No other English translation of this greatest of the Chinese classics can match Ursula Le Guin's striking new version. Le Guin, best known for thought-provoking science fiction novels that have helped to transform the genre, has studied the Tao Te Ching for more than forty years. She has consulted the literal translations and worked with Chinese scholars to develop a version that lets the ancient text speak in a fresh way to modern people, while remaining faithful to the poetic beauty of the work. Avoiding scholarly interpretations and esoteric Taoist insights, she has revealed the Tao Te Ching 's immediate relevance and power, its depth and refreshing humor, in a way that shows better than ever before why it has been so much loved for more than 2,500 years. Included are Le Guin's own personal commentary and notes on the text. This new version is sure to be welcomed by the many readers of the Tao Te Ching as well as those coming to the text for the first time.
About the Author
The first reliable reference to Laozi is his "biography" in Shiji (63, tr. Chan 1963:35-37), by Chinese historian Sima Qian (ca. 145-86 BC), which combines three stories. First, Laozi was a contemporary of Confucius (551-479 BC). His surname was Li, and his personal name was Er or Dan "long ear." He was an official in the imperial archives, and wrote a book in two parts before departing to the West. Second, Laozi was Lao Laizi "Old Come Master," also a contemporary of Confucius, who wrote a book in 15 parts. Third, Laozi was the Grand Historian and astrologer Lao Dan ("Old Long-ears"), who lived during the reign (384-362 BC) of Duke Xian (Qin). Generations of scholars have debated the historicity of Laozi and the dating of the Tao Te Ching. Linguistic studies of the text's vocabulary and rhyme scheme point to a date of composition after the Shi Jing yet before the Zhuangzi. Legends claim variously that Laozi was "born old"; that he lived for 996 years, with twelve previous incarnations starting around the time of the Three Sovereigns before the thirteenth as Laozi. Some Western scholars have expressed doubts over Laozi's historical existence, claiming that the Tao Te Ching is actually a collection of the work of various authors.
Ursula K. Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929. Over the course of her career she has published more than sixty books of fiction, fantasy, science fiction, children's literature, poetry, drama, criticism, and translation, and is the multiple winner of the highest awards in several fields. Among her honors are a National Book Award, a PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction, five Hugo and five Nebula Awards, twenty-one Locus Awards, the Kafka Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband.
"Reading [Le Guin's] translations is like taking a shared walk down a familiar trail where we discover rocks and water that we somehow missed before. . . . undeniably refreshing, capturing a language that is casual and clear, reflective and pointed, full of the wise humor of the Way."—Parabola
"A student of the Tao for several decades, Le Guin has created an English text that will speak to modern readers in a fresh and lively way, while conveying the humor, insight and beauty of the original."—Shambhala Sun
"Ursula K. Le Guin's translation of the Tao Te Ching is a personal and poetic meditation. Through her own careful study of these ancient teachings, she brings the Way into contemporary life. Each day, I open this book at random and receive a contemplative gift. These words are akin to water in the desert."—Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge
"Among the many translations of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching , Ursula K. Le Guin's new version is a special treasure—a delight. There is something startlingly fresh and creatively alive here, brought forth by Ms. Le Guin's intuitive and personal ingenuity. Her rendering has moved me to return to the original Chinese text with rejuvenated fervor, rejoicing in the ineffable sageness that lies in and between Lao Tzu's lines."—Chuangliang Al Huang, founder of the Living Tao Foundation, coauthor (with Alan Watts) of Tao: The Watercourse Way