Lao Tzu Reference Archive

Tao Te Ching

Written: around 500 B.C.E., by Lao Tzu
Oldest Known Publication: around 200 B.C.E in Hsuchou, republished by Fu Yi in 574 C.E.
Source: Daoism Depot
Translated: from the Chinese by S. Mitchell
Transcription/Markup: Daoism Depot/Brian Baggins
Online Version: Daoism Depot; Lao Tzu Reference Archive ( 2000

One of the first examples in human history of the dialectical method of reasoning, here used towards a moral end. Tao, which literally means movement ahead, when taken in context of this, its defining work, could be interpreted as the dialectical synthesis. Te is literally translated as moral step, and Ching as threads following course (i.e. well knitted together — a word used to describe a classic work).

The Tao Te Ching has been translated into more languages and versions than any other book ever written (excepting only the Christian Bible); and while for example the first two sentences of this work contain 12 words in Chinese (see the picture below), English translators use at least 22 words to express one interpretation of the Chinese text. The only way to fully grasp the scope and beauty of this ancient Chinese text, and to comprehend the inability of any translation to fully capture the meaning of the text, read the work in its original Chinese.

First paragraph of the first chapter