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Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way Hardcover – October 13, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Hardcover, October 13, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Like Stephen Mitchell, acclaimed author and poet Ursula K. Le Guin has attempted a nonliteral, poetic rendition of the Tao Te Ching. She brings to it a punctuated grace that can only have been hammered out during long trials of wordsmithing. The wisdom that she finds in the Tao Te Ching is primal, and her spare, undulating phrases speak volumes. By making the text her own, Le Guin avoids such questions as "Is it accurate?" By making it her own, she has made it for us--a new, uncarved block from which we are free to sculpt our own meaning. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Reading [Le Guin’s] translations is like taking a shared walk down a familiar trail where we discover rocks and water that we somehow missed before . . . undeniably refreshing, capturing a language that is casual and clear, reflective and pointed, full of the wise humor of the Way.”—Parabola

“A student of the Tao for several decades, Le Guin has created an English text that will speak to modern readers in a fresh and lively way, while conveying the humor, insight, and beauty of the original.”—Shambhala Sun

“The Tao Te Ching was written about 2,500 years ago yet its wisdom remains pure and inspiring.”—Light of Consciousness

“Ursula K. Le Guin’s translation of the Tao Te Ching is a personal and poetic meditation. Through her own careful study of these ancient teachings, she brings the Way into contemporary life. Each day, I open this book at random and receive a contemplative gift. These words are akin to water in the desert.”—Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; Har/Com edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590307445
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590307441
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #972,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Like other reviewers, I have read some translations of the Tao Te
Ching (Daodejing) and looked at many others. Like Mrs. Le Guin points
out in her note at the end of the book, I also believe that the one by
Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English is the most satisfactory in a literary
sense. However, sometimes it lacks the simplicity and immediacy which
this rendition gives to Lao Tzu's "very easy to understand"
words. Also, Mrs. Le Guin stayed with me throughout the book, and what
she had to say amounted to a fantastic commentary to the wisdom of the
Tao. Take for example Chapter 11 in page 14. At the bottom is a note
that says: "One of the things I love about Lao Tzu is he is so
funny. He's explaining a profound and difficult truth here, ....[and]
goes about it with this deadpan simplicity, talking about pots."
This kind of comment conveys, in my opinion, exactly the essence of
Taoism as predicated by Lao Tzu. There's nothing complicated, nothing
intrincate about Taoist wisdom. And Mrs. LeGuin sticks to this
(taoist) simplicity throughout the book. Being a translator myself, I
dare say that some of Lao Tzu's translators became obsessed with
"extracting" deep meaning from the Tao Te Ching, trying to
retain the tone, now looking for complicated words to convey
"exact" meaning, now glossing over a passage, losing the
reader along the way. As Mrs. LeGuin points out in the introduction to
this book "Scholarly translations of the Tao Te Ching as a manual
for rulers use a vocabulary that emphasizes the uniqueness of the
Taoist "sage", his masculinity, his authority." The
result is dry, unsatisfactory, nihilistic, detached.
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Format: Paperback
There are many 'translations' of Lao Tsu's words. Which is the best? Perhaps it is not measured by the literal accuracy of the translation, or the poetic artestry of the word, but by it's ability to help the reader gain the perspective that Lao Tsu envisioned as the Tao. A translation that works for one, may not yield the same result for another.
Le Guin's rendition of Lao Tzu's 'Tao te Ching' was, for me, a good addition to my understanding. I have many copies. I almost always compare one with another when I sit down to think. Some 'translations' are better than others for different passages, or moods. With more than 15 years of experience in Asian cultures, primarily Japanese, and many years of contemplating Lao Tzu's writings, I recognize that some translations rely more heavily on a broader asian perspective than others. What seems natural or obvious to one steeped in asian culture may be contradictory or even 'silly' to a westerner This doesn't mean the message is wrong, but that the wording is not suited for that reader. One interpretation alone was insufficient to help me comprehend the simple nature of the Tao.
Once I began to see my world from within the understanding of the Tao, rather than see the Tao from the outside through others' words, I found a new enjoyment in seeing how others perceive the Tao. This is why I enjoyed Ursula K. Le Guin's approach immensely. Clearly, Ms. Le Guin feels the awe and wonder of the simple way, as I am beginning to enjoy it.
Hers is not as literal or as historically steeped as some, and not as contemporary as others (Stephen Mitchell). Not a hard-hitting philosophical analysis (Wing-Tsit Chan), nor an obscure or remote work [Asian feeling] (Gai-Fu Fen/Jane English).
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Comment 76 of 79 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Ursula K. Le Guin did a remarkable job in bringing us her translation of this magnificent book that will lift your heart, bring more understanding to your mind, free your ego from its grip on your life, and bring your soul peace from the ancient and extraordinary verses in this book.
This is one book that would bring harmony to anyone, when taken into the depths of consciousness. It will show you the way of being. It will help you live with what IS, and that alone will help free you from pain.
Highly recommended for its profound truth, and the extraordinary difference this truth can make in your life. Deserves 10 Stars.
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By A Customer on January 14, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read a handful of Tao Te Ching translations and examined many more, but this one is by far my favorite. It's not because of its accuracy to the original text. Le Guin says up front that that wasn't her intention. Still, I find it a more faithful translation than most of the classics, which Le Guin discusses in the book's appendix. The reason is because Le Guin has captured the spirit of Tao. Her spare, gorgeous language goes to the heart. I came upon her version at a giant bookstore with dozens of Tao Te Chings. I wanted one, but I didn't know which. So I picked up a bunch that looked interesting and read the first three "chapters" of each. Le Guin's won hands down. It moved me in just that short of a time. Also, perhaps it's relevant, that I'm an anarchist (an issue that Le Guin coincidentally touches on in the book) as well as an atheist. This book connected with the sense of inner peace I get from these two beliefs.
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