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Tao Te Ching (Perennial Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Mitchell
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (384 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Lao-tzu's Tao Te Ching, or Book of the Way, is the classic manual on the art of living and one of the wonders of the world. In eighty-one brief chapters, the Tao Te Ching llods at the basic predicatment of being alive and gives advice that imparts balance and perspective, a serene and generous spirit. This book is about wisdom in action. It teaches how wo work for the good with the efforless skill that comes from being in accord with the Tao (the basic principle of the universe) and applies equally to good government and sexual love, to childrearing, business, and ecology.

The Tao Te Ching is the most widely traslated book in world literature, after the Bible. Yet the gemlike lucidity of the original has eluded most previous translations, and they have obscured some of its central ideas. Now the Tao Te ching has been rendered into English by the eminent scholar and traslator Stephen Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell's Dropping Ashes on the Buddha is a modern Zen classic, and his translations of Rilke and of the Book of Job have already been called definitive for our time.



Editorial Reviews

Review

“I have read many translations of this ancient text but Mitchell’s is by far the best.” (James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces)

Review

"Mitchell's rendition of the "Tao Te Ching comes as close to being definitive for our time as any I can imagine. It embodies the virtues its translator credits to the Chinese original: a gemlike lucidity that is radiant with humor, grace, largeheartedness, and deep wisdom."-- Huston Smith, author of "The Religions of Man""Mitchell's great talent is to communicate with the profound simplicity utterly appropriate for this task. The obscure has been made transparent and available."-- "Common Boundary""Beautiful and accessible; the English, as 'fluid as melting ice, ' is a joy to read throughout."-- "The New Republic"

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
391 of 403 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Modern paraphrase of ancient classic January 26, 2007
Format:Paperback
Tao Te Ching is ancient, now a couple of millenia in print. Stephen Mitchell has not translated this classic, but rather has paraphrased it -- as he admits in the Foreward. But he is a Zen student of a couple of decades and has good insight into the Zen of the Tao (Zen Buddhism is Buddhism heavily dosed with Taoism).

Mitchell's version of the Tao Te Ching is very, even extremely, modern. Perhaps to the point of being "politically correct." However, he does have a way with words and this is a very readable version of the Tao. To show how modern it is, let's take an example and compare his version of the beginning of chapter 46 with two other versions:

- Mitchell
"When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities."

- Victor Mair
"When the Way prevails under heaven,
swift horses are relegated to fertilizing fields.
When the Way does not prevail under heaven,
war-horses breed in the suburbs."

- Addiss & Lombardo
"With TAO under heaven
Stray horses fertilze the fields.
Without TAO under heaven,
Warhorses are bred at the frontier."

Obviously, there were no factories, trucks, tractors, or warheads in ancient China. So, Mitchell is providing a modern interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, while Mair as well as Addiss & Lombardo are closer to a literal translation (which is not possible however, because the Chinese language and the English language are so completely different from one another.)

None of this is to find fault with Stephen Mitchell. This is just to say that his book cannot be definitive, because it is less literal and not really a translation.
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351 of 392 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let's not be textual idolators October 30, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm amazed at the storm that Mitchell's version of the Tao Te Ching has churned up. Reading previous reviews, there seem to be two factions: those who find Mitchell's version thought-provoking and soul-stirring, and those who focus on what they see as its poetical liberties with the original. The first group is primarily interested in using the text as a catalyst for reflective insight into the nature of reality. The second group is primarily interested in the text as an historical document. The first group seeks transformation. The second group seeks scholarship.

