In what may be the most faithful translation of the "Tao Te Ching," the translators have captured the terse, enigmatic beauty of the original masterpiece without embellishing it with personal interpretation or bogging it down with explanatory notes. By stepping out of the way and letting the original text speak for itself, they deliver a powerfully direct experience of the "Tao Te Ching" that is a joy to come back to again and again.
And for the first time in any translation of the "Tao Te Ching," now you can interact with the text to experience for yourself the nuanced art of translating. In each of the eighty-one chapters, one significant line has been highlighted and alongside it are the original Chinese characters with their transliteration. You can then turn to the glossary and translate this line on your own, thereby deepening your understanding of the original text and of the myriad ways it can be translated into English.
Complementing the text are twenty-three striking ink paintings brushed by Stephen Addiss and an introduction by the esteemed Asia scholar Burton Watson.
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.
Moss Roberts is Professor of Chinese at New York University. He has translated the classic novel "Three Kingdoms, " published by University of California Press in both unabridged (California, 1991, 2000, copublished with Foreign Languages Press) and abridged (California, 1999) editions. He is also the editor and translator of "Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies" (1979).
Stephen Addiss is Tucker-Boatwright Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Art History, University of Richmond.
“This crystalline translation of the Tao Te Ching is accurate down to the nuance and is as concisely poetic as the original. Of the many translations I have read in English, this is unquestionably the best.”—Gary Snyder
“This is by far the best translation on the market today.”—Livia Kohn, Professor of Religion, Boston University