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Lao-tzu's Taoteching: with Selected Commentaries of the Past 2000 Years Paperback – September 1, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1562790851 ISBN-10: 1562790854 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Mercury House; Reprint edition (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1562790854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1562790851
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Red Pine (a.k.a. Bill Porter) offers a new perspective on the Chinese classic Taoteching. A competent translator and interpreter of Chinese religion, he renders his work with an eye for detail and a spiritualism cultivated during years of Zen monastery living. It's odd that many read translations of Chinese classics as bare-bones texts, whereas no Chinese would tackle such obscurity in the absence of a helping hand from previous pundits. Fortunately, it is no longer necessary to rely on mystical insight in order to understand the Taoteching. Instead, we can look to the 12 or so commentators that Red Pine resurrects from Chinese history. With its clarity and scholarly range, this version of the Taoteching works as both a readable text and a valuable resource of Taoist interpretation.

From Library Journal

Here is a refreshing new translation by an American scholar of Chinese (Guide to Capturing a Plum, Mercury House, 1995) that offers a simple version of this great sixth-century B.C. work. Accompanying each of the 81 verses are brief commentaries by scholars ancient and modern, plus an appended glossary explaining who they are. Many translations appear, in comparison, to be needlessly personalized and poetic. Here, one feels, are the bare bones, shining brightly. There is also an introductory background essay on what is known of this gnomish founder of Taoist philosophy. Chinese characters for each verse are included. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.?Jeanne S. Bagby, formerly with Tucson P.L., Ariz.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I am glad I added this one to my library.
Amazon Customer
Red Pine revised in 2009 his translation of this ancient text, and what a revision!
Andrew Weis
This is the best translation of the Tao Te Ching that I've seen.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Weis on February 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
I've been reading translations of the Taoteching since I was twelve years old. No text has resonated more with my intimate experience of the natural world. In the verses of the Taoteching I found a philosophy that matched the depth and wonder I experienced while wandering for uncounted hours through the countryside of my boyhood home. Red Pine revised in 2009 his translation of this ancient text, and what a revision! The small changes in phrasing throughout the text further clarify the spirit of the Taoteching and lend a universal resonance. One important change is a shift toward inclusive pronouns. Gone are the masculine references to sages, and in their stead sages are addressed in the plural, as a collective. This inclusiveness fits well with the spirit of the Taoteching. This subtle yet significant change needs to be considered in a larger context: This translation of the Taoteching has it all. Each verse includes its modern Chinese, lending an artful presence and a resource to those with a scholarly interest in the origins of the text. Each verse includes commentary from the past 2000 years that further illumines the spirit of the Taoteching. The simple and direct language of Red Pine's earlier translation remains and rings like timeless poetry. My one struggle is that I keep giving away my copy and have to buy it repeatedly. This book is too fine a gem to keep to oneself.
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107 of 118 people found the following review helpful By tepi on May 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Anyone looking for an approachable edition of the Tao Te Ching, one that gives us the Chinese and Taoist point-of-view in clear and simple English, and that isn't overburdened with extraneous or purely scholarly matter, should certainly consider that of Red Pine. The translator has spent much of his life in the East, has experienced the life of a Taoist ascetic, and we could ask for no better guide to the meanings of this simple but elusive text, a text that is one of the greatest glories of the Ancient Chinese literature of the Chou period.
As many know, Classical Chinese is an extremely concise and powerful language, a language of great masculine vigor, and one of the first things to look for in any translation from Classical Chinese is a comparable economy and energy. Some people don't seem to understand this, and I think it's because they fail to realize that words, besides expressing meaning, can also serve to limit meaning, especially in grammatically fussy Indo-European languages such as English where sentences are intended to convey as precise a meaning as possible and in doing so can become (as mine are here) rather wordy.
But ancient Chinese writing isn't like this. Rather than attempting to narrow and delimit meaning, and to pin us down to something particular and explicit, it aims instead to open and expand our understanding. In other words, although it can look deceptively simple, it is in fact richly suggestive, rich in implications. And this rich suggestiveness will suggest many things to different readers. That is why no Chinese reader would even think of approaching an ancient classic without a commentary. For no matter what a text may suggest to a given reader, we may be sure that it has suggested many more things to earlier and possibly more acute readers.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Beaulac on July 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
In Asia, sacred texts like the Tao Te Ching are read with reference to the commentaries of its key historical luminaries. Only in the west is it read by itself, with no guidance. Finally, we have a TTC with key commentaries. Plus, the author has here given a translation that may come as close as possible to expressing the Chinese in English. It is concise, even pithy.

A number of other features make this volume unique and particularly valuable. Pine's extensive introduction covers an intriguing linguistic insight into the Chinese written character for Tao, Lao Tzu's historical background, the usual issues of authorship, etc., and some of the deeper understandings of the important themes of philosophical Taoism. Also, he has provided black and white photos of the famed Hanku Pass and the Loukuantai where tradition holds that Lao-tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching. The Chinese text is provided along side Pine's clear and unadorned translation. He utilizes the earlier but more recently discovered Mawangtui texts, and explains his preferences in choosing among textual variants. But most important for me, and for any student of the Tao Te Ching are his carefully selected commentaries which follow each verse. These show how the Chinese have traditionally understood the passages of the TTC in selected commentaries from the last 2000 years. Also, the book provides an extensive glossary of the Chinese terms and the commentators. Highly recommended!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "bhadrakara" on October 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
As every reader of Lao Tzu's magnum opus is well aware, there is perhaps no other work produced by the human mind which has appeared in as many translations, quasi-translations, pseudo-translations, non-translations and mistranslations as Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. Why then, the reader will wonder, do we need yet another? Because, with the possible exception of Prof. Mair's excellent rendering, there is none other comparable to this one. Red Pine is no dabbler in these matters. A quick reading of the Introduction (which, with its photographs is itself worth the price of the book) should convince the reader of that. But the book offers even more than a lucid translation of the ancient classic (and it IS a translation, not a paraphrase of someone else's): there is a bonus on every page, a judicious selection of commentaries from ancient writers, who have interpreted the verses, and have found in them a source of inspiration which readers have acknowledged over the past two millennia. If you decide to buy only one translation of Tao Te Ching, you won't be disappointed if this is the one you choose. Justin Thacker, Los Angeles, California
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