Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to Lao-Tzu: Confucius, Lao-tse, Taoism

Lao Zi

, Lao-tzu
?604--?531 bc, Chinese philosopher, traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoism and the author of the Tao-te Ching



or Li Erh, author of the ancient Chinese classical Taoist treatise Lao Tzu (also known as the Tao-te ching). According to tradition, Lao-Tzu was an archivist at the Chou court in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The majority of modern scholars believe that Lao-Tzu is a legendary figure, and that the treatise was written in the late fourth or early third century B.C., although it also contains some earlier materials.

The basic concept of the world view expounded in the treatise is that of Tao, a principle inaccessible to reason and inexpressible in words, in which the unity of being and nonbeing is realized and all contradictions are resolved. In the treatise, Tao is metaphorically likened to water: like water, it seems soft and yielding but in reality it is invincible. Behavior corresponding to Tao is characterized by nonaction (wu-wei), interpreted as compliance, submission, renunciation of desires, struggle, and bustling activity. Addressed to rulers, the doctrine of nonaction calls for the rejection of luxury and war, of violence toward human beings and of interference in their lives. The sage who heads the state, devoted to nonaction, should make the people happy by returning to them the primitive simplicity, purity, and ignorance that existed before the advent of civilization, culture, and morality. Written in aphoristic form in extremely laconic language, the treatise leaves a wide range for various interpretations. It was the canonical text of the religion of Taoism and was translated many times into European languages.


Drevnekitaiskaia filosofiia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1972. Pages 114–38.
Ian Khin-shun. Drevnekitaiskii filosof Lao-tszy i ego uchenie. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
Waley, A. The Way and Its Power. London-New York, 1956.
Kaltenmark, M. Lao-tseu et le Taoisme. Paris, 1965.
Fung Yu-lan. A History of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 1. Princeton, 1952.
References in periodicals archive ?
They did not understand why Lu Te-ming named his book Ching-tien shih-wen (Exposition of words in Canons and Classics), since he included the Lao-tzu and the Chuang-tzu, which, strictly speaking, should not be counted as ching (canons) or tien (classics).
As Lao-tzu knew, blessings that cannot be seized flow toward an open hand.
The lavish desires of which Lao-tzu spoke often inspire people to act unethically, such as removing petrified wood from national parks.
Similarly, the treatment of the Lao-tzu should include ancient interpretations of that work (such as the "Chieh-Lao" [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and "Yu-Lao" [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] chapters of the Han Fei-tzu), which show how Chinese philosophers of the Achsenzeit received the text and consciously applied it to political theory.
The journey of a thousand miles," the Chinese Lao-Tzu said, "starts from beneath one's feet.
Hence the excitement when, in 1973, archaeologists found two copies of the Lao-Tzu, the ancient philosophical treatise, in a hoard of silk manuscripts disinterred from a Han dynasty tomb at Ma-wang-tui, southern central China.
Martin added his variation of Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu, "A journey of 10,000 miles starts with the first step.
Despite the vastness of its purview, which stretches from Lao-tzu to Heidegger, this introduction to philosophy is remarkable for its clarity and readability.
Works of the ancient Greeks, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Buddhist monks and Sufi mystics are intermingled with great American and European poets.
Starting with the ancient Chinese and ending with contemporary Europeans and Americans, Geary (Europe editor, Time) tells the story of the aphorism through brief biographies of some of its greatest practitioners, such as Buddha, Lao-tzu, Montaigne, Nietzsche, Benjamin Franklin and Dorothy Parker.
As Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu reminds us "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step".
Neither the Shah nor his successors learnt from Lao-tzu, the Chinese philosopher and poet who contributed to the rise of Taoism, and who once said: "I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize.