Taoism > The Basics

What is Te?

The word te is without any doubt one of the most mysterious in the Taoist vocabulary. It appears in the title of Lao-tzu's Tao-te ching. James Legge translates this title as The Classic about Tao and its Characteristics, therefore it should be rendered as "characteristics" or "features". These "characteristics" are seen in relation with the Tao, or are features of the Tao.

Te Chinese ideogram

Julian Pass wrote that te "is the inner and outer power bestowed on each being by Tao, or all the qualities for action inherent in the nature of each being, which gives each being a way to maintain itself, to grow and flourish." (Historical Dictionary of Taoism, Scarecrow Press).

In Shambhala dictionary of Taoism te represents the Tao's energy or the qualities or nature received by every living being or thing from Tao.

Many other explanations, more or less confused, were given to this term.

A short essay on te has been published in our email course Lao-tzu and Tao-te ching Revealed -> click here to learn more.


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