Part poetry, part paradox, always stirring and profound, Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching" has been inspiring readers since it was written over two thousand years ago. This masterpiece is also one of the most frequently translated books in all of history, in part because the multiple meanings of the Chinese characters make it impossible to translate into a Western language in a strictly literal way. For this reason, many translations are either too loosely interpretive or are too overloaded with notes, thereby losing the clarity of the terse poetry found in the original Chinese.
The extraordinary strength of Sam Hamill's translation is that it has captured the poetry of Lao Tzu's original without sacrificing the resonance of the text's many meanings and possible interpretations. The result is a beautiful and deeply meditative rendering, one that is a delight to read over and over again.
Accompanying Sam Hamill's translation are seventeen Chinese characters brushed by one of the great masters of calligraphy, Kazuaki Tanahashi. Hamill provides a comment for each character, giving the reader a fuller sense of the richness of the original text and insight into the process of translation itself.
About the Author
A J Girling was introduced to Taoism, and initiated by a Taoist Master, in the 1980's. Since then Girling has dedicated extensive time to the contemplation and research that resulted in this edition of the Tao Te Ching being written.
In addition to two years of intensive academic research, Girling spent several contemplative years in an isolated woodland setting, without mains services or the usual luxuries of modern living. In this environment Girling became more intimately acquainted with nature, and with the true nature of being. It was a very useful experience, during which Girling began to appreciate that the ultimate aim of Taoism is not to detach from society as an ascetic, but to "unite with the dust of the world." When we have tasted the divine joy of being through meditation, we begin to practice mindful awareness in daily affairs. As Lao Tzu pointed out in chapter fifteen:
How can one attain stillness? By bringing it slowly to life.
Study of Taoist philosophy ultimately led Girling to the discovery that the hearts of even the most seemingly different religions hold the same core truths: irrespective of whether they are non-theist, poly-theist or mono-theist, all are ultimately founded on universal love and mindfulness. This was the driving force behind the creation of a work that illustrates, through Lao Tzu's teaching, the commonality and interconnectedness inherent in the whole of humanity.
The book was a work of love, written with the primary intention of illuminating, as clearly as possible, the profound wisdom of the text, and dispelling many of the misunderstandings surrounding Taoist philosophy. In the process, the Tao Te Ching gently guided the translator to include insights from global traditions, thereby according with Lao Tzu's teaching on the infinite oneness that unites the world.
Girling hopes that this new edition may contribute not only to a better understanding of Taoism, but also to the reunification of the global human family, and to the cultivation of greater happiness and well-being in individuals and society.
Tanahashi was born in Japan where he studied painting and calligraphy. He is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.
Sam Hamill is the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, including Destination Zero: Poems 1970- 1995 (1995), DUMB LUCK (2002), Almost Paradise: New and Selected Poems and Translations (2005), and Measured by Stone (2007). Influenced by Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth, Denise Levertov, and Hayden Carruth, Hamill "presents a model of honest, consistent, undisguised political engagement: he articulates not only a vision of peace with justice, not only his relish for work to achieve that vision, but his sense of the role that poetry can play," as Publishers Weekly noted in its review of Measured by Stone. Hamill has also published several collections of essays and numerous translations. With Bill O'Daly and Tree Swenson, he co-founded the all-poetry Copper Canyon Press in Denver, Colorado. Copper Canyon later joined with the nonprofit arts organization Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington. Hamill was editor-printer for the press from 1972 until 2004.
"Hamill has rendered the Tao Te Ching afresh, his translation from the Chinese is achingly poetic."—Publishers Weekly
“Exquisite renderings of the paradoxes that encircle us.”—Terry Tempest Williams