February 23, 2009


The Lǎo Zǐ, Division 81:
Sincere words are never beautiful
and beautiful words are not sincere.
The knowing are never learned
and the learned never knowing.
The good do not have a lot; those with a lot are not good.
A sage never hoards.
The more you do for others the more plenty is yours,
And the more you give to others the more abundance is yours.
Therefore, the Dào of Heaven is
to benefit and not cause any harm.
The Dào of the Sage is to act without contending.
The Lǎo Zǐ is ancient. Time separates us from the authors of the Lǎo Zǐ by twenty-four centuries or so. Only four centuries separates us from the death of William Shakespeare. Figuring the meaning of any language centuries old takes the combined efforts of people who study art, literature, culture, history, archaeology, philosophy, and more. Scholars and researchers bring the dead back to life, though what is found is often superseded by some newer finding about the old.

The translation used for this commentary is "unified", i.e., derived from five respected, but somewhat diverse translations of the Lǎo Zǐ. In short, I selected each line in the unified translation from one of the five source translations. In many cases two or more of the source translations were the same (though with very minor differences). In some instances, each source translation was different.

Three of the source translators, Ellen Chen, Robert Henricks, and D.C. Lau, are highly respected experts on Chinese philosophy and religion. David Hinton is a poet as well as a highly-regarded translator of Chinese poetry and philosophical works. James Legge was a nineteenth century Scottish congregationalist who lived and worked in China before becoming the first professor of Chinese at Oxford University. Among the five, Ellen Chen and D.C. Lau are ethnically Chinese.

The sources of the unified translation presented in this blog are listed below. Each one is an enjoyable read in its own way. I highly recommend purchasing each one identified below with my own short comments.

Chen, Ellen M., Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary, Paragon House Publishers, St. Paul, MN, 1989, 317pp.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, translated by Robert G. Henricks, The Modern Library, New York, NY, 1993, 293pp.
For each division, this translation used one of the two Mǎ Wáng Duī (馬王堆) tomb silk text versions that was most complete. In places where the selected version was incomplete, text from the Wáng Bì (王弼) (226-249) commentary was used.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, translated by David Hinton, Counterpoint, Berkeley, CA, 2000, 97pp.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, translation by D. C. Lau, Penguin Classics, May 1964, 176pp.

Lao Tze, Tao Te Ching, translation by James Legge, Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, NY, 1997, 78pp.