Taoism > Masters > Lao-tzu
Who Was Lao-tzu
According to Ch'ien, Lao-tzu was born in the state of Ch'u, and his birthplace was in the nowadays Ho-nan province. He was a curator at the Royal Library when he met Confucius to talk about rites. This conversation offers much insight into the huge differences between Taoists and Confucians.
Lao-tzu surname was Li; his name was Erh (meaning ear) - this is why we find him also under the name of Li Erh.
As for the name "Lao-tzu" it is only a nickname meaning the Old Philosopher of Sage.
Disguised with the morals at the royal court, Lao-tzu would left and gone West. He met the Guardian of the Pass who asked him to compose a book. This is how Tao-te ching took birth.
"Lao-tzu cultivated the Tao and its attributes - wrote Ch'ien in his Records - the chief aim of his studies being how to keep himself concealed and remain unknown."
At Lao-tzu's Death
Surprisingly enough, a story from Chuang-tzu still offers us details about Lao-tzu's death. This story described the funerals of the master with many grieving disciples. Nonetheless - Legge concludes - this narration might be just another of Chuang-tzu's fancies: "to give him the opportunity of setting forth what, according to his ideal of it, the life of a Taoist master should be, and how even Lao-tzu himself fell short of it".
Find more about Lao-tzu's life, his meeting with Confucius, and the meaning of his main concepts - tao, yin-yang, wu and wu-wei - by taking our 10-lessons email course Lao-tzu and Tao-te ching Revealed.
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