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Tao Te Ching: An Illustrated Journey Paperback – March 1, 2009
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Original Language: Chinese --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
When she died I picked it up and began to read. Several passages fell right open (8 & 16). These were the passages that she must have been reading the most. So I read those passages at her funeral. I'm still reading this book and finding something new with each reading. Even if a passage may not make sense on the first or second reading, it may become clear by the fifth or sixth. Or maybe it will take years.
Sandy was a poet and teacher who studied many translations of the Tao, but this was her favorite. It may not be the most literal translation, but it surely is the most poetic. If this translation was good enough for her, then it's good enough for me.
In fact, this book is so good, I've given away at least 8 copies in the two months since her death. This book has helped me deal with and survive the most difficult time in my life. I'm much wiser and more open having read this book. My friends to whom I've given copies agree and are sharing it with their friends.
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:
"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.Read more ›
1. D.C.Lau's translation comes closest to the actual Chinese most of the time.
2. I believe he does not consider himself a Taoist, and thus brings less 'pro' bias to his translation. Many other translations (not all) I've seen are written by 'pro Tao' folks who, to one degree or another, unconsciously bend their translations to agree with the 20th century cultural paradigm (values) in which they were conditioned.
3. It is not what a particular translation says, or how it says it, that is 'enlightening'. How you interpret what you read (hear or see) reflects who you really are at that moment. In other words, what you perceive the book to say is actually your own mind's reality. The notion that one translation or another is going to impart 'knowing' is wishful thinking. The knowing lies in the eye of the beholder. Thus, the disclaimer in chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching, "The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way; The name that can be named, is not the constant name." This sentiment speaks to just how very inward and personal a Taoist journey is. For me, D.C.Lau's translation gets in the way of this journey less than others I've seen over the years.
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!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good translation, tiny pocket edition is great for carrying around with me.Published 10 days ago by Sir Buysalot
a tiny book - and a lovely gift. some surprises as always is the case with the Tao.Published 15 days ago by Wisdom on subject
I got this pocket sized copy of the Tao d Ching based on the recommendation of Dr. Wayne Dyer. My brain has not experienced this type of lofty and thought provoking reading very... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Theaterdreamer
Of all the translations I have read, this is my favorite - it speaks clearly, directly, and poetically.Published 29 days ago by SAlcorn