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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



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 ?
13) Lao-tzu says, "Taoist rulers of old / Did not enlighten people / But left them dull.
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).
This need to move toward a higher moral path, which in turn invites others to follow, is consistent with Lao-tzu and Confucius.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, the environmentalists, feminists and animal rightists I mentioned earlier latch onto this idea because (aside from its being so "mysterious" and "Eastern") it seems to invite us to do nothing (the "advantage of taking no action," Lao-tzu also says), to allow nature to "take its course" without our oppressive interference.
To Confucius it seemed much better to be human-hearted than righteous, and to the great Taoists, Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, it was obvious that one could not be right without also being wrong, because the two were as inseparable as back and front.
Taoist philosopher Lao-Tzu described the ideal leader as one who works his influence everywhere, but leaves no trace of his presence.