Tao Te Ching – an introduction

Burton Watson [tooltip content= “Tao Te Ching, Stephen Addis, Stanely Lobardo and Burton Watson (Hackett Publishers, 1993)”] [source][/tooltip] [green_message]

But the Tao Te Ching lacks a specific speaker or context and because it relies not on logical exposition but on sheer power of language in expounding its ideas, it comes closer to pure poetry than do any of the other philosophical texts.

The Tao Te Ching Early Taoism is known to us through two famous works. the Chuang-tzu and the Lao-tzu or Tao Te Ching, both of uncertain date but originating probably in the fourth or third century B.C.E. The Chuang-tzu, in thirty-three sections, is made up of writings attributed to the philosopher Chuang Chou (flourished fourth century) The Tao Te ChIng, in two parts and eighty-one shun sections, has traditionally been attributed to a figure known as Lao-tzu. or the ‘Old Master.’

The earliest biographical account of Lao-tzu is that found in chapter 63 of the Shill chi or Records of the historian, a voluminous work on Chinese history written around 100 B.C.E. by Ssu-ma Ch’ien. According to that brief notice Lao-tzu’s surname was Li, his personal names were Erh and Tan, and he was a native of Ch’u, a large stale situated in the lower Yangtze valley. He served as historian in charge of the archives of the Chou court, which means he must have resided at the Chou capital in Lo-yang.

The account gives no dates for his lifetime but states that when Confucius one tune visited the Chou capital. he questioned Lao-Tzu concerning matters of ritual. From this it has been assumed that Lao-tzu was a contemporary of Confucius.