Daodejing (Oxford World's Classics)
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"Of ways you may speak, / but not the Perennial Way; / By names you may name, / but not the Perennial Name." So begins the best-loved of all the classical books of China and the most universally popular, the Daodejing or Classic of the Way and Life-Force. Laozi's 2,500 year-old masterpiece is a work that defies definition. The dominant image is of the Way, the mysterious path through the whole cosmos modeled on the great Silver River or Milky Way that traverses the heavens. A life-giving stream, the Way gives rise to all things and holds them in her motherly embrace. It enables the individual, and society as a whole, to find balance, to let go of useless grasping, and to live in harmony with the great unchanging laws that govern the universe and all its inhabitants. This new translation draws on the latest archaeological finds and brings out the word play and poetry of the original. Straightforward commentary accompanies the text, and the introduction provides helpful historical and interpretative context.
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is at Guodian (GD), and the three bundles are distinguished as A, B, and C, with chapter numbers given by the archaeologists. The chapters are numbered according to the classical edition, followed by the Mawangdui chapter number in brackets. Not all chapters appear in Guodian, but where they do the chapter number is also supplied. Square brackets [ ] in the translation are used to indicate phrases that are found in the received version but not in the Mawangdui and Guodian versions. These passages
Way 21 9 (mwd 53; gd a20) To hold and ﬁll is not equal to stopping when nearly full;* To whet and sharpen a blade means it will not keep for long. When gold and jade ﬁll* the storeroom,* none can keep them; When riches and honour lead to pride, you heap disaster on yourself. When tasks are done, then retire, that is the way of heaven. 22 Daodejing The poet sets out ways for the ruler to engage in meditation. He is to let the world be, and in this way alone can he truly govern it. The
distinctions are worthwhile. The poet contrasts himself with those who rejoice and are successful. Even today, Chinese people celebrate the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) by climbing a terrace to view the countryside. The Sage of the Daodejing is, however, like a stillborn baby. In fact the term is ‘stagnant’, and moral readings of the ‘sign of life’ give versions that read I alone am still, showing no sign of desires. But if we read it in conjunction with the next line, we see that the
The way of heaven takes from what has too much to provide for what does not have enough. The way of people is, however, not like this: it takes from those who do not have enough to oﬀer to those who have too much. Now who can have too much and use it to oﬀer up to heaven? Only the Way-farer. For this reason, The Sage acts but requires no thanks, accomplishes his tasks but does not abide in them, Inasmuch as he dislikes being considered worthier than others. 160 Daodejing The image of water,
Press, 1964). 16 17 Introduction xxvii which was presented to the Royal Society in 1788. The ﬁrst complete translation into French appeared in 1841 under the name of Stanislaus Julien, and the ﬁrst into English in 1868 by the Revd John Chalmers, who worked for the London Missionary Society in Hong Kong. Since then translations have appeared regularly— according to Holmes Welch’s estimate, between 1934, when Arthur Waley’s The Way and Its Power appeared, and 1957, when Welch’s own The Parting