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Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition Paperback – August 25, 2003

93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"It would be hard to find a fresh approach to a text that ranks only behind the Bible as the most widely translated book in the world, but Star achieves that goal. . . . As fascinating to the casual scholar as it is for the serious student." -NAPRA ReView "Jonathan Star's Tao Te Ching achieves the essential: It clarifies the meaning of the text without in the slightest reducing its mystery." -Jacob Needleman
--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jonathan Star has been widely acclaimed for his translations of everything from Rumi to the Tao Te Ching to the greatest Christian mystics. Of his celebrated Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved, Larry Dossey wrote, "Rumi would be proud of Star's luminous translations." Star lives in upstate New York.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; Reprint edition (August 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158542269X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585422692
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

196 of 201 people found the following review helpful By "oblique28" on September 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Regardless of the translation, the Tao Te Ching relaxes you. Then, you start comparing the different translations, and you get to panicking real fast. Pretty ironic. It's something the Tao itself would warn you against. Sharpen the blade too much, you lose the edge.
Still, as an American consumer, I want the real deal, whether I'm buying a cheeseburger or an ancient philosophy. If true words can't be spoken, and you're gonna go and speak 'em anyway, at least make 'em as true as you can. I mean, what does a guy have to do to get the meaning of life around here, learn Chinese?
Enter Jonathan Star. Based on my comparison to five others, Star's lawn jart lands smack in the middle. Isn't that what Taoism is about? Getting to the center? He also made sure this would be the LAST translation you'd ever need, by including a second, "verbatim" translation-- a list of the various possible English meanings of every single Chinese character. Don't like something about his answer? Check his math. That's truly definitive. There might be other translations that do that, but I've got a shelf full of ones that don't, and I'm glad to say my search is finally over. I'm giving this book a perfect score. It's a good place to start AND a good place to finish.
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127 of 129 people found the following review helpful By Chris Ziesler on April 19, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I just bought Jonathan's Star's 2003 Edition of "Tao Te Ching - The Definitive Edition" (ISBN-13: 978-1585422692) and was checking Amazon to see what other people had thought about this book, so you can imagine that I was a little worried when I saw this newer edition that I might have bought an outdated version. On closer inspection though I realized that the 2008 edition only has 128 pages compared with 368 pages of the 2003 edition.

On reading the table of contents for both editions I discovered that what Star's publishers appear to have done is to reissue the translation section of his original 2003 book without all the extra and very helpful information he had provided in the early edition.

My advice is to go and check out the 2003 edition before you commit to this later, less definitive, work.

Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition (2003)
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61 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Hochmann on March 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
One of the core ideas in Taoism (especially if you read a lot of Chuang-Tzu) is that there are infinite perspectives on anything and everything, and no one is more absolute or "correct" than the others. I think it's safe to say that the Tao Te Ching itself is an excellent example of this principle - just look at how many translations have been done, in various styles, approaching various perspectives on life, society, money, etc. And while there are certainly translations that speak to me far better than others do, I'd have to say that they are not always completely satisfying.
If you feel the same way, then Jonathan Star has come to your rescue with /Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition/. It starts out with an overview of Lao Tzu's work and the challenges that come with translating it. Then there is a rather good literary translation by the author, which sometimes takes a bit of artistic license - definitely not a bad thing. This is not the meat of the book, however. That part is the "definitive" translation itself - the literal translation. Every character of every chapter is provided, along with multiple possible meanings. Using this, you can compose your own interpretations of your favorite chapters, or the whole book if you wish.
The literal translation is extremely well done, and provided in a very accessible format that provides a lot of information in an easy to use manner. If I had to pick something to gripe about, it would be the fact that the literal translation uses Wade-Giles instead of Pinyin (this from a book with a 2001 copyright). I suppose this was to keep things consistent with the similarly old-style spellings "Tao", "Lao-Tzu", etc. This niggle is mitigated a bit by the concordance section of the book, which includes translations from Wade-Giles to Pinyin.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Beaulac on July 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I love the Tao Te Ching. I have twelve different translations of it. It didn't take long to realize that what I found particularly insightful or wonderful in one translation might not be even close to what is said in another translation. So, I thought, many times, what the heck is the actual text behind these English versions? What does it say? Partly, that's just the nature of Chinese language. "tao ko tao fei ch'ang tao" (the opening sentence) can have a multitude of meanings. So one day, browsing in a bookstore like a Tao-junkie, I spy "The Definitive Edition" and have to look inside. Wonder of wonders, it's all laid out. A Chinese word by word translation giving the varied possible English equivalents alongside each character. Jonathan Star explores the full range of meaning for each Chinese character, allowing you to hone and clarify any translation of the Tao Te Ching for yourself and come to terms with the full depth and range of meaning as never before. In addition to his own excellent translation - one of the best - Star provides a number of language tools: roots and radicals, comments on key terms, notations of the textual variants from different manuscripts, etc. Books like this are not cheap to produce or buy. Eventually, it drew me back in and I bought it and have been very happy I did.

Star's own translation is flowing and beautiful, though not word-for-word unadorned,like, say Red Pine's. There are phrases in Star's translation that don't even appear in the Chinese text, but he does this intelligently and purposefully, illuminating the nuances of meaning of the text. Star draws a lot from other languages and teaching (especially Sanskrit and great teachers from India) in his comments about the meanings of key concepts. A purist may object to this; I weigh each on its own merit and found them complimentary.
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