to understand what the book says.

Online English versions[change | change source]

Online multilingual versions[change | change source]