Lao-Tzu


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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

Lao-Tzu

 

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.

REFERENCES

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 ?
(13) Lao-tzu says, "Taoist rulers of old / Did not enlighten people / But left them dull.
An example of the former is Deqing's explanation of the opening storm imagery of chapter 23: "Lao-tzu [Laozi] uses wind and rainstorms as metaphors for the outbursts of those who love to argue" (47).
The last chapter's second subsection is a wholly unconnected thing, entitled "Elements of medieval Taoism in Ch'eng Hsuan-ying's commentary." Of its eight paragraphs, six deal not with "medieval Taoism," but only with Ch'eng's references to biographies of Lao-tzu: Yu makes no attempt to relate such material to "medieval Taoism' or to explain what either has to do with commentaries, subcommentaries, or Cheng's "style." At the end of those eight paragraphs, the book quite jarringly ends.
Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it." Lao-tzu (sixth century BC)
This need to move toward a higher moral path, which in turn invites others to follow, is consistent with Lao-tzu and Confucius.
Of course there are still some notable omissions (e.g., lack of entries for Mencius, Lao-tzu, and classics such as the I-ching) and the bibliographies will eventually need to be updated again, and so one hopes for the future appearance of additional volumes of the Companion.
One August when I was reading about the influence of Taoism on Chinese science, it occurred to me that slow-roasted tomatoes are an exercise in Taoist wisdom: "practice not-doing and everything will fall into place." They embody the truth of what the Chinese sage Lao-tzu called wu wei--of going with the flow, the path of non-forcing.
The great Chinese father of Taoism, Lao-tzu, said: "There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
There is also the occasional apt quote from people such as Ronald Reagan or Lao-Tzu dotted around the pages to offer the reader a little light relief when the going gets a bit heavy.
At much the same time that Lao-tzu ("the master") proclaimed his doctrine of Taoism, Siddartha Gautama, a prince on the subcontinent, offered an eightfold "path" to existence.
The ancient Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism, Lao-tzu, seems to have summed it up when he wrote, "Heaven and Earth are nor humane.