I don't know that there's any intrinsic dissonance between the methods of scholarship and the goal of transformation, but I do know this: as a professor of philosophy who wants his students to read texts as tools for discovery rather than as sacred cows to be worshipped, I'll take Mitchell's version over more "scholarly" translations any day. For the nonspecialist who's not interested in parsing Chinese, which is really more important: entering into the spirit of the Tao Te Ching so that the reading of it becomes a lived, integrated experience, or memorizing a lot of scholarly footnotes? Mitchell's version breathes new life into a 2500-year-old text that most people today would find too arcane if they read a more literal translation. What a pity to begrudge contemporary readers an opportunity to discover the Tao simply because we don't think that the vehicle made available to them is "scholarly" enough!
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381 of 461 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why read a paraphrase instead of a translation? April 26, 2002
Format:Paperback
As Mitchell admits, he doesn't read Chinese. Instead of calling this a "translation," he calls it an "English version." But why would you want to read a loose English paraphrase by someone who can't read either the original or the early Chinese commentaries on it when you could read a translation by any one of a number of gifted and insightful scholars?
The standard defense of a "version" like Mitchell's is that he has some special insight into the text that entitles him to interpret it. But the danger of an interpretation like Mitchell's is that it projects modern Western preconceptions onto the Tao Te Ching instead of allowing us to be challenged by the powerful, paradoxical, and even frightening original text. In fact, Mitchell projects Zen Buddhist and New Age ideas into his "interpetation." (And, No, Zen Buddhism is not the same as Taoism, any more than Catholicism is the same as Judaism.) Someone who actually reads the original Classical Chinese, and is familiar with the historical and cultural context in which the text was composed is much more likely to be insightful about the text. Another common comment is that someone like Mitchell doesn't get lost in boring scholarly stuff. But there are plenty of exciting, fun to read translations by people who can actually read the original. The first Tao Te Ching translation I read was by D.C. Lau. He was a truly great scholar, but his translation is very elegant and very readable. Other terrific translations by people who actually know the "text and context" include those by Victor Mair, Robert Henricks, and Philip J. Ivanhoe. (Ivanhoe's translation is available both as a separate book, and as part of the anthology he co-edited, Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy.)
Oh, and the "editorial review" that Amazon lists above is actually not a review of Mitchell's translation at all. (There is no way to report that using their "corrections" button.)
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58 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have read a few different versions of translation of Tao Te Ching including translations by some Chinese and Korean scholars. Evem I am not a Chinese scholar, I studied and used Chinese characters over twenty years in Korea like most Korean students. I agree that Stephen Mitchell's book is not the best if you are looking for literal translation of the original ancient Chinese Toa Te Ching. But the literal translation often does not make sence to me and to the most readers in English speaking countries. Even among Chinese scholars there are many different opinions about the true meaning or interpretations of the original Tao Te Ching because it was written more than a thousand years ago in ancient Chinese.

Tao Te Ching is written by "Noza". In Chinese character "Noza" means an old man. "Old men" in oriental countries are very respectable. But in America "Old men" is not as respectable as in China. So how could you interepret "Noza" in English? Tao Te Ching is written by an old man literally. But better translation could be: "Toa Te Ching" is written by an "Old Wise Man", "Sage", or "Master" instead of (senile) old man.

If you, as a serious student, are looking for the literal translation of the original Tao Te Ching, you'd better read a few different translations by Chinese scholars. But if you are looking for a book to learn Tao Te Ching's intent and spirit, I have not found any other English translation smoother than Mitchell's.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Changing My Views
I am enjoying reading TaoTe Chings quotes. They are very meaningful to everyday living.
Published 21 hours ago by Jean
5.0 out of 5 stars I love the ease of having this great text on CD
I love the ease of having this great text on CD! Stephen Mitchell offers a great history and explaination of the Tao. Read more
Published 21 hours ago by CC
4.0 out of 5 stars Good First Translation and an Accessible Translation
This is the most common translation of the Tao Te Ching. Most of the metaphor has been taken out and in a many ways this makes it a clearer translation. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Roland Martinez
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Nothing really new that was really profound - enjoyed the read.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tao Te Ching and Science based love
How can one comprehend the Tao?

For 30 years I worked as a pathologist in a hospital, looking through a microscope looking for disease. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bruce
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
I have read the Tao Te Ching 12 times and it is one of my 2 favorite books. Almost every time brings new understanding.
It is great to also listen to it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Larry A. Chrispyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read
Profound book. Permanently altered my everyday philosophy and temperament. Coincidentally this book was required reading for introduction to philosophy (freshman econ. major). Read more
Published 1 month ago by Boss
5.0 out of 5 stars Great translation and worth every penny
Great translation and worth every penny. Some translations don't do the original work justice - this is clear and precise, if poetic, english.
Published 1 month ago by Matthew Bentley
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
this book was a gift - my copy is a treasure
Published 1 month ago by ted taylor
1.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read but a joke
He doesn't speak Chinese, just compiled existing translations. Easy to read but a joke.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
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Looking for a certain Tao Te Ching book
Possibly, "The Book of Tao", translated by Frank J. MacHovec. Subtitled, "Key To The Mastery of Life". Peter Pauper Press, 1962
Jan 25, 2012 by brian c johnson |  See all 5 posts
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