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Tao Te Ching Paperback – January 2, 2002

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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About the Author

Lao Tzu was a central figure in Taoism. According to Chinese tradition figures, that he is a mythical figure, or that he actually lived in the 4th century BC, concurrent with the Hundred Schools of Thought and Warring States Period.

David Hinton's translations of classical Chinese poetry have earned him wide acclaim for creating compelling contemporary poems that convey the texture and density of the originals. He is the editor of numerous anthologies of Chinese poetry and the first in over a century to translate the four seminal masterworks of Chinese philosophy: "Tao Te Ching", "Chuang Tzu", "Analects", and" Mencius." He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Landon Translation Award, the PEN Translation Award, and most recently the Thornton Wilder Award for Translation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (January 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582431825
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582431826
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,236,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
David Hinton is one of the very few translators who understands the subtlety of ancient Chinese and translates it well. The first sentence of the first paragraph of Tao Te Ching is usually translated as something like "[t]he Way that can be told is not the permanant Way". Such popular translation is often controversial because the Chinese word "way" was not used to mean "be told" until about 1000 years after Tao Te Ching was written. Hinton translated the same sentence as "[a] Way become Way isn't the perennial Way". How elegant! And what an accurate articulation of its philosophical meaning.

A couple sentences down in the same paragraph, Hinton wrote, "... in perennial being you see appearance". Again, the word that he translated as "apperance" is very tricky in Chinese. It originally means "covering by coiling" (or "winding around to block a view") and has mutated throughout history to refer to fences, alleys, and many other things that would totally obscure the meaning of the text. Most popular translations use the word "manifestation" in this context. This is not necessarily a bad choice because religion is, after all, subject to interpretations. But personally I think the emphasis here should not be on the indication of an existence, but should rather be on the ideal of seeing through the appearance of phenomena in order to attain an understanding that transcends experiences. I think Hinton chose a more appropriate word here.

Yet a few more sentences down, he coined a new word for one of the most fundamental concepts in Taoism `yuan'. Yuan originally means black color with an yellowish undertone. Its also means "dark" and "mysterious" as in the sensation one gets while staring at an abyss.
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Format: Paperback
David Hinton does a nice job of not jumbling up this translation. I can think of a few translations of the TTC that use very technical and archaic words to create a sense of majesty about the TTC. But to me this book has always been about simplicity and wordless teaching.

As someone that has pursued mystical states before I find this translation is easy to remember and conducive to a quick recall when observing the natural world or doing some form of physical exercise.

I've read that the TTC in Chinese reads like a telegram with multiple meanings available from the same words. Hinton's translation is like that and he makes a good attempt of rendering the spirit of the text, even if, he's not always literally correct (I'm thinking of the mysterious chapter 50).

Good translation with a few drawbacks but if your looking for a good introductory text read this
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The Tao Te Ching is, quite obviously, a work that poses great challenges to translators. Apparently it takes much more than just a through knowledge of the language, but also many years of involvement with spiritual practices that are organized around the principles of the tao. I have read all of the "important" translations of this work and know something of the philosophy of the tao, and say, without reservation that Hinton's translation is the most sublime, the most poetic, and the most profound. Compare them yourself. See what you think and feel.
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Format: Paperback
To add to the positive reviews:

I have had experience with a few different translations of the Tao Te Ching, and I feel that this is by far the best--my favorite. To keep it short, the reason that I feel the Hinton translation to be the best is that it retains a closeness to and respect for the original Chinese--it has a rigour to it--while also capturing perfectly a sense of the poetry, the beauty, the ambiguity of the text. It is a translation that only Hinton could do, but it is also a translation that keeps the original at its center.

The importance of this is seen in those unfortunate versions of the Tao Te Ching in which the gaudy mark of the translator is too evident, and too personal--the experience of the text is altered, and not in a good way. Hinton, on the other hand, interprets the text and its poetry, but only insofar as is needed to communicate it to an English-speaking reader, who in turn has the freedom to interpret it for his- or herself. And he does it beautifully.

Also, because it hasn't been noted yet: the introduction gives a brief history of the origins of the concepts and text of the Tao Te Ching; it was concise, clear, and helpful in illuminating the text. The glossary was also useful in quickly clarifying the meaning of certain key terms and different interpretations of their Chinese originals.
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The forward on this book is surprisingly insightful. According to my Eastern Medicine doctor, some things have been translated "correctly," but missed the meaning therefore (like the fried fish analogy). If you can find a good class on Taoism, it would be worth checking out too.
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By Fred on September 13, 2010
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This is a nice, short classic filled with just under 100 ancient Chinese poems regarding Taoism. Referring to it as "Way" the reader understands that to grasp Taoism as a reality is to live and think in the Way. It is neither right or wrong it simply is. The author did an excellent job translating these poems into an English we can understand as well as feel... This book is perfect for taking what we know on the subject and painting pictures with it. To take Way and dance in it as we lose ourselves in the amazing works written so very long ago and still profoundly revealing to this day. I keep it close on my bookshelf and you should too.
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