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Wen-Tzu: Understanding the Mysteries Paperback – September 29, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; Reprint edition (September 29, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877738629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877738626
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Chinese

More About the Author


Thomas Cleary is the preeminent translator of classic Eastern texts, including The Essential Tao, The Essential Confucius, The Secret of the Golden Flower, and the bestselling The Art of War.

Customer Reviews

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He is clear where Lao Tzu is obscure, and practical where Lao Tzu is philosophical.
isala
Still, it makes a useful addition to any collection of Taoist classics and is easy to enjoy for its own wisdom and voice.
wiredweird
The reader gets the chance to read and conclude on the reasonableness of the extrapolation.
Justin W. Askins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 12, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Historically, Wen Tzu is said to have been a student of Lao Tzu, the founding author of Taoism. At least on the surface, the writing bears out that statement. Every chapter starts with the phrase "Lao Tzu said", possibly in answer to a question posed by Wen, as if Wen were writing down the master's teachings directly.

Points of style also seem more like Lao Tzu than like later authors. In fact, the Wen Tzu fits nicely into a continuum. Lao was the earliest, also the most poetic, abstract, obscure. Chuang Tzu was probably later, and had a more prosaic, anecdotal, and understandable style. Lieh Tzu was the latest, and even more pedestrian and pragmatic than Chuang. Wen fits neatly between Lao and Chuang. His writing is less figurative and poetic than Lao's, but still more ethereal than Chuang's. Like Lao, Wen addresses the Tao directly, rather than through the kinds of stories that Chuang uses with such good effect.

Wen Tzu has a strong message all his own, however. He conveys a strong sense of changing needs of each different moment, and of the proper relationships between things. He notes that a bow is needed for hunting, but is put away when the game is caught. He also points out that the wheel functions only when all the spokes are properly fitted, and that the harp plays only when all of its strings are present and properly tuned. One spoke can't carry a cart and one string can't play a melody. Both messages have strong social meanings: the Way gives a person diffferent duties at different times, and that organization of many people into a society may also be proper, if done in accordance with the Way. This is why Wen's "quotes" of Lao are sometimes suspect. It was the tradition, back then, for a newer writer to ascribe his words to an older authority.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bao Pu on October 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is an English translation of the Wen Tzu (Wenzi) by Thomas Cleary (PhD. from Harvard). The Wen Tzu is anonymous and dates hundreds of years after the primary Taoist (Daoist) classics, the Tao Te Ching (Daode Jing) and the Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi), from which it quotes often. At times, it is nothing more than a commentary on the Tao Te Ching. This is a good thing. However, there are also many parts where it is un-Taoist, and more influenced by "Legalist" philosophy and policies. Large portions of the Wen Tzu are taken straight from another old Daoist-inspired anthology, the Huai nan Tzu (Huainanzi), which dates to the first half of the 2nd century BCE. (The oldest copy we have ever found of the Wen Tzu dates from approximately 50 BCE.)

I know some Chinese and have checked several parts of Cleary's translation and found that it is not too bad at all. Unfortunately he sometimes leaves out whole passages without alerting the reader. In my opinion, he should have included an appendix discussing his translation methods and perhaps a glossary as well (w/Chinese characters).

~ bp
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By beetlebum on August 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
for years, i've been searching for the answers about the taoist principles such as the wu wei or the yin and yang. i had a very good collection of taoist books in my library such as the tao te ching (i got three versions), the chuang tzu (2 versions), a lieh tzu e book, and many more. i've been reading them but it is just so hard for me to learn how to use the taoist principles to my everyday life. tao te ching is too esoteric, chuang tzu is too complicated due to his story-telling and fables, lieh tzu is alright but i needed something direct.
one day, i was walking in a bookstore and i saw the wen tzu. i asked myself, "what the hell is the wen tzu?" so as i looked at the cover, it says that it is the further teachings of lao tzu. now that adds more to the "what the hell" in my head. but i gave it a try. after reading a few passages, i am very happy to say that Wen Tzu is actually the book i've been waiting for. why? first of all, it's very direct like an "in your face" kind of explanation. second, wen tzu for me is actually an extension, more detailed version of the Tao Te Ching, not mentioning how big the book is. it's safe to say that this is the tao te ching, the director's cut, or the guide to the tao te ching. it is that good. believe me. even i believe that it was written by lao tzu because of its content. you'll just have to read it to believe it, and i'm happy to share this book to those who are looking for a great taoist book, or a book that can motivate you to live peacefully.
always smile a lot and take care.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. William Nelson (buhayra@aol.com) on October 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
Written more than 2000 years ago, this book addresses subjects in a manner still relevant to modern problems.
See Chapter 87 on the absurdity of get-tough laws, and on the impotence of intellectual social experimentation. See Chapter 89 for an ancient articulation of post-modern anti-foundationalism, Chapter 103 on why class-based laws ultimately fail. Chapter 107 advocates proactivism over reactionism. Chapters 111-112 explain why well-intentioned social programs often harm their beneficiaries. 125 explains why government is needed to protect minorities. 151 advocates environmentalism. 158 demostrates the dire results of partisan politics and poll-watching.
All in all a remarkable text that makes modern politics and society stand up in new relief.
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