TAO TE CHING – The Book Of The Way
The Tao Te Ching was written in China roughly 2,500 years ago at about the same time
when Buddha expounded the Dharma in India and Pythagoras taught in Greece. The Tao
Te Ching is probably the most influential Chinese book of all times. Its 81 chapters have
been translated into English more times than any other Chinese document.
The Tao Te Ching provides the basis for the philosophical school of Taoism, which is an
important pillar of Chinese thought. Taoism teaches that there is one undivided truth at
the root of all things. It literally means:
= tao (the way)
= te (strength/virtue)
= ching (scripture)
The verses of the Tao Te Ching are written in ancient Chinese, which is very different from
English. Abstraction and logic are not distinguishing marks of the ancient Chinese
language, hence, it is less rigid than English and there are very few formal or grammatical
structures. The classical Chinese word does not stand for a single concrete idea, but it
evokes associations of different ideas and things. Quite a few Chinese words can be used
as nouns, adjectives and verbs at the same time. Thus sentences composed of various
signs have a sort of suggestive power, evoking emotions, ideas and pictures.
It is almost impossible to render an ancient Chinese text properly in English without
losing some part. Different translations of the Tao Te Ching may appear as completely
different texts. In order to understand the original text fully it is helpful to read various
translations that consummate each other. The alternative is, of course, to learn Chinese.
This document uses the translation of Tolbert McCarroll.