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Dao De Jing: The Book of the Way Paperback – May 24, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is a work of great creativity and impressive scholarship. Roberts has achieved a translation that replicates, as closely as possible, the literary merit of the original, its rhythms and its rhymes. He repeatedly brings to our attention fresh insights and interpretations that deserve careful consideration. He not only makes use of the Mawangdui manuscripts but, even more importantly, the recent Guodian finds, the latter opening a whole new page in Laozi studies." - Stephen Durrant, author of The Cloudy Mirror; "This new translation of the Dao De Jing is an exceptional literary effort." - John Major, author of Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought "Moss Roberts provides a scholarly reading of the Dao De Jing so generous, so vivid, you can feel valley mist on your face and smell the straw dogs. Here are the furious warlords, craggy landscapes teeming with the ten thousand creatures of Taoist philosophy; China's careful arts of government and war; science, yoga, alchemy, erotics; old bamboo texts hidden in caves for millennia. This book is for anyone who has met Laozi's 'dark' mind and wants a closer look." - Andrew Schelling, author of The Cane Groves of Narmada River; "Reading Professor Moss Roberts's new translation of Dao De Jing gives one a sense of pleasure and surprise. He is a diligent and rigorous scholar, while at the same time possessing a poetic aculty to deeply penetrate the words and read between the lines.... His superior translation has deepened my own comprehension of this famous Chinese classic." - Fang Ping, former editor-in-chief, Shanghai Literary Translations Press --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"Moss Roberts provides a scholarly reading of the Dao De Jing so generous, so vivid, you can feel valley mist on your face and smell the straw dogs. Here are the furious warlords, craggy landscapes teeming with the ten thousand creatures of Taoist philosophy; China's careful arts of government and war; science, yoga, alchemy, erotics; old bamboo texts hidden in caves for millennia. This book is for anyone who has met Laozi's 'dark' mind and wants a closer look."—Andrew Schelling, author of The Cane Groves of Narmada River: Erotic Poems from Old Indiaand Tea Shack Interior: New & Selected Poetry

"This is a work of great creativity and impressive scholarship. He has achieved a translation that replicates, as closely as possible, the literary merit of the original, its rhythms and its rhymes. He repeatedly brings to our attention fresh insights and interpretations that deserve careful consideration. Roberts not only makes use of the Mawangdui manuscripts but, even more importantly, the recent Guodian finds, the latter opening a whole new page in Laozi Studies."—Stephen Durrant, Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Oregon and author of The Cloudy Mirror: Tension and Conflict in the Writing of Sima Qian

"Moss Roberts' commentary is provocative and compelling. The scholarship informing the work is solid, but like the Dao De Jing itself, the scholarship is not flaunted, but rather subservient to the messages of the text itself." —Hoyt Tillman, Professor of History, Arizona State University.

"This new translation of the Dao De Jing is an exceptional literary effort, capable of reinvigorating the English version of the text both as literature and as philosophy, while also bringing new scholarly insight to the meaning of the work. Professor Roberts' combination of linguistic expertise and poetic sensitivity and skill is rare and special, and should win this translation a large and appreciative audience."—John Major, author of Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought, China Chic: East Meets West , and co-editor of World Poetry

"Reading Professor Moss Roberts's new translation of Dao De Jing gives one a sense of pleasure and surprise. He is a diligent and rigorous scholar, while at the same time possessing a poetic acuity to deeply penetrate the words and read between the lines…. His superior translation has deepened my own comprehension of this famous Chinese classic."—Fang Ping, former editor-in-chief, Shanghai Literary Translations Press
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 235 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (May 24, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520242211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520242210
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I own about 10 different versions of the Tao Te Ching. Recently, I was in a bookstore, and browsed through several versions I had not read.

I put the others back, and purchased this one. Based on the Mawangdui and Guodi texts recovered from tombs in the mid 1970's, the graves were believed to date back to 170 BC, and the texts possibly to 300 BC. If so, this Moss Roberts version is from the oldest recorded texts available.

As you might appreciate portions of text were missing or in different order, and so he has reconciled them with the received text.

I find this particular version to be excellent, the author, a lecturer in Chinese, took a great deal of care in his research. His original use of language, being different from popular translations, conjures up different potential meanings and interpretations. He includes a valuable commentary which gives a context of the time and the text, which facilitates further understanding.

Here is a selection from Verse 1, so you can compare:

1 The Way as "way" bespeaks no common lasting Way.
2 The name as "name" no common lasting name.
3 Absent is the name for sky and land's first life,
4 Present for the mother of all ten thousand things.

He also clearly has a high level of intellectual understanding of being and negation, which i find useful.

In any event, if I was going to a desert island and allowed 3 versions of the Tao, I would definitely choose this one, not necessarily because it's the best, but because I have already read and gotten the inspiration from other versions, and I would be more likely to get fresh inpsiration from this one.

I love this version, and I think you will too.

I hope this review was helpful to you.
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Contains extensive introductory information, including discussion of recent archeoligical discoveries, and interesting endnotes (although I prefer footnotes - less fumbling with pages).

However, I found this translation to be a bit difficult. One of the reviewers on the back of the book refers to it as "poetic" - well, maybe; mostly I found it a bit of a struggle to make sense of it, and had to read through it with several parallel translations to figure out what Roberts was translating. However, in that situation, read with several parallel translations, this translation provides an worthwhile "spin". I find Mair's translation much cleaner, simpler, and more comprehensible. The two together are nice.
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This is by no means a bad translation.

But the translator clearly sacrifices clarity of meaning for preservation of poetry and rhythm.

For that reason, I would recommend this book only if it isn't your first copy of a translation of the Dao De Jing.
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In spite of the author's intent, the translation is not very poetic: it is actually quite clunky, and convoluted. But the commentary is to die for. On my desert island I would take this translation for the commentary and use something like Lau's cleaner translation as my main source, and Jonathan Star's compendium edition for real work.
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Format: Paperback
It is widely recognized that Zen Buddhism and Daoism are kindred souls. Both insist on simplicity and naturalness. Both are spontaneous and playful, full of paradox and contrarian sentiments, exaggeration and even self-contradiction. Not so well known is the kinship that the Way of the Dao has with the God of the Vedas about which nothing could be said. The Dao is mysterious and beyond our comprehension. It is before time and after. Nothing can be said about the God of the Vedas, making that God even more mysterious.

When reading the Dao for the first time (and Roberts' translation is among the best and a fine place to start) the reader should have an open mind and a kind of widely absorbent attitude. Try to draw no conclusions about what is written until sometime has passed. Don't take the words too literally and remember that the Dao is a poem. Yes it's a poem about power and virtue, about how to rule a country and how to live life. Some of its wisdom will only come to the reader after many years of life.

Immediately I notice in Moss Roberts' translation a kind of rhythm not found in other texts. For example here is how he renders the opening of the famous first chapter:

"The Way as `way' bespeaks no common lasting Way,
The name as `name' no common lasting name.
Absent is the name for sky and land's first life,
Present for the mother of all ten thousand things."

Compare the above to J. Legge's enduring translation from 1891:

"The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.

(Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth;
(conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all things.
Read more ›
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