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Tao Te Ching

Tao Te Ching (rendered as the Classic about Tao and Te) is traditionally ascribed to Lao Tzu. Even in ancient China this work enjoyed a great popularity and was glossed both by Taoists and Confucian adepts. It contains the basic Taoist concepts that made the Taoist way of life (tao-chia), also known as the philosophical Taoism.

First page from Tao Te Ching
The first page of Tao Te Ching -
(click the picture to enlarge)

According to tradition, the work originates in the 4-th century BC, but recent discoveries showed that it is no early than the 4-th. or 3-rd. century. The oldest existing copy is from 206 or 195 BC.

Lao Tzu would have composed this work by the request of Yin Hsi, the Guardian of the Mountain Pass, while he began his wandering towards West.

It consists of 81 short chapters among which 37 form the first part, the Book of the Way (tao), and the next 44 form the Book of Te.

Its division in chapters is considered to be the result of the remarks of mysterious Heschang Gong (Han dynasty).

  • Philosophy of Tao Te Ching

The philosophy of this work focuses on the following concepts: tao, wu (emptiness), wu-wei (nondoing), p'u and fu. The sage who takes the Tao as his model will surely act without acting (nondoing), made his mind wu, that is empty (the emptying of the mind is the path that leads one to the understanding of the Tao) and practice the fu and p'u, that is, simplicity.

In its second part, the work dwells on on the art of rule in accordance to Tao. It seems it addresses noble men and princes who rule the land. However, we must not ignore that Tao Te Ching is a composite work which, the same way as I Ching, underwent influences and taints in the most various ways.

This part of the book is undoubtfully compiled by the Confucians or Legalists because it dwells too much on the art of leadership.

The Taoist ethics wasn't interested in this aspect; moreover, its so-called philosophy, founded on an elementary yin-yang dialectics, is nothing more than the fašade which hides the authentic Taoists elements, lost in confusion due to the successive and inconsistent versions and to the lack of understanding of the profane world.

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