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Tao Te Ching Hardcover – December 11, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 157 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This crystalline translation of the Tao Te Ching is accurate down to the nuance and is as concisely poetic as the original. Of the many translations I have read in English, this is unquestionably the best.”—Gary Snyder

“This is by far the best translation on the market today.”—Livia Kohn, Professor of Religion, Boston University

Language Notes

Text: English
Original Language: Chinese --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1st Shambhala Ed edition (December 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590305469
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590305461
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Regardless of the translation, the Tao Te Ching relaxes you. Then, you start comparing the different translations, and you get to panicking real fast. Pretty ironic. It's something the Tao itself would warn you against. Sharpen the blade too much, you lose the edge.
Still, as an American consumer, I want the real deal, whether I'm buying a cheeseburger or an ancient philosophy. If true words can't be spoken, and you're gonna go and speak 'em anyway, at least make 'em as true as you can. I mean, what does a guy have to do to get the meaning of life around here, learn Chinese?
Enter Jonathan Star. Based on my comparison to five others, Star's lawn jart lands smack in the middle. Isn't that what Taoism is about? Getting to the center? He also made sure this would be the LAST translation you'd ever need, by including a second, "verbatim" translation-- a list of the various possible English meanings of every single Chinese character. Don't like something about his answer? Check his math. That's truly definitive. There might be other translations that do that, but I've got a shelf full of ones that don't, and I'm glad to say my search is finally over. I'm giving this book a perfect score. It's a good place to start AND a good place to finish.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I just bought Jonathan's Star's 2003 Edition of "Tao Te Ching - The Definitive Edition" (ISBN-13: 978-1585422692) and was checking Amazon to see what other people had thought about this book, so you can imagine that I was a little worried when I saw this newer edition that I might have bought an outdated version. On closer inspection though I realized that the 2008 edition only has 128 pages compared with 368 pages of the 2003 edition.

On reading the table of contents for both editions I discovered that what Star's publishers appear to have done is to reissue the translation section of his original 2003 book without all the extra and very helpful information he had provided in the early edition.

My advice is to go and check out the 2003 edition before you commit to this later, less definitive, work.

Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition (2003)
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By A Customer on February 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I know two things: 1) There is no such thing as a perfect translation of the Tao Te Ching. The Chinese language is so completely different from English, that any translation of the Tao is going to be somewhat flawed, no matter how skillful the translator. 2) All serious spiritual seekers must read the Tao Te Ching. If possible, they should own at least three translations.

This translation is excellent and is a personal favorite of mine. I give it "five stars" for integrity. Addiss and Lombardo explain, in their four page Introduction, the philosophy of how they translated the text and why it might be different from previous English translations. Indeed, they begin the Introduction as follows "There are already more than one hundred translations of the Tao Te Ching into English. Why should this text be translated again?" Then they proceed with a very persuasive case for this translation. For example, they have tried to "recreate much of the terse diction and staccato rhythm of the ancient Chinese" while other translations tend to be verbose. Also, they have specifically avoided any use of the gender specific pronouns, "he" and "she." Thus rendering the text neither politically correct nor politically incorrect.

Beyond the translation itself, this book is beautifully designed, with extensive use of Chinese calligraphy, art, and characters. This almost gives the impression of having an original copy of the Tao Te Ching in your hand.

If you want to read the Tao Te Ching, this is a great version. Three other good translations include those by Victor Mair, D.C. Lau, and John C. H. Wu. Personally I do not like the popular version by Stephen Mitchell, or the Gia-fu Feng & Jane English translation. They try too hard to be modern -- but who can fault them for trying?
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Format: Paperback
One of the core ideas in Taoism (especially if you read a lot of Chuang-Tzu) is that there are infinite perspectives on anything and everything, and no one is more absolute or "correct" than the others. I think it's safe to say that the Tao Te Ching itself is an excellent example of this principle - just look at how many translations have been done, in various styles, approaching various perspectives on life, society, money, etc. And while there are certainly translations that speak to me far better than others do, I'd have to say that they are not always completely satisfying.
If you feel the same way, then Jonathan Star has come to your rescue with /Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition/. It starts out with an overview of Lao Tzu's work and the challenges that come with translating it. Then there is a rather good literary translation by the author, which sometimes takes a bit of artistic license - definitely not a bad thing. This is not the meat of the book, however. That part is the "definitive" translation itself - the literal translation. Every character of every chapter is provided, along with multiple possible meanings. Using this, you can compose your own interpretations of your favorite chapters, or the whole book if you wish.
The literal translation is extremely well done, and provided in a very accessible format that provides a lot of information in an easy to use manner. If I had to pick something to gripe about, it would be the fact that the literal translation uses Wade-Giles instead of Pinyin (this from a book with a 2001 copyright). I suppose this was to keep things consistent with the similarly old-style spellings "Tao", "Lao-Tzu", etc. This niggle is mitigated a bit by the concordance section of the book, which includes translations from Wade-Giles to Pinyin.
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