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Lao-tzu's Taoteching Paperback – November 1, 2009
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Red Pine has been a sensitive translator of a great many spiritual classics from the Chinese and Indian traditions, but with this "Tao" he outdoes himself. He created a new recension of the text based on recently-discovered scrolls, and his translation is founded on this work. Let us be clear: editing the text in this manner is a process in which all translators of ancient works must to some extent take part. The best textual critics look at the whole scope of the work, take in as many variations as possible, and then select the bit of text that seems most well-attested or most in line with the intent of the author. It does not mean the translator merely looks for variants that support his beliefs or agenda, although (lamentably) this sometimes happens. Thankfully, Red Pine does not do this. He has clearly engaged deeply with the text, and he makes his choices based on a reflective understanding of Lao-tzu's philosophy.
After textual reconstruction, of course, comes the even more complex act of translating the text into another language. Many translators play free with the text to some degree; they insert ideas, explanations, and other tidbits they feel clarify or "communicate" the text. Red Pine has by necessity made some such choices at the stage of recension, but there such tinkering all but stops. His English version is spare--not elliptical, but neither embellished--and hews extremely close to his Chinese text. It can hardly be emphasized enough that Red Pine has brought the text into English about as directly as seems possible.
If the translation alone were printed in a booklet and distributed, it would be a gift. But in this edition Red Pine has given us much more. The book itself is attractively designed: a pleasant size; text clear and readable. Each page includes Red Pine's Chinese text alongside the English translation, which is extremely useful if you happen to read Chinese and quite pretty even if you don't. Finally, each chapter is accompanied by extracts from several commentaries. The selection of writers covers numerous traditions and centuries of Chinese thought, and can help readers absorb a difficult verse, or perhaps find their own insights. There is also a comment from Red Pine, sometimes with a short thought on the chapter, or giving his rationale for choosing a particular textual variant. Each chapter is presented on facing pages, with commentary never running onto the next verso. This allows the commentaries to inform and stimulate without becoming exhausting or pedantic.
The Tao Te Ching is like a mountain, and every translator like a guide. Red Pine is sure-footed; he points out the great features of the thing but never forces it on us. We are left to contemplate its grandeur and harrow its mysteries largely for ourselves. No doubt translations of the Tao will continue to be made, but after this book you may never need them.
While it is a good read it reveals very little on the way of Tao, Immortality or anything associated with it.
Books aren't exactly the best way to go about learning the Tao, or learning to master yourself, but it is a start.
Reading this book does not offer external life. Instead it helps understand where one stands in this world; how to be a real person ; and how to achieve death without perish. In other words, it guides to enlightenment to be a better person to make a happy journey we call life with complete freedom. Many vanity sellers claim that getting their material goods will bring freedom and happiness. Did the woman who had the biggest diamond and many marriages live happily thereafter? If so, why pain relief medicine go from basic to extra extra strength? Lao Tzu said in the text: wealth or health, which is more important?
This book is a practical guide for everyone in this material world. How to spell relief and freedom? Anyone listening?
Paul Reps once told me that we humans "are on the outside looking in". Like the space between the kanji strokes, as with the Chinese, thus with the Tao, and even the Truth. (Chapter 11: "Thirty spokes converge on a hub, but it's the emptiness that makes a wheel work . . ."
This translation does work. As in his other impressive translations (I especially love his moving early 1990's translation of Bodhidharma - recommended to all who wish to learn more of Ch'an or Zen) there breathes an immediacy which flows forth into the consciousness of our moment, resonant in these teachings. Relatively obscure in the West not half a century ago, they thus have been recognized for their pith, their eternal relevance, their vision.
Each Chapter in this well-bound, well-designed volume is accompanied by a series of commentaries or alternative translations from various sages in the Taoist tradition, a process which itself, once again, reveals the Tao, ever changing, always unchanged.
Chapter 19: "Get rid of wisdom and reason
and people will live a hundred times better
get rid of kindness and justice
and people once more will love and obey
get rid of cleverness and profit
and thieves will cease to exist
but these sayings are not enough
hence let this be added
wear the undyed and hold the uncarved
reduce self-interest and limit desires
get rid of learning and problems will vanish"
I've been reading this book since the early 1960's in various English renditions - this one is far and away my current favorite - a real delight!