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Tao Te Ching on The Art of Harmony: The New Illustrated Edition of the Chinese Philosophical Masterpiece (The Art of Wisdom) Hardcover – October 1, 2009
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From the Inside Flap
Written in about the sixth century BC, The Tao Te Ching (or Daode Jing) is the masterpiece of the Chinese sage Laozi (or Lao Tzu), a record-keeper at the Zhou court, a contemporary of Confucius and the founder of Taoism. Although the book was written more than 2,500 years ago, and within a radically different culture, its concepts and teachings have never been more relevant to the Western world than they are today. Laozi offers profound wisdom, arguing that humankind is but a tiny part of an inexhaustible greatness, and that individuals can attain true fulfillment by striving to live in harmony not only with others but also with their natural environment. Organizing the work into 81 verses divided into two parts, Laozi sets out a path (tao) by which we can tune ourselves into the nature of the universe. His axioms are intended as a means to achieve transcendence and a life of integrity and balance. Among his insights are the ideas that flexibility and suppleness are superior to rigidity and strength; and that self-absorption and self-importance are vain and self-destructive. These suggestions for how people might live better within the world around them are arguably even more relevant today than they were nearly three millennia ago. This illustrated edition of a classic work is an essential addition to any collection of the world's classic texts. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Originally from Utah, Chad Hansen studied Western philosophy and entered the PhD program at the University of Michigan. He then taught at the universities of Pittsburgh, Stanford, and Vermont and went on to hold several visiting professorships in Hawaii and at U.C.L.A. before settling in Hong Kong as a professor of philosophy at the University of Hong Kong in 1993.
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The author generally regards The Tao Te Ching as a loosely assembled collection of folklore but then tries to apply strict philosophical terms to it consistently. I don't think this works. If it is a loose collection, his strict philosophy probably shouldn't be applied so strictly. Or, if it is actually a more deliberate collection, his thematic styling of terms don’t seem match the text's own overall feel.
I don't think people ought to comment on a translation unless they have done it before. But since I've translated this work before, I can say that the translation is excellent. But I do have some issues with his interpretation. I don't think it reads as well as it should/could. In particular, I find disagreement with the interpretation of verse 53. Not only does it not match up with verse 18, it is a good example of what the author dislikes in many other interpretations. Yet in his interest to be sure that tao isn't confused with THE Tao (some absolute entity like God) I think he misses an important option that might better unite the text in its entirety as well as with tradition (including better unity between the Zhuangzi and the Laozi). The tendency to see the obvious problems with the philosophical idea of an absolute, as well as the religious tendency toward an anthropomorphic God, almost always blinds us to a search for an all too plain alternative; one that "goes beyond bland; it is flavorless" (form verse 35 of the Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching). The hardcover is a most beautiful book. Blue silk with color artwork throughout.
Because I'll take all the help I can get to grasp a philosophy that, in an archaic and totally unfamiliar language, expresses values so different from that of contemporary America, I'll treasure this book and put it beside other translations I have, some of which I keep for their scholarship, some for their translations, and others because they introduced me to Taoism. I could not say which is best since each has enriched my understanding of the Tao. Like adults who take bible study classes, I read new (to me) Tao Te Ching books and reread ones I've had for many years to both deepen my my understanding of the Tao and keep it from getting stale.
In my view, Hansen's generous book is a keeper.
Most recent customer reviews
I have seven versions of the Tao on my bookshelves but this is one of my two...Read more